"Homosexual y Cochino"
This past week, I encountered the rather rampant homophobia of the Latin American world. Backed by a culture of machismo, El Salvador seems to take certain social cues from their religion of choice. If it isn’t the legalism of Catholicism, it’s the over emphasis of particular biblical versus emphasized within evangelical Protestant churches. Either way, the horrid displays of homophobia here seem to be a common practice.
This week while I was in the campo doing migration education in small communities, I came across two incidences of direct homophobia that exhibited a certain lack of diversity education.
1. While sitting in the car outside of the local house of culture in Santa Elena, I noticed some graffiti on the next building. The words, "Homosexual y Cochino"were displayed. I certainly could figure out what the homosexual part was all about, but this word, "cochino" was something new, and something told me it wasn’t good. I asked what cochino meant. As it turns out, cochino means dirty, like a pig. So apparently, someone at this place where graffiti is, is considered gay and dirty.
As it turns out, the graffiti was on the wall of the local post office. In that case, I wonder, what exactly does this graffiti imply?
The letter carriers must be gay and dirty, or maybe the woman at the front desk? No, maybe these individuals in question mean to say that anyone who enters the post office or benefits from their services is gay and dirty! Certainly that can’t be it!
I tried to wrap my head around this phrase and what it meant, but I came up empty.
Typically with homophobic individuals, they have this belief that homosexuality is wrong, however, they don’t have any great evidence for their beliefs. They may be able to cite a biblical quote, or give a stunning moral example (those men who have sex together just isn’t "natural".) But most of the time, the actual argument of a homophobic person has no real educational or intellectual backing.
Incidentally, this graffiti on the post office was situated directly across the street from an evangelical church that was blasting religious propaganda. I wonder if there is a connection?
2. While driving to a more remote location, we passed by a house with a "manwoman". In other words, a transgendered person lives at this house. While passing by the house, the person in question, was sitting on the porch and waved and smiled at us. "Cindy"as she is called, was once a man, but had an operation, and now she is a woman.
Certainly, this operation that Cindy had was expensive and rather time consuming. I found it interesting that she actually went through with the whole operation, in light of the economic strain. It’s something I wouldn’t have expected in El Salvador. Certainly I am not implying that there are no transgendered people in El Salvador, but I just assumed that the actual operation would be too costly for Salvadorans.
At any rate, the individuals that were in the car with me, who pointed Cindy out to me, didn’t seem to mind too much about her change. They laughed a little bit about the concept and continued on. I expressed that I had friends that were the same as Cindy (and I wished I had a more politically correct word in my vocabulary to explain "transgendered") and they seemed to be a bit surprised (as if they didn’t know that more of these people existed), but in total, they didn’t seem to care too much about Cindy.
In general, I’m not sure their reactions were as much homophobic as they were a direct result of a lack of diversity education...something pretty typical in the campo of El Salvador.
Nevertheless, I will continue to monitor the situation of homophobia here in El Salvador. It is certainly not easy being gay in this world. Of course some places are more accepting of diversity than others, but El Salvador is certainly not a the top of the list. Incidentally, neither is CRS (just a point of reference).