News & Politics

A Number Game

“Gay brothers and sisters,… You must come out. Come out… to your parents… I know that it is hard and will hurt them but think about how they will hurt you in the voting booth! Come out to your relatives… come out to your friends… if indeed they are your friends. Come out to your neighbors… to your fellow workers… to the people who work where you eat and shop… come out only to the people you know, and who know you. Not to anyone else. But once and for all, break down the myths, destroy the lies and distortions. For your sake. For their sake. For the sake of the youngsters who are becoming scared by the votes from Dade to Eugene.”

— Harvey Milk

And it is true, the more they know us, the more they see our families, the more we invite them into our homes, the more open and accepting the world becomes.

Is it perfect?

No.

Is it fast enough?

No.

Should we have to fight tooth and nail for every right?

Absolutely not!

But being a visible community is part of the solution.

LGBT visible communities in Latin America are newer than in the US.  In high school in the US (late 1990s), I was out.  There was a (nascent) gay-straight alliance.  Teachers were starting to put up little rainbow triangles on their doors to denote safezones.  I was encouraged by my English teacher to write about sexuality and gay teen suicide.

In high school in Chile (I was an exchange student), no one was out.  And, frankly, I think my high school might have expelled any student who tried to come out.  After all, they did successfully expel my classmate for being pregnant.  Being in a small town, there was no gay-straight alliance or PFLAG chapter or visible community.  There was no one to reach out to.

***      ***      ***

In College in 2000, back in Chile, I volunteers at the Gay Rights Movement.  I sat in on some safe sex classes where I thought being the only woman in the room was what would make me uncomfortable.  During the icebreaker, the facilitator had people stand when he made a statement that they personally agreed with.

“I am a person deserving of love” (Many in the room stood)

“I know how to protect myself from HIV/AIDS” (Many stood)

“I am out to my family” (Some sat)

“I am out at work” (Many sat)

“I was out in college” (More sat)

“I was out in high school” (Everyone sat.  Everyone sat except a man named David and myself)

If it is all a game of numbers, in Chile, we were losing.  At the Gay Pride Parade that year, there were barely enough people to carry the banner.

***      ***      ***

Chile just released its 2012 census.  This census was historical because it was the first time questions were specifically asked about the respondents’ sexual orientation.  In a country of about 17,000,000 people, 34,976 declared themselves as living with a same-sex partner. 59% of these were lesbian couples!  Even more importantly, this represented 0.5% of all couples in Chile.

Movilh, the Gay Rights movement, commented:

These figures are a hope, that increasingly more couples can come out of the closet.

It has set a precedent for the 2022 Census, and we hope that in that opportunity they will not only count partnered gays and lesbians, but also  the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people. This is our new challenge.

Our joy is particularly special at the results of the 2012 census because more women than men recognized their unions. Lesbian reality has always been less visible in public spaces, but this time they have raised their voices– and they raised them loud.

Perhaps, in Chile at least, the numbers are turning in our favor.  It is a snowball effect.  Now that people have started to come out, they are opening the closet door for others to follow.  Now that others are following, visible community is popping up all over, even in the small towns.

afiche-rostros_Movilh

Campaign Poster by Movilh 
Social and legal equality for all. Now!
Love is Love
More on the campaign at: http://www.movilh.cl/elamoresamor/

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