Press Release: Older gay people's champion speaks in Croydon
3 August 2011
Lindsay River, campaigner for the rights of older lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans (LGBT) people addressed an open meeting in central Croydon on the 2nd of August. She was speaking at The Brief, 48 George Street, as part of the series "the Brief Encounter", organised by Croydon Area Gay Society (CAGS).
Lindsay began with her own history as a lesbian activist. In the early 1970s two distinct groups were campaigning for gay rights: the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) was more radical and challenged the depths of heterosexism in society, whereas the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) was very good at putting the rights of gay people on the agenda. Lindsay had heard that CHE was mainly men, so she and her girlfriend joined GLF, but found that most of the women members had walked out of GLF the week before! She added "At one point I thought I wasn't qualified to be a lesbian and join lesbian groups, as I'd had boyfriends as well as girlfriends. Love and desire are very complicated: we need to be more inclusive"
She continued "Many lesbians in the 1970s avoided mixed gay groups: they felt they had more in common with straight women than with gay men, and some of them became influential in the feminist movement. And for many years the gay agenda was dominated by men's issues such as the age of consent – but opposition to Section 28 brought us all back together."
In recent years Lindsay has been concentrating on the concerns of older LGBT people: campaigning, publicising the older LGBT experience, and raising issues at Government conferences, such as the need for gay-friendly care homes. "Age UK and some other older organisations have begun to take us seriously, but a lot of the work depends on short term funding and could be threatened in this age of increasing cuts. We really need groups such as Silver Rainbow (Croydon's group for older gay people) that run themselves and don't rely on funding."
Currently Lindsay is working to set up a new national group, Age of Diversity, to be run by and for older LGBT people. She plans to launch it in the autumn, to coincide with the publication of a study into older LGBT people's experiences of the NHS. The Age of Diversity website (currently being tested) will enable members to keep in touch and share ideas, but Lindsay is very concerned not to exclude those older LGBT people who don't have access to the Internet.
Lindsay trained as a drama teacher, and plays an active part in two radical drama groups: AGLOW (who are providing the entertainment at CAGS' annual garden party on the 7th of August) and Drill Hall Darlings. She ended the evening with a piece she had written for Drill Hall Darlings.
David Page, Chair of CAGS, said "There was a very nice atmosphere to this meeting; Lindsay gave us some fascinating insights into the gay world from a woman's perspective, and provoked a very interesting discussion."
The Brief Encounter is a series of bi-monthly talks, free of charge and open to all. The next speaker, on Tuesday the 4th of October, will be Sue Sanders, founder of LGBT History Month.
For more information about CAGS, see www.cags.org.uk.
For more about The Brief Encounter, see www.cags.org.uk/brief.shtml.
For more about Silver Rainbow, for older gay and lesbian people in Croydon, see www.silverrainbow.org.uk.
For more about Age of Diversity, see www.ageofdiversity.org.uk.
This press release is also available at www.cags.org.uk/pressrel-2011-05.htm.