Older Lesbians: Claiming a Space in the Archive
“Older lesbians have frequently been described as the most invisible members of the LGBTQ+ community, hidden from sight by a combination of prevailing cultural assumptions and their own unwillingness to be seen. As a result, they have been consistently under-represented, both in popular culture and in historical research, and less is known about them than about any other part of the LGBT community. For the last five years I have been collecting the life stories of women born before 1950 who identify as lesbians. It is a growing archive: currently there are some fifty of these ‘hidden histories’, the majority of which are in the form of (transcribed) oral recordings and the rest in the form of written autobiographies.
In this paper I reflect on the barriers to collecting life story material from this marginal population, discuss some ways in which those barriers can be overcome, and consider some of the challenges which arise in archiving and presenting the material. However, in setting out to discuss barriers, I also find myself celebrating the new connections and ‘border-crossings’ that have resulted from this work.”
Jane Traies is a Research Associate in the Centre for Cultural Studies at the University of Sussex. She returned to academic study after her retirement from a career in education, gaining her PhD from the University of Sussex in 2014. She has contributed to a number of publications in the field of sexuality and ageing; her book, The Lives of Older Lesbians: Ageing, Sexuality and the Life Course, will be published by Palgrave Mackmillan in June 2016.
Jane will be speaking on day 3 of the conference