Open Door (Puerta Abierta) – Latin America’s first LGBT community center for lesbian and gay seniors

In Argentina, being old is a burden. However, being old and lesbian or gay, means that LGBT seniors face double discrimination. As a result, Graciela Balestra and Silvina Tealdi, from Argentina decided to help LGBT seniors and created Latin America’s first community center Puerta Abierta (Open Door) for gay senior citizens. Since opening it’s doors in September 2009, some 120 gay seniors have participated in the center’s activities, from movie outings and beach trips to therapy sessions. They also help to organize workshops for LGBT seniors, reflection groups, trips, social gatherings. Usually 10 to 20 LGBT seniors attend these sessions. Their home is led by a committee of ten LGBT seniors and the first lesbian couple that married in Argentina at the age of 70.

According to Silvina and Graciela, the founders of Puerta Abierta, “LGBT seniors in Argentina are very lonely and isolated since often they do not have any children. If they have children and come out to them, they are often rejected by their own sons and daughters.” As a result, LGBT seniors are often put into heterosexual retirement homes, with the restriction that if they come to these homes as couples, they are separated and not allowed to share a room with their partner.

Even though Argentina was the country that recently legalized same sex marriage, homophobia persists. Despite the support that the center offers to LGBT seniors, Argentina’s gay retirees still say they face many obstacles and experience discrimination. At the moment, Graciela and Silvina are facing a legal case against their neighbors who want the LGBTs seniors’ community center to leave. These neighbors have physically pushed and mistreated the LGBT regulars coming to the building. They have even achieved a change of the building’s policy, prompting Silvina and Graciela to act quickly, submitting a request to the Emergency funds in order to pay the court fees, which they successfully received.

They are now planning the first Latin American nursing home for LGBT seniors, a place where these seniors can receive full medical care and is in need of financial help.

If your organization is interested in financially supporting this project please directly get in touch with Silvina and Graciela at their contact email address, puertaabierta2007@yahoo.com.ar. If you would like to read more about their work, go to the following link to access Puerta Abierta’s webpage (in Spanish): http://www.puertaabierta.com.ar/wg_generado_04.html?rand=51233G

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