Archive for May 7th, 2010

Bolivian Like You

Time to ditch archaic ideas on homosexuality – The Irish Times – Fri, May 07, 2010

HOMOSEXUALITY IS caused by eating chickens, according to the Bolivian president ( The Irish Times , April 22nd).

The Bolivian president said no such thing, though this claim was widely attributed to him by media outlets.

What he said was:

“El pollo que comemos está cargado de hormonas femeninas, por eso cuando los hombres comen esos pollos tienen desviaciones en su ser como hombres”

Translated literally, that means “the chicken we eat is loaded with female hormones, and so when men eat those chickens they have deviations in their being as men.”

This has nothing to do with sexuality. Given that he also referred to the premature growth of breasts in girls as down to hormone-treated chicken in the same speech, it is perfectly reasonable to infer that he was referring to gynecomastia, or to sterility. Whether this represents a statement with basis in fact I am not equipped to judge.

In response to the controversy generated by the interpretation of the remarks widely disseminated by international media, the spokesman for Evo Morales held a press conference in which he said that under ‘no circumstance’ did he make reference to gay people during his speech.

Anyone familiar with the details of the new Bolivian constitution, introduced by the Morales government, much to the chagrin of the Catholic Church and the Latin American oligarchy with which it is intimately intertwined,  would have been instantly suspicious about the reported remarks. Under the new constitution, all forms of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity are prohibited.

There are plenty of factors that need to be highlighted in explaining why Morales’s remarks were given so much coverage and were uncritically accepted as true in Europe and the United States.

First, because of the long established practice of representing poorer countries as intrinsically backward. In polite terms, this takes the form of an assumption that ‘developed’ countries should instruct ‘developing’ countries, without taking into account that the ‘developed’ status of the former is the result of the historical exploitation of the latter.

Second, with particular regard to Latin America. An effect of Orientalism was the development of a widespread public perception, in the West, of Arab and Muslim societies as unchanging sites of exotic licentiousness and capricious despotism. We see something similar occurring with Latin American countries, whose representation often relies on a mish-mash of grotesque images of violent strong-arm dictators, submissive and compliant women, cocaine barons and sweaty slobs, all against a backdrop of bowdlerised ‘magic realism’, according to which no tale is too outlandish to be dismissed as untrue. Both perceptions entail the counterpoint of the rational, sexually continent, hygienic, productive, civilised Westerner, whose own society is the engine of true progress for the barbarous subaltern.

Third, with regard to sexuality, since there is no fundamental contradiction between sexual preference and neoliberal doctrine concerning what passes for personal freedom (a multinational corporation, whilst basically a tyranny, will make plenty of self-congratulatory noise about ‘diversity’ and will allow LGBT societies even as it slashes pay and refuses to recognise unions), and since many advances have been made (not least through concerted struggle by gay rights organisations) it becomes an automatic assumption that progress with regard to LGBT rights can only be produced from within a neoliberal capitalist framework. Therefore, when it comes to Latin America, and in particular to a country where alternative societal model is being developed, and as such is considered as part of the official enemy, the notion that people there can make advances in this regard, and on their own terms, cannot be entertained.

Here is a video produced by the Bolivian Ministry of Health and Sport in 2009, and broadcast on national TV spots.


Imagine, that because of your appearance, because of your way of being, or your identity, that they can push you to one side.

(That) if you had a son, a daughter, a nephew (or niece), a brother (or sister), a loved one who is bisexual, homosexual, transexual, lesbian, gay, and for this reason they were victim of discrimination.

Do something! Put a stop to it!

Me? I am gay.

I’m lesbian

I’m bisexual

We’re trans

We are Bolivians like you.

17th of May. Worldwide day against homophobia and transphobia. 28th of June. Gay, Lesbian and Trans Pride day.

The Irish Times with and its contributors have a lot to learn from the Bolivian people. The reverse is not true.

The preamble to the new constitution proclaims that the ‘neoliberal colonial republican state’ of the past has been left behind.

The text of the constitution says that, for instance:

  • ‘the only health system will be universal, free, equitable, intracultural, intercultural, participative, with quality, warmth, and oversight by society. The system is based in principles of solidarity, efficiency and mutual responsibility, and is developed through public policies at all levels of government.’
  • ‘Social security is provided under conditions of universality’.
  • ‘Social security services cannot be privatised or outsourced’.
  • ‘The state will promote the incorporation of women to the workplace and will guarantee the same remuneration to men for work of the same value, both in the public as in the private sector.’

And much, much more, which I plan to cover in another post when I get the time.

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May 2010