At OUTMemphis, we are honoring LGBTQ Seniors Celebration Month with an acknowledgement of the LGBTQ elders who have pushed to make America a place where LGBTQ people have equal rights and are safe, respected, and celebrated.
Every week we will be highlighting an LGBTQ person over 50 whose work has impacted the lives of LGBTQ people nationwide.
Arden Evensmeyer (1931)
Arden Evensmeyer has worked tirelessly to create supportive networks for older lesbian women and to preserve the stories of their lives. During her early life, Evensmeyer lived closeted with her first wife, working as a school teacher and counselor. After her career and the death of her first life partner, Evensmeyer recognized that the needs she had as a lesbian woman over 50 were shared by so many others. She founded LOAF (Lesbians Over Age Fifty) to help her peers connect socially with one another and help overcome a lifetime of oppression and secrecy.
This rewarding work led her to another realization: that her peers were dying and no one was capturing their amazing life stories. This led Evensmeyer to start the OLOHP (Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project). The project served to document the incredible lives of older lesbian women, to combat the isolation older lesbians often experience in their later years, and to educate senior service providers on the existence of and needs of older lesbians. The project grew quickly and Evensmeyer began training volunteer oral history collectors. By the middle of 2017, the project had collected and archived over 600 oral interviews with lesbians age 70 and older.
“Every one of us has a story. You don’t have to climb Mt. Everest to have a story. Every one of these stories is important and interesting.” – Arden Evensmeyer