Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Bigots Deserve Access to Development Workers Too

Ña Annastasia showing the abonos verde carnavalia intercropped with mandioca (This photo is completely unrelated to this blog post... but I like it anyways).

I looked at my facebook page recently, and I realized just how… well, gay it had become.  Well over half the links I post are about equal rights, and lgbt news stories.  It didn’t used to be that way.  In the States, due to my open-minded community, loving family and accepting college town, being queer was not something I thought about that much.  It simply wasn’t a big deal. I rarely considered if and how being queer influenced my interactions with people, my safety, or my future.  Liking women (and men) was part of who I was, but it wasn’t a big part. Occasionally I might sign a petition or speak up in a conversation if it seemed necessary, but all-in-all I was very casual in my lgbt identity. Because it was rarely something I felt ostracized for, it was never something about which I sought support.  But as a Peace Corps volunteer, I have to be closeted in site in order to productively do the development work I came here to do.  So now, perhaps due to being closeted, if I’m lucky enough to have an internet signal, I find myself trolling Huffington Post Gay news section for hopeful or shocking news stories.  I have started to closely follow equal rights issues in the states (ex: repeal of DADT, North Carolina amendment banning same-sex marriage, President Obama public support for marriage equality). I have become more interested in the advancement of equal rights and acceptance because I now feel the lack of them.  Ironically, having to hide my sexuality has made my sexuality more central to my identity.
One of the absolute most important reasons to be out, is that people begin to revise their bigoted opinions, when they realize they actually personally know someone who is gay.  When it comes to votes, and rights, they realize that their actions will directly affect someone one they know as a person, not just as a sexuality.  One of the questions I struggled with for a while, was why doesn’t this apply in Paraguay?  Shouldn’t I open here for the same reason I’m open in Indiana?
I realized that it doesn’t apply because as an agriculture volunteer, I am here to work with everyone who has degraded soil on their farm.  Bigots deserve access to development workers too.  There are already so many barriers to over come to get someone to try something new on their farm, why add something else?  I’m not Catholic, but I don’t advertise that to the community for the same reason.  In order to work with as many people as I can, I want to present as few barriers as possible.  If I were to come out at the end of my service, or several years from now when I come back for a visit, the community will know me as a person.  They will know the work I did.  They will have to reconcile, the person they know with the sexuality they object to.
By not being out, I am able to reach more people and be more effective.  But it means I am not able to be a resource for the lgbt youth and adults that live in the community.  No one is out, but I have my suspicions about a few folks.  I can’t be a role model for them, because they don’t know what we have in common.  I can’t come out to them, because it could compromise my position in the community (one well-worn strategy for deflecting suspicion off your self is to become an out-spoken homophobic ass (ex: Ted Haggard, George Rekers, etc).  This is the hardest part about not being out in site.
There is gay rights movement in Paraguay.  Things are changing especially amongst the youth and in the larger towns and cities.  But out here in the campo, there is still a long way to go. Poco a poco, I guess.
I am about to head back to the States for a much needed vacation.  I had heard it said that things pick up in the second year, and that is definitely what has happened for me.  I am involved in things at site.  There are things I wish I spent less time doing (English classes), and things I wish I spent more time doing (abonos verdes, gardens).  But I’m just glad to feel kind of busy for once.  Every so often there are mile stones, that I don’t always write about.  For example, an old host brother of mine, shyly ask me for information on STI and condoms.  I was delighted that he trusted me enough to ask for the information, and did my best to bombard him with the information I had (especially sense health isn’t my sector).  Its been 20 months since I came to Paraguay and I have undergone many changes here.  I know my two week vacation is not enough time to really find out, but wonder how those changes will effect my interaction with American culture.

See you soon America.

(Sorry, this is not my best written or focused blog post.  I promise I’m full of ligament excuses.  But I figured I should post it now, and take advantage of the good internet while I could).

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