While legislators, students and activists are talking about a proposed law to allow gay couples in Costa Rica to be joined in civil union, very few of these couples are willing to speak to the press about their civil rights. This became apparent when The Tico Times tried to find a gay couple willing to be photographed – none agreed.
Abelardo Araya, president of the Diversity Movement, a gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender rights group, isn’t surprised. “Really, there are only five of us in Costa Rica who are visible as homosexuals, meaning we are willing to appear in national media,” Araya said.
Although the gay and lesbian community has been working to gain equal rights for 20 years and earlier this year unified at a national conference on these issues (TT, April 21), many stereotypes, prejudices and discrimination still exist, he said.
As a result, gays and lesbians live in fear that being open about their sexuality will cost them their job or their good standing with employers, neighbors and family, he said.
“For gays, expressing themselves publicly can be professional suicide,” Araya said.
However, one Tica who spoke with The Tico Times disagreed that gays here are discriminated against.
“Really there is just indifference,” said Ana María Achío, 52, who lives in San José and grew up in the small town of Belén de Carrillo in the northwestern Guanacaste province, a community she said has always had a relatively large gay population.
Achío said she isn’t in favor of civil union for gay couples because “it’s not natural.”
“A couple is a man and a woman,” she told The Tico Times.
Her lunch companion Francisco Solano, 48, said he is also against the idea of civil union for same-sex couples, but for different reasons.
Throughout history, gay couples in Costa Rica have lived a “totally normal” life, so a civil union law is completely unnecessary, he said.
Asked if gays are discriminated against, Solano answered with an emphatic “yes.”
“The Tico, by nature, discriminates,” he said, pointing to the social exclusion black and Chinese residents faced during the first half of this century.
Costa Ricans have become more open and aware of homosexuality in recent years, but not more tolerant, he said.
“By human nature, people are intolerant, and that will never change,” he said.