By Greg Hernandez
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Frank Galassi loved to eat a hot lunch with his fellow seniors inside the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Harry & Jeanette Weinberg Senior Center after teaching his Brain Power class on Thursdays.
“People couldn’t wait to get to that lunch. It was like a new world: all sitting together and absorbing who we all are,” shares Galassi, 83. “I would sit there with my peers—a very mixed group—but most are struggling financially. They have expressed such gratitude for the services that the Center is giving including the ability to provide quality food five days a week.”
Galassi, a licensed marriage and family therapist, became more involved with the Center and committed to its future after the 2011 death of his partner of 30 years Scott Hamilton, a renowned Hollywood makeup artist.
“After Scott died, I said to myself, ‘Where am I going to put my future in terms of endowment, scholarships, funding?’” he remembers. “I contacted my attorneys and said I’d like to make a major donation at my death in my and Scott’s names.”
Galassi, who has included the Center in his estate plan through its Circle of Life program, recently decided to increase his donation amount because of the robust expansion in recent years including the opening of the Anita May Rosenstein Campus.
“There’s housing for the youth and even our little coffee shop at the corner,” he says enthusiastically, referring to the Center’s Liberation Coffee House. “The Campus is a marvelous place—a place where a dream became a reality.”
Galassi grew up in the Bronx and attended the New York University Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development. He earned a doctorate in English Language and Literature in 1971 and, by that time, was already an LGBT rights activist. He joined a picket line and began handing out fliers on the second day of the Stonewall Riots which was, according to him, “the day my activism was really, really born. I got to meet people who have left such an impression on me.”
During his first trip to Los Angeles in 1979 with friends, he met Hamilton and relocated the following year so they could begin a life together.
In 1983, Galassi was given a fellowship at the University of Southern California’s Leonard Davis School of Gerontology which launched him into the study of clinical psychology and led to his licensure in 1991 as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (LMFT).
He launched the Brain Power class in 2014 to help his fellow seniors with memory challenges. Participants stand at a podium and read quality literature aloud. The class has continued throughout the pandemic via Zoom.
“All of the studies indicate it’s not only good for the brain but also for the body and self-esteem,” Galassi says of the classroom’s activities. “It’s also good for our LGBT community to see one another, to witness one another, and to read out loud—perhaps for the first time in their lives.”
Galassi envisions the need for services and programs to the LGBT community only increasing in the coming years—another good reason for joining the Circle of Life.
“Our LGBT seniors are coming forward like never before,” he points out. “My cohorts, my folks—we were severely marginalized constitutionally, socially, and psychologically so we’re new at living our authentic lives publicly. With the long history of marginalization, we have to be vigilant about our rights and getting what we need. We have to keep on top of it.”