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Buffalo’s 'Silver Pride’ generation

"When I was young it was illegal to be gay"
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Posted at 5:55 PM, Jul 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-01 18:27:52-04

AMHERST, NY (WKBW) — As pride month closed out at the end of June, work to support the LGTBQ+ community moves forward every day. 

Buffalo’s Pride Center hosts older members through its Silver Pride Project providing special coffee hours.

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Silver Pride Project information.

“It's probably one of the most relaxing times of the week I have,” Jeff McChesney. “It was amazing to start with a whole new set of friends at this time in my life — a whole new life to go to especially after retiring and I never expected that.”

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Jeff McChesney of Buffalo.

Jeff McChesney of Buffalo and Judy Goldstein of Cheekotowaga both are members of the Silver Pride Project program.

“And I'm very, very grateful that people come and we're all after the same thing — loving connection,” declared Goldstein.

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Silver Project meeting sign.

The sign inside the Amherst Senior Center points to the Silver Pride Project session. It is where more than a dozen members of the LGBTQ+ community who are 50 years and older gathered around tables to talk, laugh and share friendships.

Older adults have many hurdles in their journey in life.

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Judy Goldstein of Cheekotowaga.

“A lot of younger generations don't realize the kind of battles that you've all been through. Can you describe some of that?” Buckley asked. 

“Well when I was young it was illegal to be gay, so we partied in the bars, but it wasn't always really comfortable and now you there's a legal marriage, which I never thought would happen in my lifetime,” replied Goldstein. 

“If my husband and I want to walk down the street or go to the store, and he takes a hold of my arm — it’s fine. 20 years ago that just not was going to happen,” responded McCheseny. 

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Silver Pride members.

Sadly, members tell me many don't have family members, so this circle of friends provides important social support that might be lacking in their lives.  

“Because a lot people, especially trans people now don't have a family to go to or their family that doesn't want to see them,” explained McChensey.

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Members of the Silver Pride group.

“A lot of us don't have family and that's one of the main reasons why there is such isolation, and it's funny how we all come together at an older age now from meeting up with some of the people we used to party with when we were younger,” reflected Goldstein. 

They say they are very concerned over the possibility the U.S. Supreme Court may look to overturn same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ+ rights.

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Silver Pride Project shirt.

“It's a huge issue and I feel very uneasy about the whole thing,” remarked Goldstien.

“And even overturning domestic partnerships — it would be like going back to the 1950’s — a witch hunt kind of thing,” remarked McChesney. 

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Members of Silver Pride.

The Silver Pride Project coffee program is now about a decade old. 

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Em Bystrak, engagement & education coordinator, Pride Center.

“We find that sometimes they don't have the same kind of social support that they might have if they were straight or cisgender, so we try to build that connection here with the program we offer,” Em Bystrak, engagement & education coordinator, Pride Center.

Bystrak tells me older members of the LGBTQ+ community are often an "overlooked population".

“Sometimes people might have it in their minds that there is suddenly more LGBT people or they did not exist in the past, but it's really that they were largely overlooked and we've kind of had to fight for that visibility and this is the generation that really helped move those things along for people who are younger,” Bystrak explained.