Machismo and Gay Slurs in the Dominican Republic

- A Peace Corps Volunteer

Recently, Blue Jays’ shortstop Yunel Escobar painted the words “Tú ere maricón” into his eyeblack for a game against the Boston Red Sox. Once the North American audience realized what that meant (you’re a faggot), outrage ensued. The Blue Jays suspended him for three games, and he has agreed to donate money to GLAAD.

Setting aside the fact that Escobar is Cuban rather than Dominican, I hope this incident somehow prompts a conversation about homophobia here in the DR. I’ve been living here for over a year now, and can tell you that only incautious observation and a loose grasp of Spanish are necessary to feel the machismo, sexism, and homophobia permeate the very air (though that could also be the exhaust from muffler-less vehicles). Suffice it to say, being a closeted lesbian in such an environment has not been a picnic. Neither is being a single woman, a childless woman, and a woman living alone. “Have you gotten married yet?” is a common question heard by single female Volunteers. We also are told we’re becoming jamonas (old maids), that we shouldn’t live alone ever, and that we need a man.

The male-centered machismo even has a presence in the Dominican LGBTQ community. At gay pride last July, I saw approximately 10 male-bodied people for every woman. All the speakers, performers, and award recipients were either male-bodied or an attractive, straight female ally.

For the past year, as the only lesbian I knew in this whole country, I have had no community. It hasn’t been so bad, though. During a mandatory discussion in my local school about sexuality, the teacher declared to her 7th grade class that being gay is totally fine, that it isn’t a choice, and that no one should ever demean someone for being gay. When she met resistance from some of the students, she reaffirmed in no uncertain terms that she was serious and that she wouldn’t stand for any intolerant comments. With some Dominicans, I have been honest about my orientation, and the reaction has been mostly positive. My friend Wilson has been adamant about finding me a girlfriend (though he has had no luck so far). Lastly, Placement seems to have sent a few queer Trainees, so I’m really looking forward to making friends with them.

In the meantime, I’m going to bring up this Escobar thing with my youth. Who knows? Maybe they’ll start to think gay slurs are uncool.

You can contact the author at lgbrpcv-news@lgbrpcv.org.

About LGBT RPCV
We are an organization of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people and others who are Peace Corps volunteer alumni, current volunteers, former and current staff members and friends. Founded in Washington D.C. in 1991, we have several hundred members throughout the country and around the world who have served in Peace Corps since its beginning in 1961. We're made up of a national steering committee, together with regional chapters. We are an active affiliate member of the National Peace Corps Association.

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