[Marxism] Sexuality in the Sunset of Life (excerpts)

Walter Lippmann walterlx at earthlink.net
Wed Mar 17 07:35:17 MST 2004


(One of the new books released at this year's
Havana International Book Fair was one about
sex in later life. It's a lovely 198 page long
pocket-sized paperback. The cover illustration
shows a man and woman in silhouette walking on
a green earth surface with a rainbow behind 
their figures. The author is a psychiatrist 
with a masters in sexology. It treats a wide
range of areas on this subject. Being sixty
years of age myself, the topic is of personal
interest to me, and I trust will be also of
interest to readers of these messages. After
awhile I hope to get additional chapters out
of this book translated for you.

(Because of its unusual interest, I've selected 
the chapters on homosexuality for the interest 
of readers. In past years this was not a
topic widely written about. Now there's been
a veritable explosion of materials about this.

(Cuba's complex relationship with its gay and
lesbian citizens remains a topic which those
opposed to its Revolution continue to harp on,
despite the fact that institutionalized homo-
phobia ended long, long ago. Nevertheless, it
remains a topic of interest, and one which 
Cuba's opponents continue to harp on right up
to the present, where backers of gay marriage
in Florida sometimes say they're backing it 
to differentiate themselves from the ways
gays are treated in Cuba. An extended view
of Cuba's relations with its gay population
may be found in Jon Hillson's review essay
on the movie BEFORE NIGHT FALLS (2001):
http://www.blythe.org/arenas.html 

(There's also an extended treatment of the
issue of lesbianism in older age here, the
very first example of that I've ever seen.

(Thanks again to Ana Portela for translating
this information for CubaNews readers.
===============================================

La Sexualidad en el Atardecer de la vida 
(Sexuality in the Sunset of Life) 
by Regino Rodríguez Boti Specialist in
Psychiatry Master in Sexology 
Editorial Oriente, Santiago de Cuba, 2003

Homosexuality in Cuba

By the mid nineties a group of social researchers from the
newspaper, Juventud Rebelde, made a study entitled
"Approach to the phenomenon of homosexuality in Cuba
(initial examination)" aimed at gathering sufficient
information for a scientific study and not discriminatory
against homosexuality in the press. For this study they
began with the principle that each person has the right to
decide how to express his/her sexuality and not be judged
for it. The data and comments below were taken from this
study.

Many Cuban homosexuals live in a hostile environment, set
apart, misunderstood and the brunt of ridicule. Adolescents
become desperate when they confirm their sexuality and
there are a few who have gone to the extreme of attempting
suicide for fear of the social consequences of their sexual
preference.

The attitude of the Cuban population seems to have been
conditioned by the same influence that predominated in the
historic formation of the family and customs. Once the
native population of the island was wiped out, the Hispanic
culture set the rules of live, the norms of coexistence and
social relations. The Inquisition condemned and burned at
the stake seventeen homosexuals. The Cuban family, direct
descendent of the Spanish, reproduced the patriarchal
system of male domination over women. Machismo became
so rooted in society that men became the pattern of conduct
transmitted down the generations and, in many cases,
accepted by women. Thus sexist values took root in the
education of the children and the stereotyped conducts were
systematized reinforcing the differences between boys and
girls.

Under these conditions, where the masculine was the center
of power, the idea of men who were not men enough was not
tolerated nor, even women who were not women enough. 
Their insertion in social life is more traumatic because,
logically, they suffer a more direct aggression by the
masculine model that predominates.

Before and After "Strawberry and Chocolate".

The attempts to achieve equal rights between women and men
and among all members of society began to give fruit with
the arrival of the Revolutionary government in 1959.
However, homosexuals confronted some problems such as:

1. The little-studied situation of the Military Units of
Support of Production (UMAP) from November of 1965 to the
later part of 1969 and the gathering up of a large number
of homosexuals who were forced to work under harsh
conditions.

2. The process known as the parameteration that followed
the First Congress of Education and Culture in 1971. The
purpose was the analysis of the persons who did not comply
with established parameters set down in this congress and
whose result was often the removal or transfer from a job
or position within or outside the institution.

3. Law 1267 was passed and published in the Official
Gazette on May 12, 1974 that added to article 2 of Law 1166
of September 23, 1964, clause j that stated: overt
homosexuality and other socially public reprehensible
conduct that negatively affects education, conscience and
public sentiments special in children and young people by
those who develop cultural or artistic-recreational
activities from exhibition or diffusion centers. This
consideration is of special importance if the criterion of
the German pedagogue is taken into account. He stated that
homosexuals appear to be especially attracted to marked
esthetic and cultural interests that not only have their
effect on their personal life but also on the selection of
work activities.

4. Other discriminatory practices without legal basis
sometimes hid behind internal regulations of institutions
on moral questions and public behavior by which many
homosexuals were not accepted in some university faculties
or expelled from them. They were not accepted in the Cuban
Communist Party or the Young Communist League and, if their
sexual orientation was proven they were expelled from the
organization.

The situation described belongs to a past that should not
be forgotten, above all to prevent its repetition in the
here and now. Tolerance of homosexuals appears to have
improved in the past decade, above all after the debut of
the film Strawberry and Chocolate in 1993 that coincided
with the debate in the US press on the right of homosexuals
to enter the army and if lesbian couples could adopt
children. The international press published a new genetic
hypothesis on the origin of masculine homosexuality and in
Cuba, stories were published and theater plays performed
related to the subject.

In the book, A GRAIN OF CORN published in 1992, Fidel Castro
states:

I do not seen homosexuality as degenerative phenomenon, but
in another way. My outlook has been of another kind: more
rational, considering it as tendencies and natural aspects
of the human being that, simply, has to be respected. That
is my philosophy on this issue. I think, rather, that we
must have consideration that suffers these situations. I
only hope that the families themselves be more open minded
when faced with this kind of circumstance. I am absolutely
against any form of repression, of contempt, of scorn or
discrimination in relation to homosexuals. That is what I
believe.

Some of the conclusions observed in the study by this team
of social investigators of the newspaper, Juventud Rebelde
in 1993, were:

Although the attitude to homosexuality has changed in the
past few years there are still prejudices and discrimination 
on a social level. The homosexual community continues to be 
a marginalized sector of society aggravated by an absence 
of dealing with the subject by the mass media.

It is symptomatic that while the homosexuals surveyed
considered the importance of treatment received from
institutions and social and political organization, 50% of
the non homosexual population surveyed were unaware of the
conflicts of these relationships.

Masculine homosexuality and the elderly

A study made in 2002 in the Home for the Elderly of the
municipality of Guantanamo found that 3% of the old men and
women had homosexual orientations. The school level of the
homosexuals interviewed was below sixth grade and the
average ages were 72, predominating the white race and
marital status, single; they manifested no effeminacy in
their behavior. Lesbians were not found in this Home.
Several individual and group interviews were made and found
the following results:

+++  In general we face more problems than the others with
whom we live in the Home caused by our sexual orientation:
We suffer the jokes of the paramedics, we are segregated
and do not participate in table games and others; we are
always last in a queue to avoid problems. A phrase we heard
often was, for example, on boarding the bus: You can't get
on because only men and women ride on the bus.

+++  We suffer the rejection, the indifference 
and the jokes; we are also harmed.

+++  We have solidarity for each of us although 
we have little communication with the others.

+++  When we are caught in something we are not 
respected and its spreads around, even by the 
staff of the institution in public acts.

+++  The paramedics (the social workers and 
assistants) have a low level of tolerance and 
are the ones who watch over us more, they are 
the ones who make fun of us in public or in
private.

+++  We have no privacy and if this were not 
enough, we are constantly watched by everyone. 
There is only privacy for the heterosexual couple.

If the elderly heterosexuals suffer aggressions for their
sexuality by the group, the question is the situation of
the homosexual elderly; the answer is obvious, their
situation is much worse because they have less possibility
of expressing their sexual orientation, above all because
they are rejected even by the younger homosexuals since
they are a violation of the stereotype of beauty or gay
esthetics, very set in their culture and way of life.

If sexuality among the heterosexual elderly is not socially
accepted, much less is the case for the homosexual elderly.
Also, it is very common to find among the gay elderly, a
weakening of family support (since they made no family
nucleus) that brings on their loneliness in their old age,
the suffering of social rejection, the lack of family
support and the lack of legal shelter.

Lesbianism and old age

There are very few studies on the old age of lesbians. We
found no reports in the Cuban scientific literature. What
little we know about this subjects suggests that when the
reach old age, lesbians have the possibility of living a
life, in some matters, with a better quality in comparison
to the gays and some heterosexual women, although there are
specific discrimination: how the lesbians share with the
gays all the discriminations that a homophobic society
exercises over people with a different sexual orientation
to the majority. The lack of resources, invisibility and
discrimination by the institutions and the dominant
heterosexuality are a more acute suffering of the elderly
because they are always the weak and vulnerable. But more
vulnerable than the males, weaker, are the women who,
although they share many of the problems mentioned with the
gay elderly suffer an added discrimination due to their
homosexual orientation for the simple fact of being women.

In old age, lesbians may need more health attention than
the gays. If during their lives women have to pay special
attention to gynecological diseases, the elderly women need
it more. But since gynecology specializes on sexual and
reproductive life of women, it is a sector of medicine that
is specially affected by prejudice and by the patriarchal
bias that still rules feminine sexuality. Therefore, public
health services are not prepared to assume that
homosexuality may cause, in their colleagues, a lack of
confidence and lead to wrong or inefficient treatments,
even a lack of protection to diseases.

Lesbians seem to live old age under better conditions than
the gays and, at times, better than some heterosexual women
whose marriages prevented creating or conserving strong
links with other women. Regarding the gays, the lesbians
have ah advantage that, generally women do not consider
youth or physical beauty with the supreme values of the
rest; women are not socialized to demand the elements of
physical beauty above other values when choosing a partner
or falling in love. For this reason elderly lesbians can
fall in love, find a partner and be desired by other women
at an age that is barred for the gays. Also, the elderly
lesbians are not always alone, they have more social
resources to live those years; women live longer than men,
therefore lesbians can live with their partner and with
friends until advanced ages, a time in which heterosexual
women have become widows and the gays have lost their
partner or their contemporaries.

On the other hand, the invisibility that accompanies
lesbians throughout their live may be a factor that permits
two women to live together in their home or visit each
other or sleep over or travel together without too much
social criticism. It is a time of life that the pressure of
the environment is especially vulnerable.

Another favorable factor is the quality of life of the
elderly lesbians who, throughout their lives, like the rest
of women in general, have protected their family ties much
more than the gays and, to some extent, much more than
heterosexual men. As a result loneliness and isolation
affects them less.






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