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Aging And LGBT In Argentina: Survivors Of Deeply Homophobic Past

Older LGBT people have lived to see dramatic improvements in how society treats sexual minorities. But scars remain.

LGBT flag in Buenos Aires, Argentina
LGBT flag in Buenos Aires, Argentina


BUENOS AIRES — For elderly members of Argentina's LGBT community, things used to be so so different. They're the surviving witnesses of a time when sexual orientations that don't fit the establish mold were considered sickness, sins or even crimes.

Terms like "homosexual," "lesbian," or "transvestite" were avoided or used disparagingly. LGBT people didn't have any of the rights they now enjoy, and for many that meant a certain amount hiding. People led "double lives." They had to, for the sake of survival.

The concealment affected their closest relationships and acquaintances, from family to friends and even themselves. Because if their true inclinations were revealed, they might be thrown out of their homes or work, and mocked. Some even chose to hide from themselves.

Condemnation of homosexuals was prevalent in so many spaces, from the Church to dictatorial governments, democracies, medicine, psychology, police.

Condemnation of homosexuals was prevalent in so many spaces, from the Church to dictatorial governments, democracies, medicine, psychology, police. The discrimination even had its place in socialist revolution, as the author Leonardo Padura aptly wrote. It was so entrenched — and marked LGBT people so profoundly — that many can't help being a bit skeptical about the changes now taking place. They worry that it might just be a fad, one that could eventually pass and thus re-expose the country's latent, hidden intolerance.

Generational experiences, or those instilled in us early on, can shape our conceptions of the "ever-debatable" reality. This is not just about beliefs but also daily practices that affirm and reinforce our identity, and the many ways in which we relate to others. Prejudices generated by homophobia or transphobia can be internalized by their targets — meaning he or she will absorb and finally accept them as natural beliefs.

In contrast with other groups, where the weight of hostility can be mitigated earlier by parents, this happens later with LGBT people, through peer groups. Because of this, people with nontraditional sexual orientations or gender identities can suffer chronic stress due to the different forms of violence they experience. Concealment, fear, and a weak position in society can raise stress levels and cause mental and even physical illnesses.

Looking after the elderly in Argentina — Photo: Infobae

Thus, people who suffer accumulated stress because they are given labels such as "sick," "immoral," or "criminal" carry the durable and generalized weight of social pressures. A common symptom illustrating this is the greater prevalence of depression among the older generations of LGBT people.

Fearing exposure

And yet, turning to healthcare professionals can become another source of concern for LGBT people, who worry often about how they'll be viewed and received. People have reported discrimination by medical professionals who treat gay patients differently, even before knowing their sexual orientation. Many, therefore, opt for services at home. The same goes for psychological attention, with patients reporting that they are asked certain prying questions that heterosexuals would not face.

The aging experience is also different for sexual minorities. Compared to heterosexuals, LGBT seniors are less often in couples, in part because of lingering shame and fear of being exposed, especially to family members. Being single, in turn, tends to reinforce the patterns of concealment. Some older LGBT people say that it was only after their parents died that they could finally start coming out to other family members.

It's still difficult to be visible — particularly for the elderly.

Concealment affected work relationships as well. Fearing that they'd be exposed, or knowing that they just wouldn't feel at ease, many older LGBT people shied away from seeing colleagues on the weekends or on holidays, or from socializing after work.

In those times of blatant discrimination, communities of LGBT friends were especially important as a space in which people could be themselves beyond stigmas, and build ties based on recognition, affection and appreciation. For this reason, those who managed to construct such ties, whether through friendship, community or activism, strengthened themselves and improved their levels of welfare, finding channels of resilience that positively contribute to their aging.

Lastly, when older LGBT people need services like retirement homes, again they find themselves facing the oppressive choice of either continuing to live outside the closet or going back in. Canadian and U.S. studies show that 80% of elderly LGBT don't feel safe in such environments and so choose to conceal their identities. They fear discrimination from other residents or staff, either in the form of mistreatment or insufficient care.

In Argentina we should bear in mind that while the country has made advances in legal and social terms, on an individual level, LGBT people can still have very difficult experiences. In many circumstances, it's still difficult to be visible — particularly for the elderly. We need to remember that, and consider the specific needs of older LGBT people. Above all, we need to recognize the harmful effects of prejudices and discrimination they endured.

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Inside Ralston College, Jordan Peterson's Quiet New Weapon In The Culture Wars

The Canadian-born psychologist Jordan B. Peterson is one of the most prominent opponents of what's been termed: left-wing cancel culture and "wokism." As part of his mission , he serves as chancellor of Ralston College in Savannah, Georgia, a picturesque setting for a unique experiment that contrasts with his image of provocateur par excellence.

Photo of Canadian clinical psychologist Jordan B. Peterson greeting someone at Ralston College, Savannah

Jordan B. Peterson at Ralston College

Sandra Ward

This article was updated Sept. 21 at 5 p.m. with corrections*

SAVANNAH — Savannah is almost unbelievably beautiful. Fountains splash and babble in the well-tended front gardens of its town houses, which are straight out of Gone with the Wind. As you wander through its historic center, on sidewalks encrusted with oyster shells, past its countless parks, under the shadows cast by palm trees, magnolias and ancient oaks, it's as if you are walking back in time through centuries past.

Hidden behind two magnificent façades here is a sanctuary for people who want to travel even further back: to ancient Europe.

In this city of 147,000 in the U.S. state of Georgia, most locals have no idea what's inside this building. There is no sign – either on the wrought-iron gate to the front garden or on the entrance door – to suggest that this is the headquarters of a unique experiment. The motto of Ralston College, which was founded around a year ago, is "Free Speech is Life Itself."

The university's chancellor is one of the best-known figures in America’s culture wars: Jordan B. Peterson. Since 2016, the Canadian psychologist has made a name for himself with his sharp-worded attacks on feminism and gender politics, becoming public enemy No. 1 for those in the left-wing progressive camp.

Provocation and polemics, Peterson is a master of these arts, with a long list of controversies — and 4.6 million followers on X (formerly Twitter), and whose YouTube videos have been viewed by millions. Last year on Twitter he commented on a photo of a plus-size swimsuit model that she was "not beautiful," adding that "no amount of authoritarian tolerance is going to change that."

A few years ago he sparked outrage with a tweet contesting the existence of "white privilege," the idea that all white people, whether they are aware of it or not, have unearned advantages. "There is nothing more racist," he said than this concept. He was even temporarily banned from the platform for an anti-trans tweet.

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