So-called “womyn’s lands” are quietly persisting across North America but face a cultural shift as modern gays embrace mainstream society, the New York Times reports. Founded in the 1970s to give lesbians man-free, safe, non-judgmental communities, the roughly 100 groups have seen membership dwindle and populations age. “In 20 to 25 years, we could be extinct,” said one founder.
The communities’ rural locations limit membership, as do strict codes forbidding bisexuals and male children. While debate thrives over such rules, many members say they have suffered too much in the straight world to compromise. “It was hard enough fighting for the last 30 years,” a founder said. “Now it’s a family that wants to be here and die here.”
The article focused on a bygone era, a time when these women felt the need to withdraw from heterosexual society. One resident explained:
For Ms. Adams, every choice she makes today — which restaurant to go to, which contractor to hire, which music to listen to — is guided by a preference to be around women.
“To me, this is the real world,” she said. “And it’s a very peaceful world. I don’t hear anything except the leaves falling. I get up in the morning, I go out on my front deck and I dance and I say, ‘It’s another glorious day on the mountain.’ Men are violent. The minute a man walks in the dynamics change immediately, so I choose not to be around those dynamics.”
I doubt that most lesbians my age or younger can relate to their experience. Some of my best friends are both gay and straight men. And personally, I’ve never met any women that subscribe to strict lesbian separatism.
Feel free to comment on the article, because after reading it, believe you me, there is plenty to comment on. The main point I wanted to make here at Queercents is that these “below-the-radar” lesbian communities are facing similar economic challenges as Catholic nuns:
The communities, most in rural areas from Oregon to Florida, have as few as two members; Alapine is one of the largest. Many have steadily lost residents over the decades as members have moved on or died. As the impulse to withdraw from heterosexual society has lost its appeal to younger lesbians, womyn’s lands face some of the same challenges as Catholic convents that struggle to attract women to cloistered lives.
Visit Sister Julie’s well-designed blog (who knew nuns had such good design sense!) and you’ll get a quick lesson on nuns and money:
Some have asked me why nuns have to be concerned about finances when “nuns are supported by the Church”. Well, there in lies the problem. Although many parishes and individual Catholics have been very supportive and generous, overall most religious communities do not receive automatic financial support from the Catholic Church. (I think an exception is diocesan congregations — anyone know?) The Church is not responsible for our pensions, retirement, costs of living, bills, etc. It’s up to each congregation to take care of itself and find its own sources of income and financial security. Aside from sisters’ salaries, congregational assets (land and buildings), and investments, we rely on the generosity of our friends and benefactors.
This means new converts need to join in order to take care of the older nuns. Aging lesbian separatists are facing these same challenges. And just as I don’t know any twentysomethings running off to join a convent, I don’t know any young lesbians moving to womyn’s lands. Do you? Should their way of life be preserved or should they be concerned as one resident expressed: “We are really going to have to work at how we carry this on,” she added. “In 20 to 25 years, we could be extinct.”
Photo credit: stock.xchng.