In 2021, Pam Adinoff traveled to Provincetown, Massachusetts, and watched a documentary that would change her life remarkably.
The Unlikely Story of the Lesbians of First Friday, produced by Kathryn L Beranich, tells the story of lesbians in the early 1980s who formed a large, tight-knit community called First Friday in Roanoke, Virginia. At a time when same gender relationships were reviled by much of the general population, it was vital for lesbians in this rural area to come together for dances, parties and weekend-long retreats.
Adinoff, who lives in Sonoma County, came out 50 years ago, while studying at Sonoma State University. She found a social life and support system among fellow students in the women’s studies program.
“As I was watching the documentary, it really just rang so true about my own community—how amazing we were, how engaged, how much fun we had,” Adinoff said.
Community gatherings like the ones seen in Beranich’s documentary of Roanoke were happening all over the country in the 1970s and 1980s, said Adinoff, noting that Sonoma County lesbians created a women’s center, bookstore, political organizations, “softball teams galore” and more.
In the film, footage of the Roanoke retreats show women participating in costume contests and mock-Olympic games that opened with someone carrying a torch with tampons for the wick. More than a dozen First Friday participants share their memories of the group.
“We just wanted community, and we had to be very protective of it. It’s not something that we could do out in the open. Although that’s kind of sad in one way, it made it very rich and very fun,” one woman recalls.
After seeing the film, Adinoff was inspired to reconnect with the women she knew decades ago, first reaching out to a few friends she was still in contact with. In December 2021, a group of seven founders launched a Facebook group called Sonoma County Lesbian Reunion (SCLR). Today, the group has close to 300 members, between Facebook and an email list.
Members meet regularly on Zoom and in person. Last year, they held a picnic in Sebastopol with more than 100 people and a fall tea dance with a live band. Online, members find and share old photos.
Like the women of First Friday, Adinoff said although she is relieved it is safer to be out about one’s sexual orientation in 2023 than it was in the past, changes resulted in a loss of close community. SCLR aims to bring people together again for fun times and valuable connections.
“What can we do to continue to get a vibrant, engaged community and continue to be with each other as we age?” Adinoff said.
SCLR will host two screenings of The Unlikely Story of the Lesbians of First Friday on Sunday, April 23 at 1 and 4pm at Rialto Cinemas in Sebastopol. Beranich and associate producer Nancy Kelly will attend for a live Q&A. People of all ages are welcome.