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Coming of Age at the Time of Stonewall

September 2016 | Jane Fleishman, PhD

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As an older lesbian, I’m 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. I’m an activist and have been involved in LGBTQ, women’s, environmental, labor, and other civil rights struggles for over 40 years.

Tell us a little bit about your background and professional life.

I’m a sexuality researcher with expertise in older adults in same-sex relationships.  I decided, after a really successful 30-year career in education and mental health that I just wasn’t ready to retire yet.  So I went back to school at the young age of 55 and got my PhD this year in human sexuality from Widener University (a great program and the only accredited doctoral program in sexuality left in the U.S. – but that’s another story).  My kids, who are now in their 20's, and my partner have been behind me all the way.  I just wanted to graduate while my parents were still alive so it was a great motivator in that they’re both 88 now.  As an older lesbian, I’m 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.  I’m an activist and have been involved in LGBTQ, women’s, environmental, labor, and other civil rights struggles for over 40 years.  It seemed to me time, once I completed my doctoral studies, that I begin a new project that for me has been brewing for many years.

What is your newest project, Coming of Age at the Time of Stonewall, going to be about?

It’s a book of life stories and it brings together sex, politics, and aging.  I call it collective memoir because I’d like to put faces on the statistics I wrote about in my dissertation and have the voices of people who came of age and came out in the 60’s and 70’s during that period of Stonewall, early gay rights, women’s rights, and sexual freedom.  I know that these voices have not all been heard and, with the 50th anniversary of Stonewall Riots coming up in 2019, I thought I might add these voices and my analysis to give the millennials and other generations some insights to the struggles we had back then and the resonance they might feel today.  In addition to the book, I might do a photo/text exhibit and create a video of some of the interviews. 

What inspired you to start this project?

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.  Now I’m looking for the stories behind those numbers.  The stories need to be heard. 

How can people get involved in the project? 

You can contact my assistant at or sign up on my website at  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 by me 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.

View Dr. Fleishman's Model for Older Adults in Same-sex Relationships here:


ABOUT Jane Fleishman
Jane Fleishman, PhD is a comprehensive sexuality educator 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 with problem sexual behaviors, and intersections of 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 was 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, 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.

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