It’s 6:03am on Saturday June 5, 2011 I am barely getting home from Playa 69 (the only gay club in Playa del Carmen). I’m actually not drunk, but buzzing (I stopped drinking a while ago). For the last few days I have been thinking about what I’m going to say/write about for my “100 days on the road” post. I know it’s a huge achievement (at least I think its pretty fetch) and I should be writing about how happy I am and how amazing backpacking around the world is. Well that is all true I am loving life and backpacking around the world is amazing, and I am sure y’all can tell by my blog post, tweets and Facebook statuses, but tonight it hit me.
I arrived at the club around 1am, nice crowd going on and I was excited. I thought maybe I would meet someone. Well sure enough I did. Her name was Estrella. She smiled at me as soon as I walked in and I thought to myself wow that is a beautiful woman she must be here with her gay friends. She kept smiling at me and I would smile back. I was confused “hello we are at a gay club I’m sure she knows I’m not into women”. A while later she comes up to me and starts talking. We start with small talk… name, how are you, etc. etc… Then I ask her where she is from and she lets me know she is from a small town between Cancun and Play del Carmen. She lets me know she loves coming to Playa del Carmen because she can be herself. I look at her with an awkward face, “What do you mean be yourself”? She says “yes I can only come here once a month if I’m lucky and that is when I can be who I really want to be… a woman”. In my mind I’m thinking “WTF you are a man”? I’m not kidding she looked amazing and like a real women. She then went on and told me that where she works and at home she has to be a man and she hates it. Of course when she told me that my heart broke. I stood there with open ears and heard her story.
After talking for a while she let me know she needed to go home. We said our good byes and the rest of the night I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I kept thinking about her and all the GLBT people I have met on my trip so far. I have met quite a few and everyone has the same story. They cannot be open about who they really are because where they are from it is unacceptable. I remember clearly the night I spent 2 hours talking to a drag queen in Isla de Ometepe their stories are very similar. Every time I hear or even think about the stories I have heard my heartbreaks.
***I fell asleep & am now (June 8/9, 2011) finishing the post***
Now that I am on the road I am learning about GLBT communities in other countries. The problems we face at home (USA) are universal however here in Central America it is much worse. It does however vary from country to country. For example Costa Rica is considering giving legal recognition to same-sex unions. Costa Rica is also the only place I went to where the gay bars actually had huge rainbow flags hanging outside or the announcements where big and rainbow. You would clearly know that a certain place is a gay bar. However in other places like Panama it is not the same. I spent a week in Panama City and of course it being a big city I thought it would be easy to find a gay bar, but that wasn’t the case. Luckily the receptionist at the hostel was gay and let me know where we needed to go. Once we arrived I was shocked that the club had no sign at all and was just two doors in between two tire shops. Those were the only two times I went to a gay bar while in Central America. In Nicaragua only recently (March 2008) did the laws change to make same-sex sexual activities legal. So yes you read that right before March 2008 it was illegal to have sex with the same gender. In Belize today (YES TODAY 2011) same-sex sexual activity is illegal and comes with a penalty of 10 years imprisonment.
I didn’t bring up Mexico because Mexico is actually way ahead of the game especially that of the U.S.A. In Mexico we are allowed Civil Unions in Mexico City only, but they are then recognized by all 31 states in the country. Single gays and same-sex couples can also now adopt kids with out being discriminated against. I’ve also spent a lot of time in Mexico and know the people here are more tolerant of the GLBT community then in others I have been too.
I know Gay bars is NOT a way to gage a countries stance on GLBT issues, but at the same time it does represent a tolerance level that is permitted in cities in these countries. It is also here where I meet so many people who just want to be happy. They go to the only place where they can be themselves and enjoy it 100% so the 95% of the time when they cannot be them selves they can stay sane.
At home I had stopped going to Gay bars as often as I used to after I got arrested for drinking and driving. My life changed after that and it was a huge wake up call I needed. Now while I am on the road I am finding myself eager to find a gay club/bar because I know it may be the only way I can meet another gay person. I have been traveling now 100 days and aside from the awesome lesbian couple Dani & Jessica from Globetrotter Girls I have not bumped into another GLBT backpacker at all. So yes even though I am myself 100% while I am on the road, I don’t have the opportunity to meet other gays in the hostel. So yes I seek out the gay bars in the big cities I go too.
I mean yes occasionally I do meet a gay locals in some of the most random places (I have no clue how this happens to me, but it does). For example when I first arrived in Panama City a guy did ask if he could see my penis. A night I spent camping on the beach in Isla de Ometepe (Nicaragua) one of the locals that had joined us turned out to be gay. We chatted for a long time about things before one thing lead to the other. On a CHICKEN BUS in Guatemala a gay man sat next to me and well I am sure y’all have read that story. Then here in Playa del Carmen on Monday we (Erica, Shaun, Cynthia & I) went skinny-dipping and we noticed some man was watching us. Me while being naked went over there asked a few questions and turned out it was a gay guy. We then chatted and had a good time. So I am meeting gay men but in the most random places and then the next day (hell even a few minutes later) I never see them again.
What I do see is that “WE” are everywhere and one of the things that is universal among the GLBT community no matter where I go is we just want to be happy. So here I am 100 days into my “BREAKAWAY” and I don’t understand why “WE” don’t have equal rights. Why do people not understand we are just humans like the rest of the world and want to be happy? Why can’t we live and let live?
These last 100 days have opened my eyes to so many things I would have never discovered had I not taken a chance or risk on my change of plans. 100 days in and I can honestly say I am 100% happy. Gosh just thinking about how happy I am is bringing tears of joy to my eyes. I look forward to so many more days on the road and hope they are as great as the first 100.