Am I imagining it, or are Colombians discovering that gays are everywhere, and feeling suddenly uncomfortable about it?
First, there was the bizarre polemic about gay referees working for Colombia's professional football league. The episode began after one referee accused another of making sexual advances toward him while spending a night at his colleague's home. Some other referees then claimed that their profession was dominated by gays.
Whether that's true or not, it's not necessarily any worse than other professions which are dominated by heterosexuals. And, while I heard some unsubstantiated accusations about sexual favors being required for advancement in the profession, I've heard no claims that gay refs are worse than straight ones, or that heterosexuals are excluded from the profession. That seems very unlikely in any case in such a macho environment.
Then there was the tragic story of the two Catholic priests who allegedly hired a killer to shoot them after one of them was diagnosed with AIDS. The two priests were evidently a couple and frequented gay bars in Bogotá's Chapinero neighborhood. While one of them had been accused of sexual molestation, many of their parishioners praised the men's work. It's difficult to imagine that this tragedy was rooted in anything but the Catholic Church's generally homophobic philosophy - despite the high proportion of gays in the priesthood. After all, in a Catholic society the priesthood has traditionally provided a ready-made excuse for not marrying.
Nevertheless, Father Alfonso Llano Escobar, who works for the Jesuit-run La Javeriana University and also writes a Sunday opinion column in El Tiempo newspaper, compared the two priests to "guerrillas and murderers," and suggested they committed "the same sin as did Eve."
Then came the polemic about Bogotá's proposed sex ed. curriculum, which says 'it's okay to be gay' or belong to other sexual minorities. Catholic Church officials and some parents criticized the plan as promoting homosexuality, despite lots of evidence that sexual orientation is deeply wired into us, as well as the common sense fact that in a culture with a strong homophobic current it seems unlikely that any youth would choose to be gay if he or she could help it.
Finally come the recent comments by a high Navy commander that if he discovered a gay person in the Navy he would remove him "by legal means." His comment conflicted with high court rulings that the military could not discriminate based on sexual orientation. The Colombian Armed Forces soon retracted the comments.
These polemics - or most of them - might actually be healthful symptoms of an overdue recognition that gay people exist throughout Colombian society, and the inevitable discussions that result in a still conservative, overwhelmingly Catholic society.
By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours