Thursday, July 04, 2013

Gay rights is part of a development plan too

   As crazy as this sounds now, I didn’t think about the existence of gay people until I was 24. My high school class at school had a couple of really great teachers who we all knew had been “roommates” for decades, and perhaps I had a few thoughts about such things at that time. But it wasn’t until I walked into a Courtenay bar in 1981 with a very pretty male friend of mine that it sunk in, what with all the male attention he got. |
   It was one of those, “Wow, really?” moments that changes your world view in an instant. I had to rethink everything I thought I knew.  But from the get-go it never occurred to me to judge anyone solely based on the gender of who they choose to love. So after that first jolt of understanding, I never considered it a big deal - or anyone's business - that someone was gay, let alone an excuse for denying people basic rights.
   As a Canadian, I’m very proud to hail from a country that now recognizes that working up a sweat about sexual orientation is not only pointless, but harmful and offensive. I got to thinking about Canada last week while writing a blog for July 1, and realized that the country’s efforts on behalf of gay rights is one of the things that makes me feel proudest about being Canadian.
   But now I live in Honduras, where you’d have to be one brave soul to step out of the closet.  It’s like stepping back into 1950s North America, all repression and denial. While nobody talks about any of it, my impression is that marriages of convenience and extremely low-profile trips to secret gay-friendly enclaves are about as good as it gets for people here, and all of it undertaken at huge personal risk.
   Maybe a month ago at my work, a big stack of 2013 datebooks arrived that had been put together by one of my organization’s major funders, a European NGO. All the big European funders have got it going on around gay rights, so the datebook included a sweet story out of South America about a lesbian couple whose farm was thriving thanks to help from one of the projects the funder supported.
   Well. My co-workers, who are generally lovely, caring people, were completely scandalized by that story. They are very, very Christian, and conservative in their thinking. For that reason I usually steer clear of subjects that I know we’re going to disagree on. I couldn’t let this one go, of course, but I could tell they were just gritting their teeth through my rant and waiting to get back to feeling shocked and disgusted.
  Why, why, would anyone want to make a big deal about something that’s essentially about love? I have no idea. Yet living here has reminded me of just how much hatred and misunderstanding still exist in so many countries. I appreciate the sensitive language that international funders put into their contracts in Honduras to try to bring home the idea of equal treatment for all, but this place needs a lot more than that to get past its deep prejudices on this issue.
   Send down the gay-awareness squad and let's get this thing done. 

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Honduras has the highest murder rate in the western hemisphere, and among the highest in the world, and gay rights is top on your list of priorities? What about the right to simply walk to the tiendas and be half-way assured you'll get back in one piece? Right now, that's not a given. What about the right to have a full belly? That's not a given. TO health care? To simply get a 6th grade education? To find a job that pays a decent wage that does not depend on nepotism. To find a job that won't kill you because the working conditions are so bad. None of those are a given. I think Honduras has a few higher needs than gay rights awareness squads. Before you dispute that, remember that every deficiency I mentioned impacts gay adults and children as well as straight. Have you interviewed any gay Hondurans about which issues they would prefer addressed first? I would think even the gay Hondurans would prefer to not have to worry about the list of things I mentioned before worrying about whether they can walk down the street holding hands with their same sex partner. And yes, I have been to Honduras. I spent 27 months there, living in the a community near SPS.