Eric Insler / Nica 63 / SBD
We Want You to Work with the Nicaraguan LGBTQ Community!
Coming from the United States, we sometimes convince ourselves that our country and Europe are some of the most socially progressive countries in the world, and most other countries are “religious and conservative.”
However, as I spend more and more time in Nicaragua, I have come to realize that my original suppositions were unfounded, and there are many liberal aspects of Nicaraguan society and culture.
One of these areas is LGBTQ awareness, acceptance, and rights. I assumed that Nicaragua was a conservative Catholic nation that would have little tolerance for anyone who was not heterosexual. However, I have observed a lot of acceptance, tolerance, and free sexual expression in Nicaragua. The Pride Parade marches through Managua undisturbed. The criminal justice system has special investigators for LGBTQ issues, and the Ministry of Education is hosting trainings on diversidad sexual.
That beings said, discrimination and stigma still exists. Some LGBTQ Nicaraguans face strained family relationships. At its most pernicious, LGBTQ Nicaraguans may get kicked out of their homes. In addition, LGBTQ Nicaraguans are disadvantaged economically, and often do not get themselves tested for HIV because of stigma at the health center, even though they are an at-risk population.
In a community on the Atlantic Coast last year, graduating high school students wrote a senior thesis on the evils of homosexuality spreading through their community. In a city on the Pacific Coast, gay men give blood in order to get tested for HIV because they do not trust health workers in the health center not to gossip around the community. These problems are addressable, and they do not reflect deep seeded prejudices, hate or bigotry. Instead, they speak to a certain ignorance in communities that can easily be overcome through dialogue and discourse.
We want you to work with the Nicaraguan LGBTQ community. Peace Corps Volunteers are excellently positioned to address these issues in all communities, large and small. We work in schools, where we can reach administrators, teachers, students, and parents about stereotypes and misconceptions. We work in health centers, where we can work with nurses, doctors, patients, and other community health workers about reducing gossip, stigma, and the health risks that their LGBTQ neighbors and family members face. And lastly, we work with NGOs, which bring together diverse groups and attract people who want to make social progress in Nicaragua.
The Peace Corps Nicaragua Volunteer group STAR (Sexuality Training, Awareness, and Response) is actively encouraging Volunteers in all sites to engage with the local LGBTQ community and STAR has the resources available to make that a reality for all Volunteers. Check out STAR’s Facebook page (search for “STAR Nicaragua”) for ready-made materials. STAR has a “charla-in-a-box” that you can download and easily throw together a Safe Zone Training in a local school or health center. We also have an English-Spanish glossary of LGBTQ terms and a database of LGBTQ NGO’s around the country.