By Fernando Gimeno
Lima, Mar 24 (efe-epa).- “Being a gay man in Peru is exhausting,” says Peruvian epidemiologist Mateo Prochazka, who the Covid-19 pandemic has made the visible face of the exodus of LGBTQ people with education and skills to escape repression and hostility in the Andean nation.
“I knew that to have the life I wanted to live and access to the rights I believe I deserve as a gay man I had to go abroad, far from Peruvian society’s structure of intense stigma,” he told Efe from London, where he is senior epidemiology scientist with Public Health England.
A survey of LGBTQ emigrants found that while 90 percent of them are open about their sexuality in their respective adopted homelands, only 10 percent allowed themselves that liberty while living in Peru.
The study, carried out by the organization Mas Igualdad (More Equality) and the office of Peruvian lawmakers Alberto De Belaunde with support from the Canadian Embassy in Lima, entailed interviews with 761 expats between the ages of 26 and 35, 70 percent of them university graduates.
“Mateo is brilliant and today he could be an adviser to (Peru’s) health minister, but these professionals have the right to be happy and to have a life project that is not permanently at risk,” De Belaunde says.
More than 80 percent of the respondents said that the absence of LGTBQ rights in Peru was a major factor in their decision to emigrate.
Strikingly, 76 percent said they had no thought of returning to Peru.
“This demonstrates that homophobia and transphobia, besides being a legal and moral problem, is an economic problem that makes Peru less competitive,” De Belaunde says. “There is a lot that could have developed here, contributing wealth and generating knowledge.”
Prochazka, 32, says that he would never have held hands with another man in public in Peru for fear of receiving “verbal or even physical aggression.”
“In the United Kingdom I live my sexuality in a very open manner. At work, everyone knows I’m gay and there’s no problem. I’m not the only one. There are also trans (people), bisexuals and lesbians,” the scientist adds.
Some in Peru have called on Prochazka to come home and help the country cope with Covid-19, but he is unwilling to return in the absence of legal recognition for his same-sex relationship.
“How am I going to move to a country where my family doesn’t exist as a family?,” he says.
Alessia Injoque, a Chile-based trans lesbian executive with Latin American retail giant Cencosud, turned down a move back to her native Peru that came as she was preparing to began the transition process.
“They offered me a better salary and a better job in Peru and I rejected it. I had no expectation that my transition would be well received in the firm. I knew well that in Peru there are no laws that will protect me or give me space to be as I am,” she recounts to Efe.
“At least in Chile I felt more possibilities to be accepted and at least they wouldn’t fire me. When I told my boss (about transitioning), she supported me through the entire process,” Injoque says. “There was an effort by the organization so I could continue working, with even more responsibilities.”
Injoque, 39, made the move to Chile nearly 19 years ago and shows no inclination to go back to Peru.
“I always say that I was born in Peru and reborn in Chile”, she says. “The fact of transitioning in Chile and being accepted with affection has made this truly my home.”
More than 15 years after he emigrated to Mexico, 72-year-old economist Oscar Ugarteche, recently saw Peru’s Constitutional Tribunal refuse his motion seeking legal recognition for his Mexican marriage to Fidel Aroche.
“Peru is stuck in the first half of the 19th century or the last part of the 18th century. In terms of mentality, it remains bound by the influence of the Catholic Church,” he says.