February 5, 2010
Richard Ammon, GlobalGayz
It’s February 5 and the temperature is 100 degrees (F) in the village of Copan Ruines, Honduras where ancient Mayan ruins have baked under the hot sun for over 1500 years.
Honduras is one of those ‘throw-away countries that hardly registers on any international scale of influence, enterprise or tourism.
But once inside the country, it tends to seduce with its doleful third-world cities, the endless rise and fall of verdant mountains, modern Mayan lifestyles (hand labor, handcrafts, hand carvings), and handsome men and women.
The country is generally overlooked unless some crisis erupts such as the 2009 overthrow of the elected yet corrupt president in a civilian coup (with some military assistance). It was sort of big headlines for few weeks until the politicians jockeyed into new positions. Tourism suddenly dropped by half, but 6 months later has picked up again as the former president finally left the country for exile in Dominican Republic. For most people in Honduras nothing changed except a few names. The buses still run, the streets are hand swept and fresh bread is baked daily and narcotics move though on the way north.
And nothing much changed for the homosexual community in Honduras other than a less friendly attitude from the new leaders.
One of the surprises I found in the capital city of Tegucigalpa was the bubbly half dozen LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual. transgender) organizations that thrive in this sea of (alleged) homophobia.
Each of the organizations has a specialized mission regarding human rights, health education, HIV prevention and social support. With funding exclusively from abroad they each serve to create a camaraderie that coalesces on weekends at the gay disco ‘Zunzet’.
My most lasting impressions from visiting these organizations are the faces of the young LGBT kids, laughing and worrying, thoughtful and silly, eating and dancing, decorating for a valentine’s party, making posters, playng cards, hugging and kissing, practicing a dance, cruising or fooling around with friends—the usual things people do in the course of a young life.
Except here they shed their pretensions, their masks, their imposed family roles and imposed standards of heterosexual behavior and attitude. For those who find their way to these safe havens, life is made easier as they come to realize they are not deformed or sinful or shameful. They come here to be normalized and gain confidence in their sexual identity; it’s the only place this crucial formative process can happen ‘naturally’ within this sexually hypocritical society.
Like other Latino countries, homophobic posturing gives way to secretive homophilia when no one is looking. A staff member of one of the LGBT groups thought that “more than 60 or 70% of men here have had sexual experiences with other men–before and/or after they got married.”
Welcome to Latin American sexuality the land of the machista.
(An unusual police harassment case was reported in September 2009 but the details remains uncertain. Ill report on this later.)