DALLAS, TX (KDAF) — If you don’t believe in love at first sight, you haven’t met Louise Young and Viv Armstrong, who met each other while going to school in Colorado in 1971.
They’ve now been together for almost 50 years and in that time they’ve not only loved each other, but also those who don’t feel loved. Both Louise and Viv have helped lead a movement for equality for the LGBTQ and everyone throughout their lives.
“Some folks consider us the grandmothers of the Dallas movement” says Louise.
Their own relationship was forged against the backdrop of Stonewall, but the fight for LGBTQ equality was more intuitive for Louise. “My parents instilled in me from a very early age that I should make a difference in the world,” she says, “They didn’t say how, but they said ‘this is so important that you make your life count.'”
Before moving to Dallas in 1976, both experienced discrimination firsthand in the workplace. Louise got word she would not be welcomed back from sabbatical to teach her college class because ‘enrollment was down’.
She would later learn the truth – A student had seen Louise and Viv dancing in a bar in Oklahoma City and went to the Dean.
“The Dean decided that was it” says Louise. Viv was also denied a job because of their relationship.
Despite outright discrimination, setbacks, and challenges, these two have much to be proud of.
For Louise, one of her proudest moments is lobbying and pushing North Texas-based Raytheon to become the first aerospace and defense company to score 100% on the Human Rights Campaign corporate equality index. Anyone that knows the glacial pace at which businesses can move when it comes to progressive change knows that is no small feat.
Viv recalls the HIV/AIDS epidemic, and how she was able to pool her knowledge, skills, and passion together to help people in one of the darkest, most frightening eras for the LGBTQ community.
Now in their 70’s, both Louise and Viv can think back to the battles won, but from personal experience, they know their work is not done.
Louise says “I did experience, what I feel like, was discrimination when I had my stroke on two different occasions.”
At one point, a nurse was providing inadequate care while Louise recovered. When addressed, Louise says the nurse admitted it was because of her ‘lifestyle’.
“There go the words again…my ‘lifestyle'” says Louise.
She also experienced discrimination from other patients at the rehab facility. During a conversation about their spouses, after Louise mentioned Viv, suddenly several other patients no longer wished to associate with her.
As a result, Louise started eating lunch alone in her room.
This brings up a crucial issue for many LGBTQ people as they age.
“If you’re isolated, and you cannot socialize, and you feel trapped in your older, residential community that’s going to be a real problem,” says Viv.
After a lifetime of fighting for equal rights and knowing the hurdles that are out there, Louise says she was still shocked.
“I was not expecting any kind of mistreatment, and I was surprised” she says.
The experience has made Louise and Viv consider the things to look for if they ever decided to move to an assisted living facility.
However, after 50 years together and a life of fighting for justice and equality together, these experiences aren’t going to derail these two.
“We are not going back in the closet, I’m too old for that” says Louise.