“Not everyone can come out into the sunlight,” said Deiby Aju, referring to the double standard that exists, influenced by strong family, religious and social pressures. Aju is a homosexual who lives in Nicoya and related that he is happy for having respected himself, his personality and openly declaring himself homosexual, although it wasn’t at all easy.
The perspective of homosexuality in the communities of Nicoya and Nosara are permeated by religious beliefs and social rules of what “is accepted and what is not” and consequently make the discrimination of homosexuality invisible in the area.
Overall, the opinions collected among neighbors of these two locations about their perception of homosexuality indicated that they don’t agree with it for religious reasons. Some indicated that if their children had an unconventional sexual preference, they would accept them, but on the contrary, others indicated that they would reject them.
There aren’t any studies that typify or quantify the homosexual population of Costa Rica but during a mapping conducted in 2007 by the Center of Investigation and Promotion of Human Rights for Central America (Cipacdh) in socializing centers for the bisexual, gay, lesbian and transgender population, they tabulated that in the meeting places for this population living in the greater metropolitan area, there is a regular attendance of 7000 gay men in a single day.
For Aju, living the process of the assimilation of his sexual inclination by his family and classmates was very difficult. He suffered a very marked rejection from his father, “who represents the typical role of the manly womanizer,” and his high school classmates would even leave when he arrived because of this belief that “this could be contagious,” the 19-year-old youth recalled.
Aju realized that he had homosexual inclinations in school. He said he was always very feminine. When he gave the news of his homosexuality to his family, his uncles reacted by not speaking to him for a while. He even received criticisms like, “Aren’t you ashamed to walk around dressed this way?” This period of “acceptance” in his family environment took between four and five years.
Aju concluded that “you can’t change people’s perception, but you should generate an environment of respect.” Adding to this, he thinks there is a greater rejection of more effeminate homosexuals.
Currently, Aju works as a stylist and studies psychology, with the desire of understanding people and he indicated that he is very interested in focusing on collaborating with the theme of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) movements.
For his part, Jordan Baltodano, from Corralillo of Nicoya, a homosexual of 18 years of age, had strong family pressure to bring home a girlfriend, so he went out with four women before completely accepting his real sexual inclination.
Regarding his personal story, Baltodano at age 12 felt different from others and from conventional sexual preferences, but it wasn’t until he was 15 that he completely accepted his homosexuality.
His mother found out about his homosexuality in the middle of an argument with her son, and her reaction was to not speak to him for three days.
The mother, after getting the news, acted with indifference, fear and insecurity and restricted when he could go out but as time passed her attitude changed and now she supports him. His mother doesn’t agree with his homosexuality but she respects it and never asked him to try to change, expressed Baltodano.
It was a different case with his sisters, as girls and adolescents, who accepted their brother’s inclination from the beginning, an indicator of a more tolerant perception open to diversity in the younger generations.
For Baltodano, the process of assimilation of his preference has been complicated. On one occasion he tried to commit suicide by overdosing on pills, and at times he wants to change, to not accept his homosexuality.
The social pressure causes homosexuals to feel totally excluded. “You get to feel like a bug due to the constant comments and looks; it’s a daily struggle that tires you out,” emphasized Aju.
Does Gay Love Exist?
Regarding the existence of gay love, both Aju and Baltodano consider homosexual relationships to be more promiscuous. They are motivated primarily by the sexual desire and later by sentiments. They link it to human nature, which is more inclined to the fleshly.
In contrast with this previous affirmation, an anonymously-interviewed lesbian woman in her 40s who lives in a coastal town in the Canton of Nicoya, whom we will call Judy, affirmed that gay love is real, that she has been and is in love in this moment.
The Concept of Life Based on Religion
Referring to the theme of religion, Aju and Baltodano feel like sinners, influenced by their upbringing based on beliefs that God punishes homosexuality and on ideas of the collective social image of what is “accepted” in sexual preferences.
Regarding his religious experience, Aju attended a church and didn’t return because of indirect remarks of rejection and discrimination by the pastor. Nonetheless, he affirms that he believes in God and this gives him a sense of living in sin.
For his part, Baltodano is evangelical and decided not to return to the church because he questions why God permitted him to be this way.
Judy made reference to the persecution of insults and harassment she lived on behalf of a religious group that her mother attended after the family found out that she was a lesbian.
For Nosara’s Catholic priest, Juan Galindo, homosexuality is a sickness with psychological and social causes that principally affects men at young ages.
For his part, the pastor of the Iglesia de Dios del Evangelio Completo (Church of God of the Complete Gospel) of Nosara, Henry Matarrita, homosexuality can be seen in two stages, the spiritual side based on the disobedience of man, and in the sense that it is a sickness. He clarified that God did not create people with this condition.
These two religious authorities agreed that sexual preferences different from heterosexuality is considered a sickness for the groups that they represent, based on Bible teachings, although neither could site specifically in which part of the Scriptures such an assertion is made.
Regarding the emotional effects that homosexuals experience, Galindo assured that, after practicing homosexuality, they suffer remorse, for their principles, they have an emotional clash. Both religious leaders mentioned that the people with unconventional sexual preferences should submit themselves to processes to change.
Matarrita commented on the experience of a friend of his who was a homosexual and is now married and has a daughter, and right now he is a preacher. “God made an agreement with him,” he remarked.
If homosexual couples approach the congregations, both Galindo and Matarrita expressed that there would be no problem for them to attend but they could not be actively involved in the groups’ activities.
The Rights of Cohabitation
For Aju and Baltodano, the Sociedades de Convivencia (Societies of Cohabitation) law project is necessary, although they don’t know all its details. The initiative looks to create and regulate a new figure called “society of cohabitation” with the purpose of protecting the personal and patrimonial rights of couples composed of people of the same sex, for example benefits of the social security system, the national financial system for housing, legal inheritance and special visits in case of hospitalization or imprisonment of the domestic partner.
For both, Costa Rica is still not prepared to make changes like accepting gay marriage, approving the Societies of Cohabitation law project or permitting people of the same sex to raise children.
Both of the interviewees do not support children being raised by parents of the same sex. Aju believes that they will be influences by the homosexual patterns and in addition that it would be difficult socially for the children to be questioned about their parents.
To the contrary, Judy testified to an experience of childrearing by a homosexual couple that she knows and mentioned that this child is a person that is growing up in an integral way and with excellent values and attitudes.
Regarding the approval of this law project, the priest Galindo expressed the opinion that we all have rights but that there are certain institutions that have specific rights, like the family. Adding to the aforementioned, he highlighted that politicians should stop to reflect on the possible consequences of giving the rights that families have to homosexuals, and he mentioned that “if they manifest abnormal behaviors, they should receive a different treatment.”
The Voice interviewed seven residents of Nosara and Nicoya. A member of the community of Nosara, Stephanie Artavia, thinks that on the one hand the Societies of Cohabitation law project should pass since a couple that lives together, no matter if it is man-man, woman-woman or man-woman, is forging a social structure, and on the other hand she believes that for social reasons it shouldn’t pass since homosexuality should not be seen as natural and it would be giving them a sort of push.
The above opinion and several of those provided by neighbors show a clear synchronism between religious beliefs, the concept of civil rights and the social standards that propitiate a mixed perception of the rights that all citizens should be able to access without exceptions of ideological, political, religious or, in this case, sexual preferences.
In addition, it must be clarified that the concept of homosexuality is tinted by a vision of “sexual illness” amplified by the taboo that normally represents sexuality in our society since those interviewed have definite opinions over homosexual sexual preferences; however this certainty is diluted when the person is asked the same thing but in the case that their children were the homosexuals. This fact also reflects a sense of distance from unconventional sexual preferences.
What Do You Think About Homosexuality?
“Homosexuality is abnormal; what God made is husband and wife. If I had a homosexual child I would leave it in God’s hands. I would ask him to change and if he doesn’t change I wouldn’t accept it.” Lubiz Pichardo of Nicoya
“I respect and love any person. If I had a homosexual child, I would treat him with love, without despising or isolating him. Science has told us that it is possible for someone to have a different preference, so I would have to accept it.” Stephanie Artavia of Nosara
“If homosexuals are happy as they are, they should be respected. If the Societies of Cohabitation law project makes them happy, let it pass. If I had a homosexual child, I would support him; I would help him; I wouldn’t treat him differently because of his preference.” José Zúñiga of Nicoya
“We are Christian and we don’t accept homosexuality. God made us man and woman. If I had a homosexual child, I would try to teach him, to educate him so he would change, but I wouldn’t reject him. Yes, they should have civil rights like the ones outlined in the Societies of Cohabitation law project, but it shouldn’t be accepted that they live together as a couple.” Isabel Umaña of Nosara