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Archive for June, 2012

This past week, I was honored to read at The SAGE Center’s first annual Pride luncheon in New York.  My partner and I met an old friend at the Center, who had organized the first book club with SAGE (Senior Advovacy in a GLBT Environment) when it was part of the New York LGBT Community Center on 13th Street.The SAGE Center lobby sign

Last January, The SAGE Center established itself as the first full-time LGBT senior center last January in its new home on Seventh Avenue.  The SAGE Center is funded partially through the New York City Department of Aging. Currently The SAGE Center has 650 members and is planning to open centers in the New York boroughs.

I read from my book Tea Leaves, a memoir of mothers and daughters, which provoked a lively discussion where SAGE members talked about their own experiences as caretakers of elderly parents and friends. One man talked about his experiences visiting an older friend who was attracted to him. “We would sing together and dance,” he said, “and whenever we danced, he grabbed my ass.  I was very firm in telling him that wasn’t happening.”  Some years passed and the older man, who now had dementia, was living in a home.  One of his relatives asked the man if he would visit the older man.  “I went and he didn’t know who I was but he asked me if I was there to have sex with him. When I said “no”  he asked me to leave. I had to explain that I was there to visit him.”

” Whenever we danced, he grabbed my ass.  I was very firm in telling him that wasn’t happening.”

A woman in the audience talked about how caring for her elderly father and his grief at losing him changed her (now former) partner.  In Tea Leaves, (under the editorial direction of Kathrine V. Forrest), I wrote about the tensions  that arose in my own long-term relationship as a result of me spending so much time and emotional energy caring for my mother.  It’s quite common.   When I talk to other couples where one or both has cared for an elderly parent, they frequently mention that there were tensions in their relationship.  It’s important to acknowledge that we’re not in this alone.

Tea Leaves, a memoir of mothers and daughters (pubished by Bella Books)

Tea Leaves, a memoir of mothers and daughters is available from Bella Books — online– http://www.bellabooks.com/9781594932786-prod.html — or from your local bookstore.

The need for The SAGE Center as a place where LGBT seniors can gather with each other, engage in activities, and avoid isolation is illustrated by a conversation that I had with one of the participants.  While there are elders in the community who have led the way and who have always been out, many LGBT seniors are, in fact, not out. Even after retirement, many seniors are not out to friends and family members including grandchildren. While this is sad, it is a fact of their lives.  There is much documented evidence of LGBT seniors facing discrimination and ostracism when they socialize and live in conventional (non-LGBT)senior settings.One SAGE participant told me that he was out to very few people in his life.  “I have a friend is Israel who knows,” he told me, “And when he e-mails me with gay subject matter, he uses a different e-mail account.”

Janet Mason, author of Tea Leaves, a memoir of LGBT eldercare (Bella Books) with Scott French , program manager, with The SAGE Center in Chelsea ( 305 Seventh Ave)

Janet Mason, author of Tea Leaves, a memoir of LGBT eldercare (Bella Books) with Scott French , program manager, with The SAGE Center in Chelsea ( 305 Seventh Ave)

After the reading and discussion, I conducted a short writing workshop.  Several of the participants shared their work – one man wrote about reconnecting with his father who he had not seen since he was a child and is now eighty eight.  Another wrote about surviving his partner and feeling as if they are still connected spiritually.

The SAGE Center on Seventh Avenue in New York -- Barbara in the lobby

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Giovanni's Room -- The sign in the window says Janet Mason reading from Tea LeavesI wanted to bring you some images of my Philadelphia launch of Tea Leaves, a memoir of mothers and daughters(Bella Books) that was held at Giovanni’s Room Bookstore.   Kathy Anderson, a long-time literary colleague (a truly amazing playwright and a two time Pushcart nominee fiction writer), graciously accepted the invitation to read with me. Janet Mason, author of Tea Leaves, standing next to Giovanni's Room sign

Long a Philadelphia institution (for many of us a sanctuary), Giovanni’s Room Bookstore has been around since 1973. When I came out in the early eighties, Giovanni’s Room was the only place to find gay, lesbian, and feminist books in the city.  Its important history has been recognized in recent years with a blue and gold historical marker from the Pa. Historical and Museum Commissions which ends with the words:  “The store provided resources to those working to gain legal rights for LGBT people.”

Certainly, the store has played an important role in my life as a writer.  And seventeen years after beginning Tea Leaves, a memoir of mothers and daughters, I was fortunate enough to work with Kathrine V. Forrest as an editor for Spinsters Ink/Bella Books. 

 I had first discovered Kathrine’s groundbreaking books on the shelves of Giovanni’s Room. So it is fitting that my Philadelphia book launch was held at the venerable Giovanni’s Room.  I invite you to enjoy the photographs!

   Ed Hermance, owner of Giovanni's Room, and Janet Mason, author of Tea Leaves             

Ed Hermance and I were sharing a moment!

Tea Leaves and reflection of Warren's (a.k.a. Patsy Rachett)  chandelier in the mirror

If you think you’re seeing things you are — copies of Tea Leaves are in front of the mirror that is reflecting the chandelier made by Warren (also known by drag persona Patsy Rachett)!

Kathy Anderson reading at Giovanni's Room

Kathy read a short story about two older lesbians that was edgy and brilliant!

Kathy Anderson introducing Janet Mason at Giovanni's

Kathy is introducing me — and I’m enjoying it!

Janet Mason talking about Tea Leaves

I do have my serious moments.

 

And here’s Kathy and Jackie and Becky and Tasha!

There’s Nina and Judy and Barb in the corner!

There's Paul and Vildan -- and Ozzie too!

There’s Paul and Vildan — and Ozzie too!

 Becky Birtha and Jeanette Jimenez in the window seat.

Jeanette Jimenez and Becky Birtha were catching up in the window seat.

 

Celebrated poets Al Tacconelli and Maria Fama were in attendance!

We were thinking back to when Barbara (a main character in Tea Leaves) babysat Tasha when mom ( Becky) and me were at the writing group.  Now Tasha is all grown up!

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