Doug Rogers said he had a pertinent personal reason for attending a Sunday lecture aimed at educating seniors on LGBTQ+ issues. The 69-year-old early childhood and reading education consultant has a five-year-old transgender granddaughter.
Rogers spoke moments before this year’s first event in the Programs for 50+ lecture series began. He was one of about 20 people who attended the lecture, titled “Acceptance is a work in progress; the past, present and future of the LGBTQ+ community,” given by Toronto Pride executive director Olivia Nuamah.
“Olivia is a very significant person of the times [for] Torontonians,” said Rogers. “There is opportunity for people to go past knowledge of those who are different and be able to be more helpful because they are more informed on [LGBTQ+] experiences.”
Nuamah touched on issues of race, class, sexuality and gender within the community, while focusing on the trauma of discrimination as a unifying factor.
Barbara Center, 70, who came out as a lesbian in her forties while attending graduate school, said that she attended to learn more about how the intersectionality of race and sexuality affects lived experience.
Nuamah commended the audience’s effort to understand perspectives different from their own. “Hopefully, when you are speaking to different people in this community, you can reflect on what they think and feel and not just your own opinions,” Nuamah said.
When one woman asked how all people are not marginalized in some way, Nuamah said that while often true, there are “tiers” to this level of marginalization. She compared her higher position of privilege as a professional black woman, to that of a homeless black man, and encouraged the audience to consider the multiple factors that contribute to creating — or taking away — opportunity.
Ryerson’s Programs for 50+ lecture series, which hosts four or five lectures a year, is open to everyone and is free to attend. The lecture series was born in 2015 out of the annual three-day 50+ Festival, which focuses on combating social and internalized ageism.
Sandra Kerr, director of Programs for 50+, said that the goal of the lecture series is to bridge the gap of understanding between older folks and contemporary social issues.
“We have a lot of older adults who are interested in what is happening in the world today and current issues, particularly some of the ethical questions and social justice issues,” said Kerr, “[The lecture is] an opportunity to expand their learning and be engaged in the environment around them.”
The importance of this aim was reflected when Nuamah said she’s now seeing a larger generational perspective divide in her work with Pride Toronto than ever before. She said this perspective gap is evident in the expression of expectations and ideas about how to move forward, and that it’s most important to be able to have respectful conversations about differences.
The Programs for 50+ lecture audience wants to come to hear challenging ideas, said Kerr.
In addition to the free lecture series, Programs for 50+ offers folks over 50 years old a range of other community engagement opportunities and lifestyle and wellness programs. It also offers continuing education in arts, health and wellness, some at a cost lower than Ryerson tuition. Courses taken under the umbrella of Programs for 50+ through the Chang School of Continuing Education are offered at a standard rate, but courses taken through the Life Institute, a non-profit organization partnered with Ryerson, cost less. They’re priced at $60-$90 a course, plus an $80 annual membership fee.
The next Programs for 50+ lecture will take place on Oct, 21, when photographer Nathaniel Brunt talks about the on war in Kashmir, India.