55upitty: Empowering Older Queer Women
A new online interview and photography project is celebrating older queer women by sharing their stories and experiences.
Teresa Savage is over 55 and says people assume a lot about her because of her age.
“Most people think you’re cute. They think that you can’t do this and you can’t do that – that you’re a bit silly. And of course you wouldn’t know anything about technology. It’s a generalisation.”
Indeed it is. On the contrary, Savage is the brains behind 55upitty (www.55upitty.com).
The online destination, constructed with her creative collaborator Viv McGregor, is dedicated to empowering queer women over 55 by telling their stories – and has already proved to be a much bigger success than anticipated, with at least half of visitors aged under 55.
“The thing about older people is we came out at a time when it was very difficult,” Savage says. “I think talking about that across the generations can only be helpful to all of us. It gives us a sense of history.”
Providing an insight into history was always a key factor of the project, but Savage says it will also operate as a “living archive” – showing people these women still have plenty of fight left in them. It’s important that attitudes towards queer women, regardless of age, remain fair.
“As we get older, the problem we’re really facing is being forced back into the closet - because of homophobia about older people,” she says.
The stories are accompanied by McGregor’s stunning photographs. They are intimate and personal portraits. Coupled with Savage’s personal interviews, the collection delves deep into the heart of each individual’s experience.
Take for instance Lyn, an Asian-Australian woman who has had to endure not only racism but also homophobia throughout her whole life. Or Gail, who was arrested at the 1978 Mardi Gras protest but later was awarded the Order of Australia medal for her contribution to women’s issues.
It’s an issue close to Savage, dealing with issues of equality and homophobia. In her university days, the women’s group took a vote before allowing her to join, because, as Savage puts it, she was “a scary lesbian and all”. And in 1981, she was sacked from a job because she was gay.
Savage says the artistic collaboration with McGregor, who is much younger, “really sums up what the whole project is about”; that is, bringing together the young and old in a spirit of mutual respect. She says they have become close working together, despite their generational differences.
The upcoming launch will give older and younger women a chance to do the same – share ideas and connect with each other.
There will be performances from two feisty feminist outfits: Maree Cunnington – an electronic artist known as the Dada Mama in the late 70s; and Mystery Carnage, the former lead singer of 80s band Stray Dags.
All seven women currently profiled on 55upitty will also be present for an in-depth panel discussion.
And it’s just the beginning. Savage and McGregor plans to develop the project to further support and empower older queer women.
[pic cap] The stories of Kaye, Lyn Ludo are among those featured in the new online interview and photography project that celebrates older queer women, 55upitty. Photos: Viv McGregor
55upitty will be launched on Thursday, February 21, 7pm, at Red Rattler, Marrickville. Tix $15/$10. Bookings: www.mardigras.org.au. Visit www.55upitty.com.