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Being Gay in Costa Rica

Costa Rica News – While North American and European countries continually try to advance and defend gay rights, there are countries that are still very much closed minded and closeted about this issue. 

gay costa rica 1While you can search many gay scenes in Costa Rica including on www.about.com , www.travelcostaricanow.com , and www.gaytravel.com ; what are the attitudes about gays in this predominantly Catholic country? Well, if Wikipedia is to be believed then ‘Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights in Costa Rica have made significant cultural, social and legal progress since the 1970s.

While certain politicians, such as former president Óscar Arias, have expressed some support for LGBT-rights, Costa Ricans tend to be socially conservative when it comes to sexual orientation and gender identity issues, in large part due to the strong influences of the Roman Catholic Church and cultural traditions about machismo.’

A gay gringo who has moved down to Costa Rica has these thoughts about being gay in the country, “don’t ask, don’t tell, and don’t act.” What he means by this is that you will be accepted even if you are gay as long as you don’t force the issue. Do not do PDA (Public Displays of Affection); otherwise you will force the issue which could lead to a confrontation with people not as open minded. The safe places to show affection are the numerous gay bars that dot the landscape and, of course in your private quarters.

When President Barack Obama came down recently to speak in San Jose, he says he supports recognizing gay unions in a broad immigration bill pending in Congress, but won’t say whether he would sign legislation that fails to do so. Obama says that recognizing same-sex relationships in the bill is “the right thing to do.” But he says it would be premature to telegraph what he will or won’t do before lawmakers send him a bill. Gay rights supporters are pushing for an amendment to the bill to allow gays to sponsor their partners to come to the U.S., but Republicans, including some who helped draft the bill, have made it clear that amending the legislation in that fashion would cost their support (Miami Herald)

There was an article in one of the Spanish newspapers, La Teja, about how young gay Tico boys are coming out of the proverbial closet earlier and earlier. La Teja reported many gay youth are claiming their homosexuality between the ages of 12-15.  Personal experiences are the most telling. From the website, www.imfromdriftwood.com, there is a very personal experience from a native Costa Rican teenager who was brave enough to share his story.

“I became the first person to ever come out of the closet in my high school. Being gay is difficult, but I think being gay in a small catholic country like Costa Rica can be even worse. Every time I would feel depressed because of people’s senseless bullying, I would seek help in my community and would find that all the help was in the US, Canada, or Europe. So naturally I felt isolated. So I decided to study harder, and apply to boarding schools in the US and leave the country before I would be more than willing to take my own life. And after a lot of effort I was finally able to leave Costa Rica as a student. I love Costa Rica with all my heart, but I don’t feel safe being gay in the country. I don’t feel free as a gay man, having to watch my every step, having to keep track of who knows and who doesn’t, having to hide it all the time. When I finally started classes at my school, things slowly started to get better again. I started to smile more often and make friends, but still, I was and am the only openly male gay student in my school. It depresses me sometimes, especially now that I’m in my senior year and I see that I will graduate high school without my first kiss, without dating, without any romantic experience whatsoever. I’ve been too busy fighting all the time.

The current president of Costa Rica, Laura Chinchilla doesn’t condone gay marriage, but claims that if legislation were to pass it, she won’t fight the court’s ruling.  The only place currently in Latin America that has legalized gay marriage is Argentina in 2010.

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