By Jorge Gil Angel
Bogota, Sep 1 (EFE).- Johana Guerra and Lina Piñeros got a first-hand look at housing discrimination facing LGBTQ+ individuals in Colombia, having to start from zero after a landlord in Bogota learned that they were a lesbian couple.
Many other members of that community have encountered similar difficulties when trying to rent or buy a home, a reality that initiatives like the “Arriendos Libres de Estereotipos” (Stereotype-Free Rentals) campaign are trying to combat.
Using posters similar to the “Se Arrienda” (For Rent) signs seen throughout Colombia, property owners participating in that campaign make it clear to would-be tenants that no one will be excluded.
Guerra and Piñeros told Efe that they first experienced discrimination while the two were looking for a place to rent.
“I arrived to see the apartment … and I think (the landlord) thought it was just for one of us. I saw it. I told him I loved it and asked to fill out the paperwork … He asked me who it was for and I told him for the two of us. His attitude changed immediately,” Piñeros said.
The man “came up with some random excuse” and told them a day later that he had decided not to rent the apartment because “other plans came up and it was no longer available,” she added.
Among the LGBTQ+ community, the trans-gender population is particularly susceptible to discrimination when trying to rent a place to live.
Trans people are often associated with sex work, and that creates “social, economic and political dynamics” that lead to their being marginalized and relegated to areas marked by poverty and crime, according to a report by Fundacion GAAT, a Bogota-based foundation that provides support to members of that community.
The foundation’s executive director, Danne Aro Belmont, told Efe that trans individuals face different barriers to housing and can be rejected outright or forced to pay exorbitantly high rental fees.
And in some places trans individuals’ lives are made unbearable due to prejudiced notions that “we’re criminals or (people who are) out of control or engage in prostitution,” she said.
The Fundacion GAAT executive director described her experience two years ago while living in an apartment with two other members of her “trans family.”
“You would see boys go into the apartment building and sometimes some girls would come out who were completely different, armed from head to toe and wearing high heels.”
Eventually, she said, the real-estate company terminated the contract with the argument that “a prostitution ring was (operating) in the apartment building because boys were coming in and girls were going out.”
To promote access to dignified housing for members of the LGBTQ+ community, the retailer Sodimac Colombia launched the “Stereotype-Free Rentals” initiative through its Homecenter and Constructor brands.
The campaign encourages Colombians who plan on renting their home to download a “Se Arrienda Sin Estereotipos” (For Rent Without Stereotyping) sign from the website arriendoslibredeestereotipos.com and display it outside their property.
Guerra and Piñeros say these types of initiatives are important and that they hope they have staying power.
For his part, the manager of the Bogota-based real-estate agency Home, Daniel Herrera, said attitudes in Colombia have evolved.
“If a trans client requires our services in their search for an apartment, either to buy or rent, they can be certain that they will be treated like any other client,” he said. EFE