I have several FB friends and acquaintances from Costa Rica who in the past few days have expressed dismay that the brand-new President of CR, Luis Guillermo Solís, raised the rainbow flag on the lawn of the Casa Presidencial in honor of the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia on May 17.
To their credit, very few friends are expressing this dismay as clear homophobia, although some have (and are no longer my FB friends). But the other expressions, while more subtle, are still troubling.
The most common are variations on the theme expressed and forwarded in online articles that say “The Casa Presidencial should represent ALL Ticos, not just a few! Why don’t they raise the banner of the Dia del Agricultor (Farmer’s Day) or the Dia de la Familia (Family Day)? Why not the flag of the Roman Catholic Church?”
That sounds reasonable, right?
But I wonder if any of the people who express that point of view would be offended if there were a Farmer’s Day banner flying over the Casa Presidencial. How many of them would run to their FB wall to complain that we are not all farmers, and how dare the President single out just that one group? How many of them would criticize the new President for being so exclusionary, since most Ticos are in fact NOT farmers?
How many would stand up and protest for the rights of Ticos who don’t have a family, if the banner for Family Day were flying? Who among them would be writing letters to the Tico Times expressing concern that non-Catholics in the country were being oppressed and excluded by such blatant pandering?
How many would complain on the International Day Against Violence Towards Women, that the President is only recognizing 50% of Ticos because… they are actually Ticas?
None. You would most probably simply appreciate that many Ticos ARE farmers and ARE members of a family, and that recognizing them on their day is a nice tribute, even if you are a Tico who does not belong to their ranks.
But oh, the irony of complaining about the rainbow flag, on the very day of the year in which we should be thinking about how much violence and hatred and EXCLUSION is directed towards other human beings because of their sexual orientation and gender identification. Including in Costa Rica.
I would like to suggest that you consider that no one in Costa Rica is afraid of “coming out” as a farmer to their parents and friends and co-workers; that no one gets bullied and beaten up in their school because they are a Roman Catholic. That no one can get fired or thrown out of a bar because they are members of a family, and that farmers are not denied the right to marry the person they love, or adopt children or even have their partners farmers recognized as their own family members. NO Roman Catholic in Costa Rica has been denied visitation rights to their own family because of their religion.
And consider that perhaps the hatred and criticism towards Luis Guillermo Solís for making a the tiniest token of acceptance towards a group that has been historically sidelined, discriminated against and a target of violence and abuse ON THE VERY DAY the world is recognizing how big of a problem that is, is a sign for those of you who feel such vitriol to start thinking about why that abuse is such a huge problem. It’s because of that very mentality: cloaked in the “we are all Ticos!” excuse, it manages to generate outrage only when you are reminded that there are many Ticos who are different from you in ways you find uncomfortable.
That discomfort, that outrage, is exactly what the Día Internacional contra la Homofobia y la Transfobia is supposed to be fighting against. If you are feeling it, then perhaps you are missing the entire point of the day, the very point of raising the banner, and the pain and suffering your attitude is causing towards other people who are just as Ticos as you are.
And to my LGBTQ friends in Costa Rica, I offer the love and unconditional support you deserve, on this of all days; and the hope that some day the public statement that you, too are Ticos, causes as little controversy as it does today for the farmers, for the families, for the church members.