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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

LGBTQ seniors out and proud at UMass Boston

Members of OLLI hold a tabling event.
Members of OLLI hold a tabling event. Photo submitted by OLLI.

Have you heard the name “Stonewall at OLLI?” When LGBTQ+ individuals in UMass Boston’s Osher Lifelong Learning Institute decided to form a special interest group, we adopted the Stonewall name because of its importance in our community’s history. The equal rights movement for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, transgender people and the queer community in general, was inspired by a police raid in June, 1969, at the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar in New York City’s Greenwich Village. That’s when the gay community fought back against continual raids and harassment by New York City Police.

On June 23, 2015, the Stonewall Inn became the first landmark to be recognized by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission on the basis of its status in LGBTQ+ history. Later in 2016, the Stonewall National Monument was named the first U.S. National Monument dedicated to the LGBTQ+-rights movement.

Here are some personal observations from just three members of Stonewall at OLLI.

ED FORD

Before joining the OLLI program at UMass Boston 12 years ago, I was president of Stonewall Communities Lifelong Learning at Wheelock College. When our funding ended and we needed an alternative venue, we discovered OLLI at UMass Boston.

About 35 members of the original group made the move, and we were welcomed with open arms! We could develop and teach LGBTQ+ courses, interject content into most any class, and take on leadership roles in the organization.

OLLI also offered travel, theater and “special interest groups.” Our LGBTQ+ associates immediately formed Stonewall at OLLI, an “out” LGBTQ+ group. We were excited about becoming part of the full OLLI Program, but we also wanted to maintain our identity as members of the LGBTQ+ community. While there are 125 OLLI groups around the country, ours is the only one that offers an out gay group.

We’re so active and engaged on campus and via Zoom, no one in the UMass Boston program can say they’ve never met a gay person!

BOB SESSIONS

I had a plan for retirement. I’d travel, volunteer, read and spend time with friends. So I retired at age 57, and that’s when my plan fell apart. All those friends I’d built my retirement plan around had at least 8 years before they could retire! Thankfully, I discovered OLLI lifelong learning at UMass Boston. It truly became my one-stop-shopping destination for all I’d hope to do in retirement.

I exercised my brain in classes and lectures. I stayed physically healthy in yoga class, Tai Chi, nutrition lectures and meditation. I traveled with OLLI friends to Thailand, Japan, Spain, Gibraltar and a trip to NYC for the Metropolitan Opera. And as a gay man, I joined Stonewall at OLLI. I expanded my circle of friends and marched with our group in the annual Pride Parade. I attended a monthly brunch and planned other activities with my new-found friends.

As my old friends finally reached retirement age, some joined me at OLLI. My retirement sent me back to class, on travel adventures and to experience new cultures, and best of all, to grow my circle of friends — all thanks to OLLI.

KATHY FARRELL

“For the friendships and the laughs.” This is our response when asked why we like Stonewall at OLLI so much. My wife Dottie and I keep coming back. The group stayed together even through COVID-19.

Before the pandemic, we attended classes, lectures and our monthly Stonewall at OLLI special interest group. Often, those of us on campus would meet for lunch, and we quickly discovered that the camaraderie and support of like-minded people was invaluable.

Thanks to Zoom, our Stonewall group was able to continue to meet, and attendance increased due to its convenience. We even logged on to Zoom to watch and discuss movies each month. Eventually as COVID-19 restrictions were lifted, we met in person for social events—brunches at Club Café, excursions to Salem, Mass. and visits to the Peabody Essex Museum were all wonderful, and we have many more ideas in the works.

For many Stonewall at OLLI members, our connection has been transformative. Some people talk of having felt isolated from the LGBTQ community as friends moved or passed away. Others were frankly bored in retirement, not knowing that new friends, challenging classes, international travel and world-class theater could be found just a few Red Line stops away!

OLLI is open to seniors age 50 and above. So if you have family, friends or neighbors looking to enhance the quality of their lives, share this article with them now! Help them discover all that OLLI and our Stonewall group offers.