Latin America and the stigmatization of sexual minorities
Tuesday, June 19, 2012
By: Kaos GL
The easiest and most hypocritical is to attribute the killing of Daniel Zamudio to four culprits who call themselves neo-Nazis. They are nothing else than the crudest and most repellent scouting party of our homophobic tradition.
The hunt of the gay
By Mario Vargas Llosa
The past evening of March 3rd, four Chilean “neo-Nazis” led by thug nicknamed Pato Core, found in the surroundings of a well-known park in Santiago the lying body of Daniel Zamudio, a 24 year old gay activist who worked as a clerk in a clothing store.
For about six hours, while drinking and joking, they focused on punching and kicking the “faggot”, hitting him with stones and marking swastikas on his chest with the neck of a broken bottle. At dawn, Daniel Zamudio was taken to a hospital where he agonized for 25 days before finally succumbing to multiple traumatisms due to the fierce beating.
This crime, offspring of homophobia, has caused a strong impression not only in the Chilean public opinion but also in the whole continent, and has given rise to condemnation against discrimination and hate towards sexual minorities, an ill so deeply rooted in Latin America. The Chilean president, Sebastian Pinera, demanded an exemplary punishment and asked for the expedite analysis of an anti-discrimination draft law, which apparently was vegetating in Parliament for the past 7 years due to the fear by some conservative legislators that this law would pave way to gay marriage.
We can just hope that the immolation of Daniel Zamudio serves to bring into light the tragic condition of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual individuals in Latin American countries, all in which without exception are object of derision, repression, marginalization, persecution and discredit campaigns, usually with overt and enthusiastic support from the general public.
The easiest and most hypocritical is to attribute the killing of Daniel Zamudio only to four culprits good-for-nothing that call themselves neo-Nazis without probably knowing what is or what was in fact Nazism. They are no more than crudest and most repellent scouting party of an old traditionalist culture that presents gays and lesbians as sick people needed to be kept away from the “normal beings” because they corrupt our healthy social fabric, and induce to moral and physical disintegration by means of nefarious and evil practices.
This concept of homosexualism is taught in schools, spread within families, preached in the pulpits, disseminated in the media, mentioned in the political discourse, and in TV, radio and theatrical programs where the “fagot” and “dyke” are always grotesque characters, abnormal, absurd and dangerous, worthy of contempt and rejection from decent, normal and common individuals. The “gay” is always “the other”, which denies, frightens, and fascinates us all at the same time.
In such a context, it is surprising that committed abominations such as the sacrifice of Daniel Zamudio do not occur more often. Although perhaps, it would be fairer to say that they are so little known because crimes made public and arising from homophobia, are probably just a tiny fraction of those actually committed. And in many cases, the families of the victims prefer to throw a veil of silence over them in order to avoid dishonor and shame.
For example, I am right now holding a report prepared by the Homosexual Movement of Lima, sent to me by their president Giovanny Romero. According to this investigation, between the years 2006 and 2010, 249 people were murdered in Peru due to their sexual orientation or gender identity; or about a killing per week. Among the most shocking cases is the one of Yefri Pena, to whom five “machos” obliterated his face and body with a broken glass, while policemen refused to help because he was a travesty and doctors refused to provide care because he was considered to be a “focus of infection”.
These extreme cases are without doubt quite appalling. But surely, the most terrible part of being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in countries like Peru and Chile are not those rather exceptional cases, but the everyday life condemned to insecurity, fear, and the constant awareness of being considered (and reach to feel) a reprobate, a freak, a monster. Having to live in secrecy, with the constant fear of being discovered and stigmatized by parents, relatives, friends and a whole social environment that is biased against “the queer” as if it was the plague. How many youths tormented by this social censorship suffered by homosexuals have been driven to suicide or suffered from traumas that ruined their lives? Only in my circle of acquaintances I have record of many cases of this glaring injustice that, unlike others related to economic exploitation and political oppression, are rarely reported in the press or neither appear in the social programs of those consider themselves reformers and progressives.
Because I find that in regard to homophobia, the right and the left merge into a single entity ravaged by prejudice and stupidity. Not only the Catholic Church and protestant sects reject homosexuality and oppose with stubborn insistence gay marriage. The two armed insurgencies that tried to install communism in Peru in the 80’s (The Shinning Path and MRTA), systematically executed homosexuals in the captured towns as means of freeing society from such scourge (neither more nor less of what the inquisition did throughout its sinister history).
To free Latin America from the deeply rooted “machismo” and homophobia -two sides of the same coin- will be long, difficult, and probably in the way towards that liberation we will have many other victims like the unfortunate Daniel Zamudio. The issue is not political but religious and cultural. We were taught from time immemorial the strange idea of a sexual orthodoxy from which only perverts and sick people deviate, and have been passing that nonsense aberrant to our children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren, aided by the dogmas of the religion and moral codes enthroned. We are afraid of sex and have difficulties accepting that in this uncertain domain exist diverse options and variants that must be accepted as manifestations of our rich human diversity. And in this aspect of the condition of men and women also freedom must reign, allowing that in sexual life, each can choose their behavior and vocation without other limitation than the respect and acquiescence of the others.
The minorities beginning to accept that a lesbian or a gay person are as normal as a heterosexual, and as such must be given the same rights of those, are still reluctant to give the battle for sexual minorities because they know that winning this contest will be like moving mountains, fighting against a dead weight that is born in the primitive rejection of the “other”, that who is different because of the color of its skin, its customs, its language, and its beliefs, an consequently nurtures wars, genocides, and holocausts that fill with blood and corpses the history of humanity.
Much has been done in the fight against racism, no doubt, although without removing it completely. Today, at least we know that we should not discriminate against the black, the yellow, the Jew, the cholo, the Indian, and in any case, that it is of very bad taste to self-proclaim one as racist.
There is no such thing yet when it comes to gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and transsexuals, and they may be despised and abused with impunity. They are the most eloquent proof of how far the world is still from true civilization.
Madrid, April 2012
Mario Vargas Llosa is a Peruvian-Spanish writer, politician, journalist, essayist, and recipient of the 2010 Nobel Prize in Literature.
Source: http://elpais.com/elpais/2012/04/04/opinion/1333540547_113226.html (translation)
All rights reserved to Ediciones EL PAIS, SL, 2012
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