It's Not Homophobia! It's Protecting Our Children.
Today I almost lost my mind. How do you write a culturally sensitive post when what you are faced with shakes you to the very core of your being? It was like going back in time, but not in a good way.
I do, however, feel that this needs to be told and so I will do my very best to present the facts without projecting too many of my own anxieties, and reflect upon the day as best I can while still being respectful to the Peruvian culture only 24 hours after arriving in the country.
Today I awoke in Arequipa. An obvious pit stop between the Chilean board and Lima. I walked into the main square and into the middle of a demonstration that was well attended, and with all the passion of any protest I have seen during my time in London.
I listened to the chants. I read the signs. I reconsidered how good my Spanish really was. I spoke to one of the protesters among the sea of pink and blue. I listened, confused. Yes, that is what I thought, but perhaps her English is as good as my Spanish. I could not believe what I was hearing.
"Fathers of the family protect your children."
The protest was an anti-government march. The Peruvian Government had proposed new legislation to promote gender equality in schools, equal rights for gay and trans men and women, and the predominantly catholic, conservative people of Arequipa had come out in force to demonstrate their opposition to the governments proposal.
"It's not homophobia! It's protecting our children."
"I will always defend the natural family until the end."
#ConMisHijosNoTeMetas = Don't mess with our children.
What really struck me was how happy and proud the people were when I asked if I could take their photos. Holding their signs. Smiling. Getting the whole family to stand, side by side, proud.
In the 8 months I have been travelling in South America I have become really interested in how, what I guess I would call, misogyny is ingrained into the Spanish language.
Me and 100 of my female friends can have dinner and laugh and joke as amiaAS. As soon as one male comes to join our party we automatically become a table of amigOS.
The suggestion that men are more important is so implicit in the way people speak, it is not entirely surprising that a governmental move to promote gender equality has been revived with such opposition.
A speech was given promoting the importance of the natural family (whatever that is in 2017), reinforcing again and again, "this is not homophobic, we are protecting our children". I think the lady doth protest too much. But of course it was a man who was the guest speaker.
The event finished with the national anthem, and while everyone in the crowd sang, not everyone was singing in jubilation. A girl to my left, early 20s, hugged her stomach and sobbed as she struggled through the verse. Her shoulders heaving as though someone she loved very much had just died.
Please do not give up hope whoever you are! It is for your generation to embrace this positive change.