Edie and Thea: A Very Long Engagement portrays a love story, through photographs and interview clips, of a once young and now old lesbian couple. As I watched the documentary, I could easily imagine these women as my friends now — in groups or in pairs, on the beach or at a party, often laughing with a carefree air so common of people in their 20s and 30s. Unlike my contemporaries though, Edie Windsor and Thea Spyer met and fell in love in the closeted 1960s, and had to maintain an engagement for more than 40 years.
Despite the historical differences, the couple’s story could have been any of ours – most of us were nervous, closeted and giddy when we met our first loves. It is rare to find a middle-aged person these days who didn’t at some point in her life think that being a lesbian was something to feel ashamed and embarrassed about. Many, including myself, found a way to rise above that internalized homophobia and realize how unique and special we all are, much like Edie and Thea eventually did. The two met in New York City and their lives played out in the movie through scenes on the beaches of Long Island, on overseas vacations, and in bars in the West Village. Through this documentary, I watched a reflection of my future in a way that deeply resonated with me – far more than any film about a heterosexual couple ever could.
Other colleagues of mine who are working within the LGBT advocacy movement question why I want to work with LGBT elders… the answer is simple. We will all be old one day, and when we are, we will be looking to younger generations to keep the fight going on our behalf. Edie and Thea’s story inspires me to be a part of our older LGBT neighbors’ lives today — to be aware of the struggles they face currently and to help better their daily lives, through education of themselves and their caretakers.
Watch a trailer for the film:
With the support of the ACLU, Edie Windsor went on to sue the US government for the differential treatment she received after Thea passed away. Learn more about their case and The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA)
Watch a video that highlights how marriage inequality can affect the lives of older LGBT adults in the US
Read a report that highlights the impact of marriage inequality on LGBT seniors
Hilary Meyer is the Director of the National Resource Center on LGBT Aging , a project of Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE) in New York City. She is a frequent presenter on topics related to LGBT older adults across the country.