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Lesbian Lovers

The assumption of many straight friends of mine is that lesbians and gays do not have long-term relationships.   When pressed, they often paint stereotypical images of gay men in bath houses, women in prison, or, when they have run out of things to say, they continue with "these relationships are destined to fail."  Really? 

I have been fortunate enough to know women who have been in monogamous relationships for 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 and 40+ years.  I knew one couple who had been together through their marriages to men, helped each other raise their children, attended the funeral of one husband, and when I left Chicago in 1990, were still together.  They referred to each other as "special friends."

On the topic of special friends, like Alice Dunbar-Nelson, there are many bisexual women who have maintained equally committed and lengthy relationships.  In my early 20s, many, many, moons ago, I attended several parties thrown by women for women who were married or, for whatever reasons, could not be OUT and were living public lives as wives, mothers, and executives.   I had the pleasure of meeting a couple at one of these parties who had been together for a little over five years.    Their husbands (how they met) had parted ways long ago when they changed jobs, but these two women maintained their "special friendship" and cared very much for each other.   Two beautiful women who loved kissing each other. 

For those of you at the six-month, one-year, of four-year marker in your relationship, take heart.  FemmeNoir presents Famous Lesbian Lovers in History.  The links below will take you to photos and some very brief bios of these loving couples.

  • Mary Renault and Julie Mullard- Together 50+ years
  • Jane Rule and Helen Sonthoff- Together 42 years
  • Natalie Barney and Romaine Brooks- 50 years
  • Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas- Together 40 years (buried together in Pere Lachaise Cemetary in France)
  • Mary Wooley and Jeannette Marks- Together 52 years
  • Tiny Davis and Ruby Lucas (jazz musicians)- 42 years and counting...
  • Lillian Foster and Mabel Hampton- 41 years
  • Grace Hutchins (1885-1969)and Anna Rochester (1880-1966)-
    More than 45 years
  • Alice James and Katharine Loring- (1880-1892) 12 years
  • Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok- 30 years
  • Ruth Ellis and Cecine "Babe" Franklin- 30 years
  • Gaye Adegbablola and Suzanne Moe- 9 years
  • Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman- friends for 12 years

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Other Articles of Interest

Lesbian Couples and Friends: Is There Enough Love to Go Around?
by Kali Munro, M.Ed., Psychotherapist
(originally published in Siren, Aug/Sept 1999)

Why is it that lesbians can neglect or forget their friends when they get into a relationship? Whether it's the quality and intensity of our friendships that change, or the fact that we no longer make new friends, or that we rarely meet with friends independent of our partners, it always seems to happen once we're involved with someone.

Granted, after being in a relationship, our needs and interests change. Some lesbians want to connect with other couples or develop mutual friends. Some feel satisfied that their emotional needs are met by their partners. Others feel that their relationships demand a lot from them emotionally, leaving them less to offer to friends. While all of these are reasons to make some shifts, they don't compensate for the loss of a trusted friend. Or the independence and closeness that can be gained by hanging out with your own friends.

By the numbers -- Census 2000 was the most accurate federal accounting of gay Americans ever—but was it enough?  By Lee Condon
From The Advocate, September 25, 2001

Census 2000 may be best remembered as the gay census. For the first time, federal head-counters made a real effort to enumerate gay and lesbian households. As the data were released—four or five states a time—the numbers made the front pages of newspapers in big cities and small towns throughout the country. Although single gays and lesbians were left out of the count, demographers say the tally of 1.2 million same-sex “unmarried partners” is the result of the most substantial polling ever to be done of gays and lesbians in America.

While a study commissioned by the gay lobby group the Human Rights Campaign estimates that Census 2000 undercounted gay and lesbian couples by a huge 62%, the data nevertheless show that gays and lesbians are living in 99.3% of all counties in the United States.

Partners National Survey of Lesbian & Gay Couples
Summary of Results

© 1995, Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples

In the fall of 1988, this major survey was undertaken to develop an accurate portrait of lesbian and gay couples in America. Survey forms were circulated through gay churches and community centers, but most couples requested the forms after reading notices in the gay press. Partners Magazine for Gay & Lesbian Couples and Out/Look (both now discontinued) and a few gay newspapers published the survey itself. Data was collected through fall 1989. The entire project was developed and conducted by Steve Bryant and Demian, Ed.D., co-directors of Partners Task Force For Gay & Lesbian Couples.

Survey Excerpt
© 1995, Partners Task Force for Gay & Lesbian Couples
			Women	Men
Average years		4.9	6.9

Relationships averaged nearly six years in length for all couples,
even though the average respondent was only 35 years old.
More than 100 couples had passed their 15th anniversary.
One lesbian relationship had spanned 43 years, and three male
couples had lasted more than 40 years. 19% of lesbian couples
and 13% of male couples had been together one year or less.

			Women(%)	Men(%)
None			32		38
One			26		33
Two			23		18
Three			10		 7
Four			 4		 3
Five or more		 5		 1

Average number		 1.52		 1.07

			Women (%)	Men (%)
None			 1		 2
1 year			 8		20
2 years			12		22
3 years			10		13
4 years			11		10
5 years			10		 9
6 years			 8		 4
7 years			 6		 4
8 years			 5		 4
9 years			 5		 2
10 years		 7		 3
11-15 years		12		 4
16 or more		 6		 2

Average yrs		 6.6	 	 4.2

			Women(%)	Men(%)
Friends			28		19
Work			21		 7
Social event		16		13
School*			 9		 3
Bar			 4		22
Religious event		 4		 7
Political event		 4		 4
Support group*		 3		 2
Park/public space* 	 2		 6
Classified ad		 2		 6
Baths/cruising*		<1		 5
Other			 5		 6
	* write-in response

			Women(%)	Men(%)
Gay/lesbian		93		97
Bisexual		 7		 3

Click Here to Read the Full Survey

Hot Topic:

A big Thank You to Girls In The Night for this flyer entitled
"Lust For Women"
It truly made my day!

Jane Rule and
Helen Sonthoff
50+ Years

Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas
40 Years
(Buried Together)

Mary Wooley and Jeannette Marks
52 Years

Grace Hutchins
and Anna Rochester
45 Years

Tiny Davis and
Ruby Lucas
42 Years

Eleanor Roosevelt
and Lorena Hickok
30 Years

Ruth Ellis and
30 Years




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