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History of the Project
The LGBTQ+ Intergenerational Dialogue Project emerged rather serendipitously in the Summer of 2019. Amidst the 50 anniversary celebrations of The Stonewall Riots, Karen Morris (a lesbian cultural anthropologist) was collecting oral histories for StoryCorps. Some of the stories she collected were with elders that are part of senior programming at the Center on Halsted, Chicago’s LGBTQ Resource Center. Todd Williams, the manager of senior services at the Center on Halsted, helped Karen connect with some of these elders and in doing so mentioned that another faculty member from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago – queer philosopher Adam Greteman – was a regular volunteer at the Center. Realizing that there was a shared interest in LGBTQ+ elders, education, and oral histories, Karen, Todd, and Adam met over coffee in July of 2019 to begin generating possible ways to engage LGBTQ+ elders. Amidst such discussions various ideas were shared – from oral history focused work to a mentoring project – until eventually the idea of creating some type of LGBTQ+ intergenerational dialogues popped up into the conversation.
What would it mean to create a project that brought together LGBTQ+ elders and LGBTQ+ young people, namely college students to talk. As the initial idea was fleshed out, we recognized from other work that LBGTQ+ elders had often expressed disappointment at not having contact with young people. Similarly, in working with LGBTQ+ college students, Karen and Adam remembered talking with students about how they, to some extent, did not realize there were “old gay people,” something that research has documented in terms of the invisibility of LGBTQ+ elders. If elders are disappointed that they don’t have contact with young people and young people don’t realize the existence of elders, what can we do to bring LGBTQ+ elders and young people together? And thus – with further conversations and planning – The LGBTQ+ Intergenerational Dialogue Project was born.
In the second year of the project, we settled into what has become annual dialogue cycles. Each September, we welcome a new cohort of 15 younger adults and 15 older adults who meet bi-weekly during the fall and spring semesters. Students joining the project for the first time enroll in a fall class organized around the dialogue project entitled Generating Queers. The course was created in 2020 in response to student requests (read more about the course on “The Class” page of our website. Spring and summer semesters are focused on collaborative artwork around storytelling themes, and social gatherings that offer current participants and alumni the chance to meet, mix, mingle, and laugh.
Over the last four years, our community has grown. Over 100 LGBTQ+ younger and older adults have participated in the project, and we have held over 110 dialogues. Two additional LGBTQ+ project facilitators and researchers have joined us. Nic Weststrate is a faculty member in Educational Psychology at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Lisa Moore is on the faculty of the Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice at the University of Chicago.
In April 2021, we were finally able to return to in-person meetings, and are so glad to be back together. Sometimes, after the conclusion of a dialogue, a small intergenerational group of folks head over to a nearby leather bar to continue the conversation.
Learn More About Us
Read an introduction to The LGBTQ+ Intergenerational Dialogue Project, where you can learn about intentions for the project and how we got our name
Generating Queers: The Class
View all participants of the Dialogues – past and present – and get to know them through pictures, brief bios, and links