By: Melissa Segarra Ramos
A press conference about LGBTT rights and issues in Puerto Rico was held at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez; by a group of students from the campus on Thursday, November 7, 2013. The panel was composed of Dr. Luis Nieves, professor from Sciences Department, attorney José Rodríguez,president of Heterosexual for the equality, UPRM student Denisse Echevarría, member of the Gay Straight Alliance, and UPRA, Elvin Ramos.
The press conference was held Chardónbuilding at 10:30 am. A topic of interest in the discussion was how accepting is Puerto Rico towards the LGBTT community. The LGBTT community had suffered through years a lot of rejection in their jobs, schools and even in their families and it is of interest to this community to know how PR society feel towards them, said Pedro Julio Serrano, of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.
The first panelist to start the discussion was lawyer José Rodríguez “It is unreal to say that Puerto Rico is not a judgmental society, the religion treats this subject like if it was a taboo,” Rodriguez said. To solve the issue Rodríguez suggested that this subject should be treated and talked about in the family and in daily life because the more is talk about the topic more people will get used to it. “Puerto Rican society has begun to accept it but the journey is long,” he said. PR needs time to get used to something that once was forbidden to every human being so the people could move forward as a united society, added Rodríguez
Elvin Ramos proceeded to share his testimony about how he felt when he came out as gay. “I came out when I was in middle school and had 13 years and now I have 18, at the time I was the only gay person, but now I am happy to see that other people had decide to accept them self,” Ramos said. The fact that this press conference about LGBTT issues has been held means that a lot have change in the society because before even saying the word gay was forbidden, added Ramos.
On the other hand, GSA president Denisse Echevarría, said “we have been moving forward because if we think negative we will keep being in the same situation,” PR has some areas and religious groups that are more open than others, which shows that in general PR has a progress and the GSA is trying to promote the progress in the UPRM, she said.
The final panelist to contribute to the comparative discussion of Puerto Rican society was professor Nieves. “I came out to my family when I was 18 years, now I am 55 and I can say that a lot has changed.” Nieves added, “in my time people got arrested for being gay, even you were arrested if they thought that you were gay, it was very difficult.” The UPRM is part of the change and will be part of the struggle for equality, said Nieves.
Michael K. Lavers a writer from Washington Blade posted on May 16, 2013, a progress that has be seen in Puerto Rican was when the Senate approved the 238 project that forbid discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity at the workplace. In addition the 438 project by the House of Representatives to amend the Law on Prevention and Intervention in Domestic Violence to provide the protection it offers to all couples regardless, sexual orientation or gender identity.
An article from “Primera Hora” on November 11, 2013 said, Puerto Rico is trying to move forward to support the LGBTT community by The Puerto Rico Queer Filmfest that will be held from November 14 through the 20 in San Juan. The festival stems from the need to give visibility to LGBT communities, as well as give out to these groups to the rest of society through film.