Happy pride week! By Maria Olthaar
Pride is not only a celebration but also a call to action to always fight for and work toward an inclusive society. In Latin America, Argentina, and more specifically Buenos Aires is perceived as inclusive. It is a melting pot of Latin American cultures with migrants from all over the continent. The city has been a progressive hub for women's rights and queer rights. LGBTIQIA+ feel like they are living here with more liberties than in their home country. Since this week is all about inclusion and being free to love. I have talked to two LGBTQIA+ international students to ask them why they are proud to celebrate pride in Buenos Aries This is the story of Magdi from San Pablo, Brazil, and Sebas from Bogota, Colombia.
How do you identify?
Magdi: “I like girls”
Sebastian: I identify as demisexual, which falls under the umbrella of asexuality. For me, sex is not of significant importance in a relationship or your life. I feel attracted to persons rather than gender. I like to create a romantic connection with my person and experience pleasure more from little touches such as holding hands or sharing a kiss.
What was your first impression here as an LGBTQIA+ person?
Magdi: I felt free to express my sexuality from the very first moment.
Sebastian: I felt like I broke out of my cage. When I got here it was the first time someone asked me “What is your sexuality?” And I felt so understood.
Where do you feel freer?
Magdi: The big truth about Brazil is that it is a very prejudiced country, for example over here I can dress however I like, back home I would get comments all the time, about why I dress like a boy or why I cannot be more feminine. Mostly old people would openly question why, I as a girl, am wearing boy clothes, they cannot accept that I can wear what I want to wear.
Sebastian: I discovered more about my sexuality here than in Bogota, here I can express myself and no one will judge me. Bogota is a different story. There I am trapped in a cage. He cannot openly talk about his sexuality since he will be judged. People are close-minded and tell LGHTBIQA+ persons either that they are confused or that they need to look for God.
Is it safe to Identify as LGBTQIA+ in your country?
Magdi: No, you always deal with some sort of violence; This could be verbal violence or physical violence. Male gay couples are often beaten up out in the open and girls are more sexualized. I remember kissing a girl in a public space, there would always be a guy coming up to you asking you if he can join. However, in her direct environment, she also witnessed girls being beaten up by relatives due to their sexual orientations. It happens a lot that people in Brazil are not accepted by their families, which is very sad. then the LGBTQIA+ community becomes your new family. Queer people are scared to talk about their sexuality
Sebastian: There is this famous case from Bogota where two guys were walking down the city holding hands and they were separated by the crowd, people yelled at them that they can not do this and almost hit them. You always have the risk of ending up in a violent situation as an LGBTQIA+ person that is nothing new. This incident led to protests in the city calling for more inclusion. In general, there is a huge movement among youngsters that everyone sees, the young generation is undeniably changing society to be more open.
Can you tell your family about your sexual orientation?
Magdi: I had a relative that died due to not feeling accepted, this changed the family dynamic to be more open-minded. Since I was little, we talk about sexuality and sex with my parents.
Sebastian: I did not share this with my family, he does not think his family would understand him and does not feel it is a safe space to share his sexuality. It is mostly a generational thing since I think my younger family members might understand it better.
Why do you think there is little liberty for people identifying as LGBTQIA+ in your country?
Magdi: I always felt safe and free to talk about my sexuality at home, the problem is that you do not get the education or the freedom to talk about this when you are a child. It is taboo. Brazil is also deeply religious, first Catholicism, Protestantism and now the evangelical church has a lot of followers with even a lot of political influence. These ideologies support the traditional Idea of a family rather than freedom of sexuality, they claim that God does not allow us to love as we want, and this is a strong belief in my country.
Sebastian: First, Colombia lacks empathy for other people, it is a very self-centered culture. So, therefore when you are ‘different’ than what they think is ‘normal,’ you are treated badly. So, it is a cultural thing. Colombia also lacks integral sexual education, other sexualities than hetero sexualities are still taboo. Religion plays a big part, we have some progressive churches, but most religious people do not like to talk about homosexuality and these kinds of things. He also mentioned that Colombia is a very violent country in ways of thinking and ways of acting. Due to years of civil war people got used to deaths and violent responses. If someone does not understand you often the first response would be violence.
And what about Argentina?
Magdi: Here it does not matter if two boys or two girls hold hands, if a male-looking person wears a dress, people do not pay attention, they respect you and let you be. Also dating here feels very safe. I moved here 8 months ago, where I would experience some sort of harassment daily in my city, here in Buenos Aires I have not experienced it so far. However, just like in Brazil, if you are surrounded by a crowd from older generations, I am very conscious. It depends on the neighborhood, in the more southern neighborhoods bordering the provinces I feel less free since Buenos Aires is more progressive in that sense than the provinces are.
Sebastian: I can talk here more freely, people treat you with respect, the respect that is missing back home. If I tell someone about my sexuality, they ask me if I can explain. They are very curious and receptive. In his experience, even older generations are more open-minded than in Colombia. I feel that in Argentina it does not matter what your orientation is, people, look at you as a person. It is also easier for him to explore other persons here in a more relational context, something that would have been very hard at home, not only because of others. Also, here my sexuality is not only recognized but also celebrated, there is a community, and it feels very safe. “I feel like I would not have been this open-minded and discovered myself in Bogota as I do here in Buenos Aires. That is why I love this place.”
The situation of trans persons
The average life expectancy of a trans person in LATAM is exceptionally low, In Argentina, most trans persons don’t grow old. I asked my interviewees about their experiences here and back home.
Magdi explains that in her country these are the people most likely to die. I know a trans person in Brazil and one in Argentina. Medical procedures are expensive and inaccessible, and you do not get accepted by your family in Brazil. When receiving healthcare, they are always judged. She feels like her Argentinian friend had a much easier transition than her Brazilian friend. Trans people in Brazil also suffer often from mental health issues due to not being accepted and if you need a psychologist, you wait 6 months.
Sebastian: The same happens in Colombia, although transitional health care is available, the health care workers do not ask the right questions, and they will judge you. This is also a way of violence, as a healthcare worker you need to help your patients not make them feel insecure. Trans persons suffer a lot from prejudice, it is 50/50 if your family would accept you.
Why are you proud to celebrate pride in Buenos Aires?
Magdi: Here LGBTQIA+ is not a new thing, people are adapted to it. People are all about celebrating and spreading love, it is an accumulation of mucho amor!
Sebastian: I am proud because this, here, is my opportunity to be myself. I can be myself anytime, anywhere, everywhere and nobody is going to judge me.
It is beautiful that here in Buenos Aires people feel free to love how they want. On a more critical note, still, more can be done for a completely inclusive society, one that reaches further than the city borders. Happy pride week liberals, Let's celebrate love!