LGBT officeholders now visible in Latin America, in tandem with continuing anti-gay violence

by on March 12, 2012  •  In Uncategorized

From USA Today:

Tatiana Pineros, a man by birth and a woman by choice,…is the first transgender individual to be appointed to head Bogota's social welfare agency. Pineros, 34, is also a high-powered public servant who manages a $360 million budget and nearly 2,000 employees in Colombia's biggest and most powerful municipal government. Her appointment by Bogota's new mayor to head the capital's social welfare agency was remarkable for how unremarkably it was received…

Across Latin America, public acceptance is gradually growing for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender officials. It's a phenomenon that has accompanied activists' broader struggle to win rights to marry, adopt children or share financial benefits with same-sex partners, and to transform the way socially conservative nations view and treat gays…

Ecuador's new health minister, Carina Vance, can attest to the change. She has a master's degree in public health from UC-Berkeley. She is also openly lesbian. Before being named in January, Vance, 34, campaigned as an activist against clinics accused of using coercion to try to "cure" gays of their homosexuality. Her ministry is now investigating those alleged practices. She told a TV interviewer last month that "we will take action against those responsible."

Brazil's first openly gay national lawmaker, Rep. Jean Wyllys, was elected last year, and activists say six other openly gay people have been elected to public office in Latin America's most populous nation. Wyllys, who first gained fame on the Big Brother reality TV show, has so far failed to pass legislation against homophobic insults and discrimination. His nemesis in the battle has been the Congress' evangelical Christian caucus.

Despite Wyllys' rise, openly gay Brazilians are rare in appointed positions. The gay community was outraged last year when a heterosexual was named to head the gay rights division in the federal Human Rights Ministry. The heterosexual never took the job, which remains unfilled. Luiz Mott, an anthropologist and founder of the Grupo Gay da Bahia, said many more homosexuals are in government posts but have kept their sexual orientation private in a kind of self-censorship.

Advances have also been made in other countries but through appointment or complicated election laws that allow legislators to win their posts without being directly elected. Mexico, for example, has one gay national lawmaker, Congresswoman Enoe Margarita Uranga Munoz, who ended up high on the list of candidates for seats that Mexican law allots to parties by their share of the vote. Sen. Osvaldo Lopez, the only openly gay member of Argentina's Congress, was named in July to replace a senator who died in an auto accident…

…Activists also say the successes of a few openly gay officials hasn't stopped anti-gay violence. On March 4, a gay 24-year-old Chilean was so brutally beaten that doctors had to induce a coma to treat him for head trauma and a broken right leg. Prosecutors say a swastika was drawn on the victim's chest.

"The general practice on the continent is of an open season on LGBTs that never closes," the gay rights group Colombia Diversa says in a regional report on violence against the community. It found that 83 of 226 murders of LGBT people in Colombia from 2006 to 2009 were classified as hate crimes, with no motive listed for most.

Brazil's Grupo Gay da Bahia, which has been keeping records of gay-bashing for more than three decades, says 260 LGBT people were murdered in Brazil in 2010, or 113% more than five years earlier. Police in Lima, Peru, beat LGBT rights activists who smooched in a downtown plaza during a "Kisses Against Homophobia" demonstration in February 2011…

[In Bogota, as] part of her appointment, [Pineros will] oversee Bogota's social welfare spending on everything from homes for the elderly to cafeterias for preschoolers. Mayor Gustavo Petro said via email her appointment "is a sign this mayoral administration recognizes diversity and doesn't discriminate based on sexual orientation, ethnicity or age." In a sign of the times, the public reaction to Pineros' appointment has been smooth, with no criticism in the last two months ago.

But that doesn't mean Bogota's LGBT community is universally embraced. Bogota's secretary of education, Oscar Sanchez, is under assault by conservatives for a program to help primary and secondary school teachers discourage race- and gender-based discrimination. When Brazil's Education Ministry designed a program last year battling anti-gay discrimination, complaints from evangelicals in Congress prompted President Dilma Rousseff to withdraw the proposed legislation.


One Response to LGBT officeholders now visible in Latin America, in tandem with continuing anti-gay violence

  1. Caprice Bellefleur March 12, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    People don’t choose their gender.

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