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Latin American Social Attitudes Towards Queer Community


Nowadays, many countries and communities have to deal with a number of challenges connected to the recognition of rights among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transsexual/transgender (LGBT) people and their impact on social lives. Some countries or, at least, states accept the idea of same-sex marriages and pass special anti-discrimination laws easily, enjoying the feeling of freedom and progress. Corrales states that “outside of the North Atlantic, no region in the world has undergone more progress in expanding LGBT legal rights than Latin America” (4).

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At the same time, the last 15 years are regarded as a serious trial over the citizens of Latin America because of the existing social norms, cultural values, and political attitudes (Herrera 6). A variety of opinions is usually hard to explain because, despite the existing attitudes and the desire to motivate and support people, the officials of Latin America are not able to make everyone positively accept such changes.

The main goal of this research article is to identify what the current state of affairs concerning LGBT rights in Latin America is and clarify if there are some missing points in discussions, the recognition of which can help to bring a new perspective to an old debate. Sexual preferences of Latinos should not create problems, and a chance to find a solution to this challenge is to go deep into the details and understand if one common opinion may be formulated.

The peculiar feature of this project is the evaluation of the level of acceptance of sexual orientation through the prism of such factors as the size of the society, the possibility to share the same ideals (cultural and religious beliefs), and the necessity to exclude anyone who is different from society as a whole (political and social values) in order to bring Latin American society closer to a similar opinion about LGBT rights and freedoms.

Latin America: Social Peculiarities

Latin America is not just an ordinary region with certain standards, regulations, and legislation. Its peculiar feature is that it includes 33 different countries located in South and Central America and the Caribbean. Its people talk a variety of languages and demonstrate various cultural and social preferences. Therefore, it may happen that one and the same right or legislation may be supported in many regional domains of the law and stay reserved in others (Corrales 4).

The official population of Latin America is about 625 million. However, illegal immigration, unreported births, and deaths make it hard to give a clear number of people who live in Latin America at the moment. Still, the fact remains the same – the size of society in the chosen region is extensively large. People have to divide themselves into groups and communities to represent their ideas and support each other. The size of society is an important factor in identifying other important factors according to which Latin American society can be recognized and studied.

For example, much attention in Latin American society is paid to families. The concept of “familism, or familism” aims at underlining the “presence and significance of extended family networks for Latina/os” (Pastrana 88). Its understanding promotes the recognition of other social issues like religion and gender. For example, at this moment, there are many citizens who choose Christianity as their main religion. The presence of the Catholic Church and Evangelism determines the relationships between communities (Herrera 6).

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Despite their intentions to develop individual projects, groups, and communities, people cannot neglect the fact that they have to live with certain norms and policies. The definition of norms as “standards of appropriate behavior defined collectively” developed by Nogueira can be a helpful tool in the understanding of social behavior and expected modifications (546). Modern Latin Americans have to combine religious and socio-cultural norms in their intentions to promote new manifestations and express their ideas.

At the same time, the evident progress of the nation and an existing number of social movements are not enough to prove all changes in society. Calderon et al. explain that the analysis of socio-cultural changes and movements may show that new faces and ideas may have the same old masks and interpretations under new conditions only (21). Though the relationships between the state and its people are never static, their progress remains unclear due to numerous redefinitions and re-creations. Unfortunately, theory and reality vary considerably, and the representatives of Latin America comprehend this truth very clearly. They want to approach the topics that bother them a lot, still, their intentions are not usually supported by the government and other officials who aim to protect and guide.

The evaluation of the social peculiarities of Latin America is an important step in terms of this project because it helps to recognize what the chosen society has, what it may have, and what the reasons for new expectations and demands are. At this moment, Latin America is one of the most controversial regions in its attitudes to different laws. The analysis of social and cultural peculiarities should help to find the answer to the dilemma that despite the fact that this region has the most progressive laws to protect LGBT equality, the rates of violence against gays, lesbians, and other sexual minorities are considerably high (Brocchetto). Contradictions should be explained, and missing points in cultural, religious, and political perspectives can be recognized.

LGBT Rights: General Perspective vs. Latin America

The legalization of same-sex marriages has already become a trend and one of the most burning issues for debates. At this moment, 25 countries, including the United States and many countries in Latin America, have legalized such marriages and continue supporting LGBT rights (Felter and Renwick). There are also 72 more countries that aim to promote employment equality acts with the help of which the governments protect equal working conditions that cannot be defined by a person’s gender or sexual orientation (Felter and Renwick).

The protection of LGBT rights is a social opportunity to support lesbians and gays, as well as bisexual and transgender people. Such international organization as the United Nations has already demonstrated its attitude to the question of gay and lesbian rights by initiating the decade of the advancement of women in the late 1970s (Borda 325). Ecuador made a contribution by establishing several clinics where care for gay people can be offered. In Brazil and several European countries, people participate in numerous resolutions and meetings to discuss the outcome of discrimination and integrate the question of sexual orientation into local cultures.

Such trends prove that many people are not eager to leave the situation as it is. They are ready to take steps and demonstrate their positive attitudes. However, at the same time, the inability to come to the same conclusion signalizes that something is still wrong in this discussion. Many people cannot accept the fact that non-traditional sexual orientation has to be supported legally. Many explanations and evaluations can be given.

For example, some parents may not be against the idea of same-sex marriage and even befriend gays and lesbians. However, when the question if they want to see their children as gays, transgender or lesbians arises, a number of negative answers are given. Such a variety of opinions on the same issue from different perspectives should have its grounds, and the task is to understand what is missing in this discussion.

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As a rule, people from different countries demonstrate different attitudes to LGBT individuals. Some nations find it normal to spread violence and humiliation. Some nations want to support this group of people and use the law as the main evidence of their intentions. However, Latin America is the region where different decisions are made without even clear explanations. For example, the story of a Peruvian gay, Luis Alberto Rojas Marin, shows that even if the country has the law to protect LGBT rights, people are still under threat of being arrested and abused verbally and physically (Brocchetto).

Sebastian Urrutia Lutz was another victim of discrimination based on sexual orientation (Brocchetto). Though Chile has already legalized same-sex marriages, and it is normal to observe gay neighborhoods, meetings, and parties in this country, there are still some groups of people who are not ready to accept LGBT people and try to demonstrate their concerns through violence and fights.

The same situations are observed around the whole world. Even if the governments take millions of legal steps to create similar working and living conditions for people regardless of their gender, sexual orientation, or other factors, there is still a possibility to face a problem, a challenge, or even a fight in which failure may occur. In some parts of the world, people are ready to protect their rights. Some communities have to be properly motivated.

Missing Points in LGBT Rights Discussion

The analysis of the global perspective and the investigation of social and cultural norms of Latin America help to come to the conclusion that unstable and controversial attitudes to LGBT rights can be explained in terms of three different aspects united within the frames of one huge factor that is the size of society. Latin America is a region with millions of people in it. It is not a surprise that multiple social groups are created, promoting their cultures, religion, and politics. In addition, a number of personal traits and social prejudice can influence the formulation of ideas.

The Role of Culture

Certain acculturation processes have an impact on understanding the principles according to which Latina families have to live, as well as the attitudes to such issues as LGBT rights and freedoms. Corrales identifies two important factors, public opinion and secularism, and their roles in LGBT rights representation (23). On the one hand, many political parties and their leaders aim at promoting and supporting LGBT rights in Latin American society.

However, due to the existing homophobic attitudes of ordinary people, many politicians’ attempts have already failed. Though Corrales indicates a considerable decline of homophobia among Latin Americans (23), its impact cannot be ignored because it is public opinion, and its size is impressive. On the other hand, in Latin America, much attention is paid to secularism or people’s intentions to develop their positions independently from their religion. This movement promotes support to all LGBT representatives and performs the function of a predictor to adopt LGBT rights in all Latin American countries with time. Therefore the impact of culture is favorable to LGBT rights promotion in the chosen region.

Still, it is necessary to admit that Latin American culture is not only public opinion and secularism. The cultural aspect of this region is based on two concepts: machismo (masculine pride strongly supported in society) and, as it has been already saying, familism (a prevailing role of a family). In Latina families, it is normal to have a low level of education, certain religious beliefs, and traditional family structures (Pastrana 89).

Emotional support and recognition of personal needs cannot be ignored by family members. Close relationships between parents and children, regular discussions and dinners in family circles, and frequent evening/weekend meetings prove that Latin Americans respect family values and ties. However, in some families, the proclamation of being gay or lesbian may hurt the family unit because not all parents are able to accept the fact that their children or other family members forget about machismo principles and choose another way (Pastrana 89). At the same time, Latino society is defined as progressive and modern. Therefore, it is hard to understand why even after drifting away from numerous conservative views, Latin America cannot accept LGBT rights without debates.

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The answer is simple. There is a missing point in the discussion of family relationships and LGBT rights from the point of view of public opinion, secularism, and machismo principles. Regarding such a huge size of society and the necessity to deal with many communities and interest groups, it is hard for the whole region to create one single idea and follow it. In Latin America, people speak several languages (and all of them are defined as official), have different religions, and support various political and social parties. Among such a variety of cultural values and freedoms, it is wrong to believe that one positive attitude can be developed in regard to LGBT rights.

Importance of Religion in Small Groups

The presence of numerous religious institutions in Latin America also defines the attitudes toward LGBT people and their rights. Many researchers have already come to a conclusion that “the role religion plays in public perceptions of LGBT rights is surprising” because, despite progressive opinions and attitudes, some nations remain to be “home to some of the worst discrimination and violence against the LGBT community in the world” (Eulich). However, despite such strappingly developed ideas and conclusions, there is still a missing point of how it is possible for many people to overcome the role of religion and deal with such strong opponents of LGBT rights as Evangelicals and Roman Catholics (Herrera 7). Again, close attention should be paid to the existing variety of religious beliefs, but not to the overall power of religion in society.

In general, religion is against LGBT rights and cannot support the idea that same-sex marriages being legally allowed. Still, even in such definite and strict opinions and attitudes, there is a possibility to find a way and create a new perspective. For example, though Latin America is defined as a region with Christianity as the main religion, this belief may be characterized by a number of categories and exceptions. The Catholic clergy demonstrates supportive or, at least, less opposed opinion to anti-discrimination laws in comparison to the representatives of Evangelism who cannot even accept the possibility of such relationships between people, calling it “a disease that can be cured” (Brocchetto).

Still, this step to define sexual orientation as a disease is that very thing that can be used to clarify why LGBT rights can be supported by Latino society. Millions of people live with different diseases, take numerous steps to improve their conditions, and think about treatments and therapies that can help. A similar approach can be used to decrease disputes between religion and LGBT rights, and one day, introduce a society where religion, public opinion, and culture can support each other.

Official Fears and Competitions

Finally, to comprehend why Latin America cannot accept LGBT rights equally in all regions, it is necessary to focus on the evaluation of political and social arenas, possible fears of officials, and competitions that serve as the main drivers. The role of politicians’ opinions has to be underlined in society because their activities should not be regarded only as a chance to legalize each step and find a clear explanation to every decision made, but as a guide that unites millions of people and promotes equality. For example, women in Latin America face high rates of violence they experience at home by pushing to be submissive to their men and behave very feminine (Agence France-Presse; Brocchetto).

To support the rights of women, politicians, including presidents, are ready to develop new laws and establish penalties on people who humiliate or punish people because of their gender. Some political leaders prefer to go further and “enshrine” the promotion of LGBT rights (Eulich). However, the missing point here is that many such activities have to stop their intentions because of their fears and the lack of confidence that many people can support them.

Politicians, entrepreneurs, employers, and other leaders want to achieve as much positive feedbacks as possible. They are ready to try new approaches and introduce new rights, laws, and interventions. Still, as soon as they face some doubts or observe negative reactions among people, they drop their ideas and start thinking about alternatives. That is the reason why Latin America cannot demonstrate a single attitude to LGBT rights: people are just not ready to drop their doubts and neglect their prejudice.


To conclude this discussion, it is not enough to say if Latin America is ready to accept LGBT rights or not. It is more important to understand what can influence this issue and why people with such progressive and outstanding views can be challenged by the necessity to legalize and socially approve all the peculiarities of non-traditional sexual orientation. The current state of affairs in the region remains unclear because of a number of missing points. The development of close family relationships may be regarded as a benefit and barrier to LGBT rights because of the presence of public opinion and a diversity of family values and cultures.

It is hard to understand why one family is ready to support LGBT people, and another family in the same region opposes such a style of life. However, the recognition of multiple cultural, religious, social, and political factors is a step forward to find a solution to this debate. Though this paper does not contain an answer to the question of why the level of acceptance of sexual orientation varies, it has several clear explanations of missing points in the chosen discussion that may guide a solid basis for a new project.

Works Cited

Agence France-Presse. “Violence Against Women and Homosexuals in Latin America a Factor in the Spread of Aids.South China Morning Post. 2017. Web.

Borda, Orlando Fals. “Social Movements and Political Power in Latin America.” The Making of Social Movements in Latin America: Identity, Strategy, and Democracy, edited by Arturo Escobar and Sonia E. Alvarez, Routledge, 2018, pp. 317-329.

Brocchetto, Marillia. “The Perplexing Narrative About Being Gay in Latin America.CNN. 2017. Web.

Calderon, Fernando, et al. “Social Movements: Actors, Theories, Expectations.” The Making of Social Movements in Latin America: Identity, Strategy, and Democracy, edited by Arturo Escobar and Sonia E. Alvarez, Routledge, 2018, pp. 19-36.

Corrales, Javier. LGBT Rights and Representation in Latin America and the Caribbean: The Influence of Structure, Movements, Institutions, and Culture. 2015. Web.

Eulich, Whitney. “In Latin America, LGBT Legal Rights Changes More Quickly than Attitudes.The Christian Science Monitor. 2016. Web.

Felter, Claire, and Danielle Renwick. “Same-Sex Marriage: Global Comparisons.Council on Foreign Relations. 2017. Web.

Herrera, Mariana Araujo. “LGBT Rights in Latin America: Do Progressive Laws Equal Progressive Societies?” Washington Report on the Hemisphere, vol. 35, no. 17, 2015, pp. 6-8.

Nogueira, Maria Beatriz Bonna. “The Promotion of LGBT Rights as International Human Rights Norms: Explaining Brazil’s Diplomatic Leadership.” Global Governance, vol. 23, no. 4. 2017, pp. 545-563.

Pastrana, Antonio Jay. “Being out to Others: The Relative Importance of Family Support, Identify and Religion for LGBT Latina/os. Latino Studies, vol. 13, no. 1, 2015, pp. 88-112.

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