There is an amazing group of Houston lesbian women committed to staying socially connected as they get older. Sadly, the more we age, the more isolated we can become—even after a lifetime of happy relationships, friendships, and family-building. LOAFers, Inc., more commonly known as LOAF or Lesbians Over Age Fifty, is a nonprofit organization that was created to alleviate that kind of isolation by providing “social and educational activities for lesbians 50 and older, and their partners of any age.”
Their mission statement’s stated goals are “to provide a safe haven for women who are exploring their sexuality; to provide a safe environment for lesbians to gather for a variety of social activities and interaction; to have a diverse group of lesbians, all inclusive, regardless of ethnicity, creed, or class; to recognize the collective wisdom of our members in order to nurture the others within LOAF; to occasionally provide knowledgeable speakers who can inform members on issues of importance to lesbians; to provide a social support system for lesbians who are isolated; and to recognize and address internalized homophobia.”
The group was started in October of 1987 to provide a safe space for lesbian women to explore their sexuality, enjoy one another’s company, and be supportive of those who may be isolated. The group sponsors affordable monthly socials with activities that include dances, museums, picnics, pool parties, Top Golf, bowling, restaurants, and quarterly women’s music concerts.
The Founding Mothers of LOAF are Ruth Sathre, a nurse; Jane Corinne, a social worker; Bonnie Kell, a gerontologist; Barbara Brumfield, a psychotherapist; Linda Snook, a certified counselor; and Roxanne Cherico, who is also the current president. Cherico says, “I was a generation older than these women, but they had the knowledge of the community necessary to start a group of this kind.”
LOAF has received a wealth of positive feedback from members and non-members alike. “We are a unique group in that we are not aware of any other organization like this in the U.S.,” Cherico explains. Because the group is so unique, it appeals to all kinds of women for a variety of reasons, filling a wide range of needs. Cherico says that for her, “It provided a much-needed social outlet for me after my 20-year relationship dissolved. Now I enjoy the company of wonderful women.”
For Margaret Thibodeaux, acting treasurer of LOAF, the organization has provided the kind of “good company” she was searching for. “It is a safe, non-religious, non-political group of women of varied backgrounds and experiences.” Some women say LOAF has even been good for their mental health.
Board member Lucretia Copeland explains, “LOAF allowed me to be ‘out,’ socialize, and attend events of interest to me. It is a safe space, drug- and alcohol-free, where I meet a variety of women—some professionals like me, and others that I would not have met otherwise. This social group has helped me transition into retirement and not isolate.”
For some members, staying connected is the most powerful purpose of the group. “It is important to me to be part of LOAF because we are lesbians helping lesbians thrive by staying active and connected. LOAF’s mission is to combat isolation among lesbians—it just doesn’t get better than that,” explains Lavita Marks, vice president of the organization.
LOAF has some exciting events coming up. Because of two generous grants they received from Texas United Charities and the John S. Kellett Foundation, they are now sponsoring quarterly women’s music concerts. The next one is on September 21 at a Spring Branch church. The concert will feature singer-songwriters Deidre McCalla and Dianne Davidson.
The Kellett Foundation is underwriting the concert expenses, allowing ticket proceeds to go directly to the artists. “St. Peter’s UCC is an intimate setting to hear and support wonderful women musicians,” Cherico adds, noting that it should be an ideal event for current LOAF members and friends, as well as anyone who might be interested in joining the organization.
The Kellett Foundation grant, Cherico says, is also enabling them to create a new interactive website. “We are currently taking bids for the design, and hope to have it up by the end of the year.” Cherico explains that their grants will also allow them to underwrite the costs of our socials and outings, in order to enable more women to participate. And although the group is focused on the older set, LOAF also interacts monthly with Hatch Youth, providing speakers and mentors to the Montrose Center’s LGBTQ teen group.
As for the future, the group hopes their new website, social events, and educational outreach activities will help them connect with as many lesbians in Harris County and the surrounding areas as possible, and encourage them to participate in the LOAF community. “Isolation is a detriment to all people, and it is important to form connections with other like-minded individuals,” Cherico explains.
The September LOAF Meet and Greet is Sunday, September 15, at the Montrose Center, and visitors are welcome. Cherico notes that their speaker for the event “will be telling us of the history and importance of Hatch Youth.”
Members of LOAF want people to know that they are not a dating service, nor are they political or religious. “We are active, vital members of our community that contribute our time and knowledge.” And more than anything, the board and members of LOAF work hard to raise awareness about the organization and its mission “to alleviate isolation in older lesbians and provide diverse social and educational opportunities for our members.”
What: Singers Deidre McCalla and Dianne Davidson in concert
When: Sept. 21, 7 p.m. meet-and-greet with the artists, 7:30 p.m. performance
Where: St. Peter’s United Church of Christ, 9022 Long Point Road at Campbell
Tickets: $20 in advance or at the door, 713.907.5378 or [email protected]
This article appears in the September 2019 edition of OutSmart magazine.