Gay Old Girls by Zsa Zsa Gershick

cover of the book Gay Old GirlsGay Old Girls by Zsa Zsa Gershick
Genre: Biography
Copyright Year:
Published: 1998
Publisher: Alyson Books
Format: Trade Paperback
No. of Pages: 238
No. In Series:
ISBN: 9781555834760
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Amazon. com Review This collection of nine life stories can be seen as part of the larger project instituted by Joan Nestle and others to gather an oral history of lesbian life in America in the 20th century. Although some of the memories here stretch back to the 1920s, most date from the repressive postwar years and describe the difficulties of finding community–let alone lovers–when there were no safe, established meeting places for gay people. Many of the women interviewed ended up marrying men as a cover or to make their lives easier, while some married before they realized they were lesbian, the most remarkable of whom is Jane Stevenson, a California housewife and mother of two, whose suburban household in the 1960s came to include her female lover as well as her transvestite husband. Their need for secrecy and their joy in finding each other kept them happy together for many years, yet her story is countered by several in which the women never found lasting love, or grew so discouraged that they stopped trying. Although not all of these interviews are intrinsically interesting, they offer an essential glimpse of a dark past and spur on the struggle for civil rights. –Regina Marler An excerpt: Jane Stevenson South San Francisco, California Following Jane Stevenson’s directions, I take the South City exit off 101 South and drive along a boulevard that runs parallel to the freeway for a few miles. Then I turn off the large, four-lane thoroughfare onto a quiet residential street and begin my climb up through a hilly suburban settlement of split-level 1950s homes. It is a Saturday, and children are playing in their front yards while young men in ball caps wash and work on their cars or water neatly cut lawns. There are no broken Thunderbird bottles or bums sprawled out on the sidewalks. There are no traffic jams, no blaring horns as there are in my inner-city neighborhood. Except for an occasional plane passing overhead, it is quiet. In one of these houses lives a woman who was once–by all appearances–a typical, attractive, postwar American housewife. She baked cookies, attended PTA meetings and made a warm and loving life for her brood, with one important difference: She had a husband and a wife. Jane, 65, is a soft-spoken woman. She is reflective, emotional, unrehearsed. As she talks, some of what she recalls makes her cry. She shows me photographs of Grace, her partner of nearly 20 years. Grace is good-looking, with strong, Katharine Hepburn cheekbones and a daring expression in her eyes. Jane also shows me photographs of her husband. In the first one, George ‘Steve’ Stevenson appears in his dress police uniform. He is all boot polish and starched blues–a strapping, macho male. Jane hands me another photo of Steve as he looked at home: He’s wearing a white knit skirt and a top, with a big, red bow perched atop a light-brown pageboy wig. These three–along with Jane and Steve’s son, Mike–lived together in an extended family that was far more ’90s than ’50s. They were avant-garde. To the public, their neighbors, and the guys on the force, they were the perfect American family, just like Ward, June, Wally, and the Beav. They read together, ate together, shared a home and their lives together. Most importantly, they supported, protected, and loved each other. They were, indeed, the perfect American family-with just a little twist. Or, as Stevenson de
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