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UH Hosts Houston Premiere of Old Lesbians Documentary on March 25

The new film tells the story of late herstorian Arden Eversmeyer.

Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project quilt

It’s Women’s History Month, and the University of Houston’s Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies (WGSS) Program is celebrating by hosting the Houston premiere of a new documentary on the life of the late renowned lesbian activist Arden Eversmeyer

Old Lesbians, which debuts at the UH Student Center South Theater on March 25, recounts Eversmeyer’s work to preserve the histories of older lesbians. The documentary’s premiere kicks off with a reception and exhibition featuring archival materials about Eversmeyer, and the screening will be followed by a panel discussion featuring the film’s director. 

Eversmeyer, a longtime Houston resident, passed away at age 91 in 2022. She was the founder of Lesbians Over Age Fifty (LOAF), a Houston-based social organization that now has over 150 members. Eversmeyer also founded the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project (OLOHP), an archive of over 800 life stories recorded around the globe.

Old Lesbians movie poster

“Arden was quite amazing. She was an activist on many fronts,” says WGSS director Elizabeth Gregory. “She saw the lack of documentation of lesbian lives and stood up to fill the gap—to give people the opportunity to tell their stories. Actively anti-agist, she specifically told older people’s stories to give a sense of the vibrant lives they lived.”

Directed by Meghan McDonough, Old Lesbians honors Eversmeyer’s legacy by animating voices she preserved, “from first crush to first love, from the closet to coming out, and finally from loss to connection,” according to the film’s website. A trailer of the film showcases snippets of interviews Eversmeyer conducted for OLOHP. 

Gregory, who also serves as the director of UH’s Institute for Research on Women, Gender & Sexuality (IRWGS), is a professor of English at UH and had previously worked with Eversmeyer on various projects for the university. Gregory says she organized the Old Lesbians screening after Eversmeyer passed away and left the WGSS Program a $200,000 endowment to create a fellowship for students completing a thesis, dissertation, or other substantive project on a WGSS topic.

“[Upon receiving the endowment], I was looking around to see what was online about Arden, and I happened to discover just that week that an announcement had come out about Old Lesbians,” Gregory says. “It seemed like the perfect moment to bring this new film here.” 

After reaching out to the creators of the documentary, Gregory asked director Meghan McDonough to come to UH to speak about the process of making the film. In addition to McDonough, the panel following the screening will include words by the film’s cinematographer Rengim Mutevellioglu, OLOHP interviewee Barb Kucharczyk, LGBTQ Houston historian Sara Fernandez, and UH’s LGBT History Research Collections Librarian Joyce Gabiola. 

Lesbian activist Arden Eversmeyer and founder of Lesbians Over Age Fifty (LOAF). Eversmeyer also founded the Old Lesbian Oral Herstory Project (OLOHP), an archive of over 800 life stories recorded around the globe. Photo by Alex Rosa

“I’m hoping many audience members are people who were involved in the Old Lesbians Oral Herstory Project and LOAF so that we can talk about the importance of Arden’s work for the community over many decades,” Gregory says. “The film will be the takeoff point, but the film is about Arden, so this will be a celebration of her work and the community that she was so dedicated to.” 

A retired public school teacher, Eversmeyer founded OLOP more than 25 years ago. After her partner of over three decades passed away from cancer, she traveled to the West Coast to look for organizations that included older LGBTQ singles. She came up short when she found that those kinds of groups were mostly made up of gay men. She soon returned to Houston to found LOAF. Six women showed up at the organization’s first meeting in 1987. 

While LOAF continued to grow every year after its inception, Eversmeyer quickly realized how many members were dealing with serious illnesses. Their stories and challenges weighed heavily on Eversmeyer as she traveled to Minnesota to attend the Old Lesbians Organizing for Change (OLOC) national conference in 1988. At the conference, she met a woman who was working with the June L. Mazer Lesbian Archives in West Hollywood. She showed Eversmeyer how to conduct oral histories and encouraged her to record the life stories of older lesbians. 

Concerned that the stories of the LOAF members who were ill would be lost, Eversmeyer convinced them to let her record oral histories of their lives. These interviews blossomed into the OLOHP, which now includes interviews with older lesbians in the U.S. and overseas.

Those who are interested in attending the free screening of Old Lesbians can RSVP by emailing [email protected] (although RSVP is not required). Those interested in making a gift to the Arden Eversmeyer Graduate Fellowship in WGSS can do so online or contact WGSS directly at [email protected].

What: Old Lesbians Houston Premiere
When: Monday, March 25 at 6 p.m. (reception), 6:45 (screening) 
Where: UH Student Center South Theater, 4455 University Drive • Houston, TX 77004

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Lourdes Zavaleta

Lourdes Zavaleta is a frequent contributor to OutSmart magazine.
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