LGBTQ+ Aging with Pride: 'What a magnificent epiphany of blissful pleasures'
June is Pride month, a time to celebrate LGBTQ+ communities. To mark the occasion, WNYC is talking with LGBTQ+ older adults about their struggles, triumphs and what pride means to them. In this segment, Donna Sue Johnson of Westchester County shares her story.
The transcript of Donna Sue Johnson's story has been lightly edited for clarity.
My name is Donna Sue Johnson, and I'm from the south, south jersey. I grew up in Willingboro, New Jersey. I live in Westchester County and identify as a big Black, beautiful, Bohemian, bougie, Buddhist, butch -- I'm a lesbian. I came out when I was in the military, which was very difficult to say the least because it certainly wasn't do ask do tell.
It was more like witch hunts -- it wasn't, don't ask, don't tell. Here I am stationed at Travis Air Force Base, which is situated between Sacramento and the Bay Area, and I go to my first Gay Day parade in 1980 or '81, and I see Sister Boom Boom and the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence throwing out condoms -- the bath houses had just closed.
So I was born in 1956, so I'm 66 and I'm old enough to have survived two major epidemics -- the first one being AIDS and the second one being the Covid pandemic. I remember seeing Dykes on Bikes and I remember calling my grandmother and I said, wow, I can't wait to get a motorcycle. She said, 'we don't have no dykes on bikes in this family.' I said, 'how do you know about Dykes on bikes?' She said, 'I watch Phil Donahue.'
What a magnificent epiphany of blissful pleasures to be able to understand and embrace who I am as a Black lesbian who is aging with grace, aging in place and aging intelligently. Not all of my cohorts are able to do so with the hate that is going on in this country toward the LGBT community. It's essential that we let our voices be heard that this is wrong. This is causing older LGBT folks to go back in the closet and be stealth after working so hard to be out. It's a disgrace.
Pride is certainly important so that folks can see that we're here, we're queer, and we're here to stay.