Last week was the final meeting – “get-together,” even – of Rainbow Bridges. This tiny, almost-unknown program, sponsored by a seniors’ residence and funded (at $4,000) by the former Lesbian & Gay Community Appeal, held fortnightly social events in a rec room in a TCHC building at Jarvis and Wellesley. The intent was to bring together different gay and lesbian generations. (Memorabilia.)
Of course this was expressed as bringing various “LGBTTIQQ2S” generations together. It would have been churlish to dismiss the program just because it used such a discredited acronym – which was taken seriously by one of the facilitatrixen, who never once said gay or lesbian. But not many transgenders showed up. (Their usual modus operandi is a reverse takeover. Not this time.) We all coexisted just fine. (During introductions: “I’m Joe and it’s not in dispute that I’m a he.”)
What really came as a surprise was the fact that young people showed up. I expected 100% eldergays and seniors, but no: “Kids” in their early 20s not only attended but talked to us. At least one was clearly not remotely out to his Jamaican parents in Scarborough.
Each session lasted three hours, and some of the activities were more suited to kindergarten. But it was always OK not to participate, and in fact we refuseniks got to know each other. This again achieved the program’s actual purpose, because even if you stuck with the kool kidz at the back of the room you still met people.
I was surprised yet again when several sessions had interpreters (or one interpreter plus a student) and that deaf people actually showed up. (With the funding they had, there was no excuse not to pay the interpreters.) I have found over the years that gay and lesbian deaf people are much more willing to deal with hearing people. Not one of them had a life story that was not fascinating from start to finish. We heard about participants’ life stories during the final exercise of the final session, in which people created or decorated or simply filled “memory boxes” and narrated the events signified by each decoration or inclusion.
During one of the breaks, we enjoyed the echt-Toronto scenario of a bunch of Hispanics yammering away in different dialects of Spanish while deaf people, ASL students, and one or two others yammered away in sign language. I doubt this could have gone without remark in New York.
And they fed us at every session.
So then: What happens next year? At the last session, responsible persons from Sunshine Centres for Seniors and the Community One Foundation attended, and what I suggested to them was that Sunshine Centres reapply for a different project that would still bring the generations together. Don’t make this into an institution, I told them, but try something new with the same theme. One thing it dearly needed was more publicity.
I never expect Toronto’s diverse LGBTTQQI2S✭ communities to do anything that acknowledges, suits, includes, or respects me. I now know of one project that did. This is not faint praise, let alone damning with same.