The New-Guat Times: An interview with one of Guatemala’s GLBT youth

2012 LGBT Pride Parade

Jillian Szacki

When 22-year-old José Perez isn’t busy studying Graphic Design in Guatemala City, Perez likes to hang out with his friends, relax at home with his family, and go to the movies with his boyfriend. Perez is part of the growing GLBT (Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender) community in Guatemala, who choose to embrace their sexual identities.

Perez says he realized at a young age that he was gay, “but I didn’t know that it was something very bad in my culture.” Like most GLBT youth, Perez found himself on the receiving end of a substantial amount of bullying. “They would always make fun of me because I liked Britney Spears and because of the way I walk,” Perez reflects.

Over time, Perez was able to find the strength to ignore the taunting and the name calling. “I learned how to not pay any attention to it. It made me stronger and taught me how to defend myself. I just started to accept the bullying as a joke. If it was just a joke, it wouldn’t affect me so much.”

Despite Perez’s vigor to brush off the bullying, he remained in the closet about his sexuality. “I knew I was definitely gay because I looked at boys a different way,” he says. “But I also felt like I had to hide my sexuality from everyone.” As a teenager, Perez tried to live a ‘normal ’ life and even had a girlfriend for seven months. “I dated her, but the whole time I knew I was denying my reality.”

After years of hiding his sexuality from his family and friends, Perez decided to come out when he was 17-years-old. “It happened a day after my high school graduation,” he says. “I was very nervous and thought my parents were going to kick me out of their house. I remember telling them through many tears.” Perez’s family and friends accepted the news with open minds and open hearts. “They know who I am and they love me for who I am.”

Perez met his current boyfriend through mutual friends and the pair have been dating for eleven months since. “Dating isn’t too hard,” Perez explains. “You just have to be as discreet as possible. If you don’t attract any attention, no one is going to mess with you.”

Homosexuality has been decriminalized in Guatemala since 1871, however, the GLBT community continues to struggle against discrimination, harassment and in many cases, violent attacks. There are a number of Guatemalan support groups for the GLBT community, including: OASIS (Organización de Apoyo a una Sexualidad Integral frente al Sida) and REDNADS (Red Nacional de la Diversidad Sexual de Guatemala).

The future for the GLBT of Guatemala is unknown, but Perez is hopeful. “I dream that we can act like a normal couple in public. I dream that we don’t have to hide anything.” In regards to his own future, Perez says, “I see myself working hard, living in a nice house, and experiencing the best of life with my family, friends – and of course, with my boyfriend.”

Jillian is a recent university graduate from Canada. She has always had an inherent interest in Latin America and is very excited to be traveling throughout the area. She believes in listening to the voices of the marginalized and in living a sustainable lifestyle..