Santiago, Dominican Republic
I cannot speak on every aspect of the gay experience in the Dominican Republic, but I would like to share some of my experiences as a feminine, “out” lesbian who has been living in Santiago for what is now almost four months. I add these descriptors because I imagine that my feelings and experiences would be slightly or even much different if I was a gay man, if I was more masculine (and therefore not able to “pass” for straight), if I was in the closet, or if I was living in the more liberal city of Santo Domingo (where the above picture was taken). Although perhaps only a relatively small number of people may relate directly to my story, I feel called to share it in the hope that I can help someone else find their voice.
Before arriving in the Dominican Republic, I was sure to do my research on LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) rights in this country. I needed to make sure that I wasn’t going to one of those places where homosexuality is punishable by imprisonment, death, or anything crazy like that. I found that the situation here is not quite that bad. Homosexuality is legal, but there are no laws to protect LGBT people from discrimination or hate crimes. Same sex marriage? Forget about it; the government only recognizes matrimony between a man and a woman. I wasn’t planning on getting married here, so that wasn’t an immediate concern for me. I recognized, however, that where there are not laws to protect gay people, there is also most often a homophobic culture. I already knew that Dominican culture is heavily influenced by machismo and by Catholicism. A little googling confirmed my guess that Dominicans tend to be close-minded on issues of sexual orientation and that it is more acceptable for men to be gay. This has to do, again, with the religious influence and with strict gender roles that dictate that men must be macho and women must behave in certain ways, including being a good wife to her husband. I felt that I would be safer and that I would live more comfortably if I hid my sexual orientation. I was therefore determined to be in the closet for the first and only time in my life.