By: Yo-Ann Vélez Justiniano
A group of university students presented a press conference on October 24 at the University of Puerto Rico / Mayagüez consisting of four panelists: Anthropology professor Rafael Boglio Martínez, Psychology professor Bernadette M. Delgado, UPRM student and representative of the Gay-Straight Alliance Roberto Rivera, and UPRM student and poet Gaddiel F. Ruiz Rivera.
They answered questions related to bullying and the Puerto Rican society and maintained the focus on important subjects in regards to the LGBTT community on campus which has apparently gained recent popularity with the formation of the Gay-Straight Alliance, and the LGBTT movements who have recently tried to gain attention from government agencies.
Making a difference from other eras, in the interview a point was made: people are more open to discuss gender and sexuality related issues. Delgado affirmed that it’s encouraged to be open about such subjects inside campus and other educational systems, that accrediting agencies require the institutions to value diversity but that bullying still occurs and “the absence of psychologists doesn’t only occur on this campus, but also on the entire country.” She says the system doesn’t see mental illnesses as a problem; therefore people who are bullied for their sexual preferences don’t have easy access to psychological help.
Both Delgado and Boglio agreed that Puerto Rico is the most gay-friendly country in the Caribbean, but when it comes to political aspects Boglio said, “churches are mobilized and eternal salvation has become a political motivation”. This makes it difficult for the LGBTT to win any rights and also opens doors for other anti-gay organizations to manifest, like the February 19 “Pro-Family March”, which was “one of the largest pro-family demonstrations ever held in the U.S. commonwealth,” according to an article by Zuania Ramos from Huffington Post on Feb 19,2013.
Student and poet Gaddiel Ruiz differed about how gay-friendly the island is and described his own struggles when he “came out” and referred to his poetry as an outlet for all the pressure he was feeling at the time and also as a form of activism. His book “Viacrusis Of Otherness” uses graphic language to describe his emotions and religious elements at the same time. He spoke about groups who help HIV patients and how they concentrate mostly on homosexual males at the expense of lesbian women, which raises an issue of sexism.
On the other hand, Boglio raised the topic of gender expectations, such as how a man is supposed to work and a woman is meant to take care of children or housekeeping, what constitutes the logic of marriage, and how this could change if getting married would no longer mean to reproduce by natural means.
Gender expectations in the island are, according to Delgado, usually implanted by women who perpetrate the views of a traditional family in the upbringing of their children, leaving out all other possibilities. She accepts that she was in fact, not brought up in a traditional family and neither are most of the kids in this country. In fact, the 2010 Census notes that 33.6% of families in Puerto Rico are led by single women and 8.6% by single men, the rest would be left to a mixed combination of family members of different genders and sexual orientations.
According to Delgado, who is an expert on bullying, the tolerance in Puerto Rico’s society, lowering of bullying and acts of hate could depend on the use of prevention, proper protocols and communication of ideals. Roberto Rivera says the GSA works on campus to promote tolerance, the acknowledgement of gender diversity and a sense of community; it works to unite people, to what panelist Gaddiel F. Ruiz Rivera added at some point during the press conference that he wanted an “alliance of ideas.”
Ruiz Rivera’s poetry expresses, sometimes with the use of cruel words, the feelings of a homosexual man in a strongly conservative society.