In Canada, we have a special name for LGBTI people…

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The pride flag from the 2016 Barranquilla Gay Pride Parade. Photo: Mike Chartrand

Picture this: You’re walking down the street and you see a young couple, sitting on a bench in the park, holding hands, looking into each others’ eyes – in love. One of them reaches into a bag and pulls out a rose and they kiss quickly on the lips.

Okay – what’s going through your head? If you’re like most people, you’re thinking words like – beautiful, romantic, cute, and wonderful.

Now, what if I told you they’re both girls.. or guys. Do your descriptive words change?

If you were born in my home country – in Canada, your words wouldn’t change at all. Back home we have a special word for gay people – we call them.. people. The same applies to people of every social minority regardless skin color, language, ability, size or sexuality – in Canada, people are people and we don’t make any effort to differentiate them based on whatever it is that makes them a minority.

Why? Well.. in the words of our Prime Minister, because it’s 2016.

PM Justin Trudeau at Gay Pride Toronto, on 3 July 2016. Photo: Liberal Party of Canada
PM Justin Trudeau at Gay Pride Toronto, on 3 July 2016. Photo: Liberal Party of Canada

 

Here in Colombia on the other hand – especially here on the coast, in Barranquilla, it’s still 1950. I’ve heard all sorts of descriptive words to describe LGBTI people.. marica, mariposa, Maricón, mujercita, and plenty of others not fit to be printed.

So why the disparity between the two countries? Why are most Costeños so close-minded and so quick to judge when they see or hear about LGBTI people?

The main reason is ignorance. Ignorance from lack of knowledge. Lack of experience.

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Last week, across the planet, people celebrated diversity with pride parades and events showcasing the gay, lesbian, bisexual and trans contribution to society. In all the major cities across the world, places like New York, LA, Melbourne, Paris, London, Toronto, Stockholm, Berlin, and Bogota, hundreds of millions of people gathered in celebration.

Why? Because by getting out on the streets and showing the world that we exist and that we’re happy and prosperous, and that we are successful – by doing this, we are combating ignorance.

Gay pride is about education. It’s our way to say – Hey! We’re queer and we’re here. Now get over it.

Let me open your mind about who we are:

LGBTI people, just like straight people, occupy every single rung of society. For your enlightenment, the next time you watch TV or buy designer accessories or even buy an iPhone – be aware that gay people are directly involved.

Top 10 most successful gay people (that we know of)

  • David Geffen – Dreamworks Founder (worth 7 Billion USD)
  • Peter Theil – Co-founder of Paypal (2.2B)
  • Jon Stryker – Owner of Stryker Corporation (worth 1.8B)
  • Jennifer Pritzker – Owner of Hyatt Hotel chain (1.5B)
  • Domenico Dolce – Fashion Designer (1.5B)
  • Stefano Gabbana – Fashion Designer (1.3B)
  • Michael Kors – Fashion Designer (1B)
  • Chris Hughes – Co-founder of Facebook (800M)
  • Jann Wenner – Co-founder of Rolling Stone (700M)
  • Tim Cook – CEO of Apple (400M)

Top 10 most popular gay people (that we know of)

  • Ellen DeGeneres – Talk Show Host
  • Elton John – Singer
  • Rachel Maddow – News Anchor
  • Ricky Martin – Singer
  • Georgio Armani – Fashion Designer
  • Tracy Chapman – Musician
  • Anderson Cooper – News Anchor
  • Tammy Baldwin – US Senator
  • Perez Hilton – Blogger
  • Melissa Etheridge – Singer

FACT: LGBTI people make up at least 10% of the global population.

Some gay men are effeminate, most aren’t. Some lesbians are masculine, most aren’t. We are your brothers, sisters, parents, children, uncles and aunts, cousins and friends. We are your doctors and lawyers, teachers and gas station attendants. We run corporations and manage small companies. We clean streets and we make coffee. We work in factories, offices, and shopping malls. We are doctors, nurses, paramedics and heart surgeons. we are inventors and entrepreneurs.

I’ve heard all kinds of horrible things from people who assumed I was a bigot, just like them. You never know who we are until we tell you, so please, think about what you’re saying.

Editor’s Note: On July 3rd, we were at the LGBTI Pride Festival in Barranquilla. We were surprised by the turnout – there were approximately 1000 people – according to Lieutenant Sanchez of the National Police, turnout for the festival at Plaza de la Paz was likely half that of the previous year.  I spoke to the director of the LGBTI festival, Heriberto Mejía Mercado, who assured me that although the turnout at the plaza was low, the parade itself saw record attendance. “There were far more people at this year’s parade than there ever have been,” he said.

I also spoke with Melissa, a coordinator at Caribe Afirmativo, one of the groups which helped organize the parade. I asked her for her opinion on the success of this year’s parade and I asked what can be done to boost attendance for next year. Here is that interview:

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