Christine Burton, at the age of 93,
received a S.A.G.E. (Senior
Action in a Gay Environment) lifetime achievement
award at Merkin Hall
in New York City on Sunday, November 22, 1998. She
was strong and very
happy when she accepted her award and was surrounded
by many of her
closest friends and admirers.
Christine Burton was one of three recipients. The others were:
- Veteran lesbian activist Virginia Apuzzo named a senior White
House aide by President Bill Clinton in 1997, she gained the coveted seat
at the table that President Clinton had long promised. Apuzzo, who
became the highest-ranking openly gay official ever to serve in the White
House, was at the center of power, where there have never been openly
- Quentin Crisp, famous actor, performer, British "raging queen of
gentlemen" had become the darling of New York City for his giant
attitude of live who you are and love it.
All three were honored by S.A.G.E. that Sunday night in November
of '98, but when a portion of Christine Burton's life story on film was
shown for the audience, she was the only one to be revered with a
Born in 1905 and never retiring, Ms. Burton was a horse farmer,
a self-employed business woman, a teacher, a writer and public speaker.
She moved from one career to another and finally one day in the summer
of 1992 she wrote in an article of Woman Power: "At the age of
seventy-four although I enjoyed all the satisfactions of success in business,
I felt empty. My spirit seemed as gaunt as a skeleton, so I answered
an ad in a lesbian/gay newspaper that promised to connect lesbians. I
mailed my self-description and received this reply: 'Unless you made a
mistake in your birth year, you are over fifty. Women are not looking
for someone as old as you.' I resolved then that someday I would start
a contact service for lesbians over fifty."
At age 80, Christine Burton created GOLDEN THREADS, a worldwide
social network for older lesbians. Ms. Burton wrote:
I believe we're
all in this life together, although in amazing diversity: all ages
sizes, colors, shapes, ethnicity, talents, abilities, strengths, and with
all the varieties of perception possible to a worldwide population.
Like threads in a fabric, we are woven inextricably into the human
condition by common requirements for physical survival and self-realization.
Each of us is unique, useful, and equally important. That is what
makes a community. Lesbians are knit even closer by the commonality of our
sexual orientation and our life-living, even though it is diverse. We
are also more closely knit by the uniqueness of our vision as outsiders
to patriarchal culture and by the glue of society's prejudice against
us. Lesbians who are middle-aged and old are golden threads in the
fabric of humanity.
Portions of the Christine Burton documentary were shown on a
huge screen the night of the awards ceremony. The audience was spellbound
not only with Ms. Burton's analogies of birds, insects and flowers to
lesbians and freedom, but also by viewing directly into the heart of the
yearly GOLDEN THREADS lesbian celebration in Provincetown,
Massachusetts. They witnessed the bonding of lesbians through their weekend of
celebrating themselves, their lesbianism and their age no matter what it
was through joyous laughter, fun, dance and exchanging herstories with
Through Christine and the quarterly contact publication she
founded, many lesbians have ended their isolation and loneliness, and have
come to experience a spiritual and binding tie with Golden Threaders.
As we grow older the components of spirituality come to mean different
things. When we have celebrated ourselves, we have benefited the joy
of self-acceptance. S.A.G.E. thanked Christine for her indomitable
spirit, her leadership and the example that she had set for all of us.
Let us remember how she nurtured and touched the hearts of so
many isolated and lonely older lesbians across the nation and yes, around
Let us remember of the "lifting power" she gave lesbians through
a common direction and a sense of community that could enable us to get
where we are going quicker and easier. Let us remember that lesbian
community means we are willing to accept help, and give our help to
others. Let us remember her loving of "us" as our example in loving
other and her memory in this act will satisfy her love forever. JDG