Update - Coming of Age at the Time of Stonewall a Q & A with Jane Fleishman, PhD

August 2017 | Jane Fleishman, PhD

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“As an older lesbian, I was interested in researching those who are often overlooked in sexuality research because of the myths that they are “too old for sex” or “all washed up.” I don’t buy those ideas. ”

When we last spoke, you had just gotten your PhD in human sexuality focusing on LGBTQ elders and their sexual satisfaction.  Can you remind us why you decided to get your PhD at age 62?

When I turned 55, I retired from a great career in public service but I just wasn’t ready to be done with work, I just didn’t want to do that same kind of work.  I knew I had time for one more career.  I was always interested in sexuality education so I went back to school and got my PhD in human sexuality from Widener University in Chester, PA.  That might sound crazy but my kids, who are now in their 20's, and my partner, Joan Tabachnick, were supporting me all the way.  Being an older student, I didn’t have time to procrastinate and having elderly parents meant I had great motivation to complete the dissertation.   Having my parents attend my graduation was a great accomplishment not just for me but for them as they were almost 90 when I got my diploma.  As an older lesbian, I was interested in researching those who are often overlooked in sexuality research because of the myths that they are “too old for sex” or “all washed up.”  I don’t buy those ideas.

Can you remind us what your research was about?

Sure!  As a sexuality researcher with expertise in older adults in same-sex relationships, my research on older adults in same-sex relationships uncovered surprising results.  Older men and older women in same-sex relationships each had very low levels of internalized homophobia and very high levels of resilience.  These were indirectly correlated (r=-0.25, p<.01).  Internalized homophobia was indirectly correlated with relationship satisfaction (r=-0.15, p<.05) and resilience was directly correlated with relationship satisfaction (r=0.20, p<.05).  Relationship satisfaction was the lone predictor for sexual satisfaction (Adj. r2=0.137, p<.05).  Men in my sample were just as interested in relationships as they were in sex and women were just as interested in sex as they were in relationships.  These are the quantitative results. 

Last year, you started researching a book, Coming of Age at the Time of Stonewall.  How is that going?

It’s been going great.  My book, Coming of Age at the Time of Stonewall: Sex, Politics, and Aging, is a photo essay filled with stories from LGBTQ elders from all over the U.S.  Thanks to your website and the people who subscribe to SAGE, I’ve been delighted by first-person accounts of the Stonewall Rebellion, by elders’ talking about how long it took them to finally come out, and by the intrepid nature of people who’ve faced horrific challenges of homophobia, racism, and sexism.  Their bravery, resilience, and candor have been truly phenomenal.  Each person I’ve interviewed for the book has been a gift.  As a sexuality researcher with expertise in older adults in same-sex relationships, I’m asking people questions about what it was like amid the political struggles of the 1960’s and 1970’s, what the HIV/AIDS pandemic meant to them, what their coming out stories were like, what gave them courage and resilience, and what their sexual lives were back then and what their sexual lives are like today.

Who are you working with to create the book?

I’ve had two younger people working with me as my research assistants, a college student and a recent graduate.  Each of them has been utterly responsible and wonderful.  I’m also working with fantastic photographers who are taking extraordinary photographs of each of the interviewees.  The book is a photo essay and a photographer’s involvement is critical to the beauty of this volume.  We are including current portraits with earlier photos of each person.  It’s going to be a stunning book and it’s been great fun to collaborate on this project after working alone on my dissertation for two years.

Do you still need people to be interviewed for your book?

YES!  I’d love to get a few more interviews and I’m especially looking forward to getting the stories of people of color since so much of our “gay” history has been whitewashed.  This book, like my earlier work, seeks to dispel myths.

How can people get in touch with you if they’re interested in being interviewed for your book?

You can contact me at ComingOfAgeAtStonewall@gmail.com or sign up on my website at www.janefleishman.com.  I’d love to hear from you if you came of age or came out in the 60’s or 70’s and would be willing to be interviewed for the book. 

How can our website visitors get the word out about it?

I’d really appreciate any help you can give!  Perhaps people could post this information as a link on their Facebook page or they could tell their friends.  Really, anything you could do to help at this point would be fantastic, thanks.

ABOUT Jane Fleishman
Jane Fleishman, PhD is a certified sexuality educator, writer, researcher, and consultant with more than 30 years’ experience as a teacher, trainer, and program evaluator. She works on sexuality among aging populations, healthy sexuality for clinicians who work with adolescents and elders, and the intersections of power, privilege, and sexuality.  She conducts trainings in the US and abroad.  Recently, she conducted a training in Iceland and Australia with her partner, Joan Tabachnick, on the continuum of sexuality from prevention of sexual violence to healthy sexual relationships.  Her doctoral research focused on the variables associated with sexual satisfaction in aging adults’ same-sex relationships.  In 2015, she received a Graduate Scholar Award from the Aging and Society Knowledge Community, and in 2016, she received the William R. Stayton Leadership Award from the Center for Human Sexuality Studies at Widener University.  Jane fights for justice and believes no issue is more central to human rights than sexual rights.  www.janefleishman.com