CLARIN

Is Argentina In An Era Of "Post-Homosexuality"?

Sociologist Ernest Meccia explains how Argentina — one of the first countries in the world to introduce gay marriage — accepted and even embraced homosexuality.

A couple kissing during the Buenos Aires LBGTIQ Pride Parade in 2013
A couple kissing during the Buenos Aires LBGTIQ Pride Parade in 2013
Claudio Martyniuk

BUENOS AIRES â€" Homosexuals used to be held in contempt â€" they were ridiculed, attacked, even dismissed as "abnormal." In some ways, that added to the intensity of identifying as gay. Then came the AIDS epidemic. And then, at some point, gay people became cool in Argentina. Six years ago, the country introduced equal marriage.

For more insight into this trajectory, I spoke with Ernesto Meccia, a sociologist who studies the evolving lives of people in the gay community. Meccia has tracked people as they've aged, followed new erotic paths and transitioned into an era he dubs "post-homosexual."

CLARIN: What are the particular traits one sees among non-heterosexuals as they transition to old age?

ERNESTO MECCIA: We don't know that much. Films have presented us with decadent images of non-heterosexual old age. Consider Fellini or Visconti's Death in Venice, or the Franco-Argentine filmmaker Daniel Tinayre. The impression is of aging in isolation, depressed and desperate, and that aging could only bring more crisis to already troubled minds.

But some studies show a different picture. For older gays, old age does not mean crisis in the manner of their heterosexual peers. These, for example, must learn how to manage themselves when they are widowed, often without their children's help and in a society moving at a feverish pace. They have to learn for the first time to deal with adversity, so arriving at old age is more of a crisis for them.

But among older gays, those who were young in the 1950s, 60s or 70s, family rejection and discrimination forced them to always fend for themselves and face adversity. So they don't perceive old age as the "start" of a crisis, or not as much. The storms have already passed and they grow old with prior training, as it were. They are better prepared for aging.

How does the daily routine evolve as the years go by? What happens when the erotic element, which is sometimes so crucial, dies out?

We've been taught, particularly men, that the erotic experience has to do exclusively with genitals. On top of that, the man's reputation mostly depends on the sexual capital he is presumed to wield. It's horrible but true. The "penile culture" is part of this corporal ideology that removes a whole lot of possibilities from the imagination.

But again, other studies challenge this. They suggest that the focus only on genitals is more common for heterosexual men than gays. The difference is the aptitude gays have for using other parts of the body as erogenous zones, as well as accessories. That is nothing new. French writer Michel Foucault, in his last period in the United States, found in the fetish bars there a "protest" against the genital "reductionism" accepted by most gays of all ages.

In your research, what are some of the conclusions AIDS survivors have reached about the past?

The people I interviewed, who were from the generations decimated by the epidemic, talked very little about it. I was surprised. But silence does not mean oblivion, just the impossibility of processing this extreme trauma. Faced with the cruelty and inhumanity of traumatic experiences, victims may prefer not to speak, as they learned in oppressive situations that it was better to keep quiet. They know talking could provoke misunderstandings. Or maybe the victims chose not to talk because they did not know how to, or not yet. But the cruelty of so many attacks and adversity may have developed a subjective skepticism about the very existence of a discourse able to represent the accumulated sadness. So the suffering remains where it was, dormant.

What is post-homosexuality?

It is synonymous with "gayness." It is a sum of social, cultural, legal and political manifestations related to positively recognizing this sexual orientation. It is about non-differentiation, through a process of reducing distinctions or differentiation between straight and gay people. This has reduced the sense of "otherness" that had previously been imposed on gays. Gays are still seen as different, just not as much from heterosexuals.

How does this manifest itself?

It's part of a process of opening up in spatial, relational and representational terms. For starters, gays stop occupying specific, ghetto-type areas in the city. Second, there's expansion of social relations. And third, a diversification of the images they can use to define themselves. In the old homosexual regime, gay life existed in a territorial enclave where relations emerged and ended, and it was regulated by fiercely differentiating medical, psychiatric and religious discourses.

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Queen Elizabeth II with UK PM Boris Johnson at a reception at Windsor Castle yesterday

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Hej!*

Welcome to Wednesday, where chaos hits Syria, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro is accused of crimes against humanity and a social media giant plans to rebrand itself. For Spanish daily La Razon, reporter Paco Rodríguez takes us to the devastated town of Belchite, where visitors are reporting paranormal phenomenons.

[*Danish]

🌎  7 THINGS TO KNOW RIGHT NOW

• Syrian violence erupts: Army shelling on residential areas of the rebel-held region of northwestern Syria killed 13 people, with school children among the victims. The attack occurred shortly after a bombing killed at least 14 military personnel in Damascus. In central Syria, a blast inside an ammunition depot kills five soldiers.

• Renewed Ethiopia air raids on capital of embattled Tigray region: Ethiopian federal government forces have launched its second air strike this week on the capital of the northern Tigray. The air raids mark a sharp escalation in the near-year-old conflict between the government forces and the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that killed thousands and displaced over 2 million people.

• Bolsonaro accused of crimes against humanity: A leaked draft government report concludes that Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro should be charged with crimes against humanity, forging documents and incitement to crime, following his handling of the country's COVID-19 pandemic. The report blames Bolsonaro's administration for more than half of Brazil's 600,000 coronavirus deaths.

• Kidnappers in Haiti demand $17 million to free a missionary group: A Haitian gang that kidnapped 17 members of a Christian aid group, including five children, demanded $1million ransom per person. Most of those being held are Americans; one is Canadian.

• Putin bows out of COP26 in Glasgow: Russian President Vladimir Putin will not fly to Glasgow to attend the COP26 climate summit. A setback for host Britain's hopes of getting support from major powers for a more radical plan to tackle climate change.

• Queen Elizabeth II cancels trip over health concerns: The 95-year-old British monarch has cancelled a visit to Northern Ireland after she was advised by her doctors to rest for the next few days. Buckingham Palace assured the queen, who attended public events yesterday, was "in good spirits."

• A new name for Facebook? According to a report by The Verge website, Mark Zuckerberg's social media giant is planning on changing the company's name next week, to reflect its focus on building the "metaverse," a virtual reality version of the internet.

🗞️  FRONT PAGE

"Oil price rise causes earthquake," titles Portuguese daily Jornal I as surging demand coupled with supply shortage have driven oil prices to seven-year highs at more than $80 per barrel.

#️⃣  BY THE NUMBERS

98

For the first time women judges have been appointed to Egypt's State Council, one of the country's main judicial bodies. The council's chief judge, Mohammed Hossam el-Din, welcomed the 98 new judges in a celebratory event in Cairo. Since its inception in 1946, the State Council has been exclusively male and until now actively rejected female applicants.

📰  STORY OF THE DAY

Spanish civil war town now a paranormal attraction

Ghosts from Spain's murderous 1930s civil war are said to roam the ruins of Belchite outside Zaragoza. Tourists are intrigued and can book a special visit to the town, reports Paco Rodríguez in Madrid-based daily La Razon.

🏚️ Between August 24 and September 6, 1937, during the Spanish Civil War, more than 5,000 people died in 14 days of intense fighting in Belchite in north-eastern Spain, and the town was flattened. The fighting began on the outskirts and ended in house-to-house fighting. Almost half the town's 3,100 residents died in the struggle. The war annihilated centuries of village history. The town was never rebuilt, though a Pueblo Nuevo (or new town) was built by the old one.

😱 Belchite became an open-air museum of the horror of the civil war of 1936-39, which left 300,000 dead and wounds that have yet to heal or, for some today, mustn't. For many locals, the battle of Belchite has yet to end, judging by reports of paranormal incidents. Some insist they have heard the screams of falling soldiers, while others say the Count of Belchite wanders the streets, unable to find a resting place after his corpse was exhumed.

🎟️ Ordinary visitors have encountered unusual situations. Currently, you can only visit Belchite at set times every day, with prior booking. More daring visitors can also visit at 10 p.m. on weekends. Your ticket does not include a guaranteed paranormal experience, but many visitors insist strange things have happened to them. These include sudden changes of temperature or the strange feeling of being observed from a street corner or a window. Furthermore, such phenomena increase as evening falls, as if night brought the devastated town to life.

➡️ Read more on Worldcrunch.com

📣 VERBATIM

We still cling to the past because back then we had security, which is the main thing that's missing in Libya today.

— Fethi al-Ahmar, an engineer living in the Libyan desert town Bani Walid, told AFP, as the country today marks the 10-year anniversary of the death of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The leader who had reigned for 42 years over Libya was toppled in a revolt inspired by the Arab Spring uprisings and later killed by rebels. Some hope the presidential elections set in December can help the country turn the page on a decade of chaos and instability.

🇮🇷🎓  IN OTHER NEWS

Iran to offer Master's and PhD in morality enforcement

Iran will create new "master's and doctorate" programs to train state morality agents checking on people's public conduct and attire, according to several Persian-language news sources.

Mehran Samadi, a senior official of the Headquarters to Enjoin Virtues and Proscribe Vices (Amr-e be ma'ruf va nahy az monkar) said "anyone who wants to enjoin virtues must have the knowledge," the London-based broadcaster Iran International reported, citing reports from Iran.

The morality patrols, in force since the 1979 revolution, tend to focus mostly on young people and women, particularly the public appearance for the latter. Loose headscarves will send women straight to a police station, often in humiliating conditions. Five years ago, the regime announced a new force of some 7,000 additional agents checking on women's hijabs and other standards of dress and behavior.

Last week, for example, Tehran police revealed that they had "disciplined" agents who had been filmed forcefully shoving a girl into a van. Such incidents may increase under the new, conservative president, Ibrahim Raisi.

Speaking about the new academic discipline, Samadi said morals go "much further than headscarves and modesty," and those earning graduate degrees would teach agents "what the priorities are."

Iran's Islamic regime, under the guidance of Shia jurists, continuously fine tunes notions of "proper" conduct — and calibrates its own, interventionist authority. More recently the traffic police chief said women were not allowed to ride motorbikes, and "would be stopped," Prague-based Radio Farda reported.

Days before, a cleric in the holy city of Qom in central Iran insisted that people must be vaccinated by a medic of the same sex "as often as possible," and if not, there should be no pictures of mixed-sex vaccinations.

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

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