When Matt Hughes envisioned a club for residents of Fudger House, a Toronto seniors home that’s welcoming of queers, he imagined a group where gay and lesbian seniors could not only enjoy themselves, but be proud of who they are.
So he helped create the Molly Wood Social Club, which launched this month. Members meet every two weeks to participate in activities like dinner and watching queer-themed movies.
“The ignoring of gay and lesbian seniors in the past has really forced many of them to stay in the closet or to go back into the closet when they go into nursing homes,” says Hughes, who is 65. That’s why I really thought it was important for the gay community to realize that you have to reach out to our seniors.”
For its first activity the group went out for lunch on Church St. Hughes plans on inviting Michelle DuBarry, Pride Toronto’s grand marshal this year, on a future outing.
Hughes wasn’t interested in calling it anything like “the LGBT Club.” Chaplain Brian Nicholson came up with the Molly Wood Social Club, inspired by the Toronto historic figure Alexander Wood. Wood was a prominent merchant, magistrate and York militia lieutenant involved in an 1810 sex scandal. He was dubbed “Molly Wood” — molly was slang for a gay man.
“In the time of Alexander Wood, gay people were called mollies and really maligned,” says Nicholson. “What we wanted to do was take that and be proud of what people had to put up with and because of him and because of their fight at that time it makes it a little bit easier.”
As part of its mission, Fudger House, located at Sherbourne and Wellesley streets, aims to respect various cultures, ethnicities and religious traditions and is part of the City Of Toronto’s efforts to make nursing homes more queer-friendly. In 2006, the home was given the Public Sector Quality Fair Certificate Of Excellence for creating a gay-positive environment in a long-term care home.
“This is just a natural step forward saying, now maybe we should look at gays and lesbians and bisexual people here in Toronto,” says Hughes, who has volunteered at Fudger House for six years. His late partner moved there after Hughes could no longer care for him. Both men wanted to see Fudger house do more for queer seniors.
“It’s one more step, but it’s not the final step,” says Hughes. “We’re not quite sure where the final steps will be just simply because we have to trust the residents that live here to tell us what their needs are.”
“Those whom we serve teach us what the needs are,” says Nicholson. “When we know what the needs are we must attend to them.”