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S.C. philanthropist talks aging, caring in LGBT community at event
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Matt Simonette
2017-11-07

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While delivering a keynote Oct. 30 at the 2017 Worldwide Prime Timers Convention, held at the Doubletree Chicago downtown, South Carolina activist/philanthropist Linda Ketner said she refused to descend into the "Trump trough"—letting the talk devolve into kvetching about the current president and the state of affairs in Washington, D.C.

As she has gotten older, Ketner said, she found herself "worrying less about what people think and worrying more about what things matter."

Ketner inherited a penchant for philanthropy from her father, who co-founded the Food Lion grocery chain. She has been involved as an activist in a number of causes in South Carolina, among them environmental, housing and racial-justice issues; she is also a past president of the LGBT-rights organization S.C. Equality Coalition. She was South Carolina's first openly gay congressional candidate when she challenged incumbent Henry Brown in the 2008 election. Ketner was narrowly defeated by only two percentage points.

She largely focused her Oct. 30 remarks on the aging process and its ramifications for the LGBT community however.

Ketner recalled that, when she went to the library as a young girl, shortly after realizing that she was a lesbian, she found nothing positive to read about homosexuality. Indeed, she listed the options that were ostensibly available to gay and lesbian baby boomers: marrying, "praying the gay away" in church, or "excelling at meeting other people's needs" in the workplace or similar environs.

"I dare say that even the happiest among us here today spent a lifetime repairing the damage," Ketner said. "Most of us just 'sucked it up' and internalized the negative messages."

Ketner came out at a time when few people in Charleston were doing so, she said, adding that the only exception at the time seemed to be Lady Chablis. By the time of Ketner's political campaign, however, "You had to be living under a rock not to know I was gay."

Though many LGBT people faced what she called "a recipe for trauma," Ketner noted the empathy and compassion she had experienced in the LGBT community over the years. For example, "We lived through the AIDS crisis—all of us lost people we really loved," she said. "Being gay, if you are paying attention, causes you to care very deeply."

Ketner added, "I believe being gay was thought to be one of the worst things that happened to us, but it turned out to be one of the best things that happened to us."

Prime Timers Worldwide is composed of "older gay or bisexual men ( and younger men who admire mature men ) who enrich their social lives, engage in diverse activities, and enjoy opportunities and friendships with other Prime Timers throughout the world." Information on Chicago's chapter is at primetimersww.com/chicago/ or 872-588-1624 .


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