The women interviewed reveal experiences shared by all women, but especially those unique to older lesbians. Readers ought to walk away from Lives of Lesbian Elders mindful of how much older lesbians' biographies were determined by the culture, politics, and social mores of their times and how resilient they are. The book is instructive, well written, and steeped with reminders of the women's social history; it was the most enjoyable of the four I read for this review.
These volumes serve as bookends sustaining a sociological imagination on what it means to be an older lesbian. Unlike heterosexual women of the same age, older lesbians have also logged personal histories involving closeted lives, a risk of discrimination, and, at times, persecution because being a lesbian was reason enough for censure. Looking Back, Looking Forward, by D. An old woman's reflections on social isolation, or work and a double life, finding meaning in life, or military and marital experiences, aging, and, most importantly, taking control of her life, are not simply looking back clips of a life story. Their findings are sufficiently detailed for readers to step away understanding how the various couple types basically involve more similarity than stereotypes would ever suggest. The evidence she brings in shows that older lesbians are no more or less adjusted at midlife and later life than heterosexuals. Hunter provides some sense of the aging process and issues particular to LGBTs. No, she's 78 and while serving in the military she was sensitive to her attraction to women, had a few sexual encounters with other young women, and learned how to hide her love relationships to pass as heterosexual in an intolerant social world. A professor of social work at the University of Texas, Hunter synthesizes the academic research on midlife and late-life lesbians' experiences and uses that as a foundation for her very valuable five chapters on the service needs of aging lesbians and gays. Clunis and her colleagues do not provide much information about the women's sexual lives or their aging. Relationships and intimacy are certainly covered, but information about sex is not. Readers ought to walk away from Lives of Lesbian Elders mindful of how much older lesbians' biographies were determined by the culture, politics, and social mores of their times and how resilient they are. As the authors conclude: Whistling Women frequently mentioned bars in their narratives, and the memories were often vivid. The title was a siren: This volume explicitly shifts a reader's attention from the private troubles lesbians have managed to the public issues aging lesbians currently face. Although the femininities that older heterosexual and lesbian women live by and affirm in their day-to-day lives have been rarely studied themselves, there is an emerging literature that has begun to reveal the distinct ways that older women's lives are distinctly gendered. Drawing on interviews with women aged 55 to 95 now living in Washington state, Oregon, and California, the authors—a psychologist in private practice, an associate professor of social work, a historian, and a lecturer in social work—provide a very important accounting of what it was like to be lesbian in the 20th century. She married twice, submitting to the social imperative for women to marry. But the chapter is mostly about sex differences in health and well-being and less about the lives of older LGBT people who live with heterosexist social institutions. For the remainder of this book, Clunis and her colleagues make heard the voices of the 62 women they interviewed. Their present-tense voice is never without a past. The book is a valuable resource for any academic researcher but much more so for social services professionals working with individuals in this population. For a novice reader, the chapter might provide some sensitivity to the way the quality of older lesbians' and gays' lives pivot on socioeconomic comfort and the sociopolitical environment that they experienced as young women and men. And whenever the women's accounts are introduced as text, their voices are illustrative data framed by the authors in chapters on coming out, turning points in shaping identity, the challenges and anticipations of aging, and living with the deep scars created by prejudice and oppression.
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