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In Peru, straight allies are crucial for equality

GSN chats to Igualdad Peru director Luis Antonio Capurro, who believes we need to respect a straight person’s opinion if we want them to respect ours

In Peru, straight allies are crucial for equality

As a member of the LGBT community, are you actively hetero-friendly?

Sure, we live in a predominantly straight world that we’re trying to make as gay-friendly as possible.

However, the process is not always friendly, and unfortunately has been known to include violence and even death.

But in the fight for our rights, do you forget that in some cases you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?

Igualdad Peru’s director Luis Antonio Capurro reminds us that heterosexuals are not the enemy (at least not all of them).

In fact, he’s capitalized on the fact that we need gays and straights to get behind pro-LGBT legislation, and he’s encouraging that message in person and online.

Igualdad (Equality) Peru is a YouTube campaign where straight American actors, Peruvian doctors, university students and professional surfboarders recorded videos reaffirming their stance on anti-discrimination.

Of course, what would a gay-straight alliance be without any gays?

Javier Fuentes Leon, director of 2010 Sundance Film Festival Winner ‘Contracorriente’ recorded a video for Igualdad Peru about trying to fit in and finally coming out.

It’s not only Peruvians who want to see a Peru with equality.

Spokesperson for Movilh, Chile’s leading sexual minority organization, Jaime Parada recorded a message of support through the YouTube campaign.

The president of Argentina’s LGBT Federation (FALGBT) Estaban Paulón
also recorded a video encouraging Peru and all of Latin America to work hard for equal rights.

Gay Star News spoke to Igualdad Peru’s Luis Antonio Capurro to discuss the courting of heterosexuals for LGBT rights.

To check out the videos and to submit your own, check out Igualdad Peru’s YouTube channel.

GSN: Talk to me about the inception of Igualdad Peru.
LAC: Igualdad Peru is a platform, an initiative from a political entity called Gobierno Coherente. It was launched as a campaign that will allow us to sensitize others, both gay and straight. It started as a personal reflection, where I wanted for myself or someone else to be able to get married or adopt kids. Whether or not people want to do it, they should at least have the option.

My idea was to make videos for LGBT people, but not from LGBT people. My strategy was: we must capture and call the attention of the heterosexual community. It’s my creation as part of my motivation to develop something within my community to be able to develop ideas and create a consciousness that boost access to rights.

I think something the LGBT movement in Peru was lacking were straight allies, to have more resonance and impact. Some gays don’t believe in straight allies, but I believe that they have an important point of view that must be respected, just as we want ours to be respected.

What is Gobierno Coherente (Coherent Government) and what’s its role in your project?
Six or seven years ago, a group of college friends got together to create a different policy and outlook within Peru. Gobierno Coherente became a political association, a political think tank and a government watchdog, and it’s now trying to be a political party. Last year I introduced Igualdad Peru to the team. The idea was to include Igualdad Peru and the message of equality with a non-LGBT political group. We though the strategy would give us a greater return in political circles.

I don’t like calling Igualdad Peru a project because that means it has a beginning and an end. We believe that Igualdad Peru has a sustained, prolonged because the fight for LGBT rights is an ongoing battle, and even though it’s in beginning stages, we hope that over time we’ll be able to come up with ways to achieve marriage equality and hate crime law in this country.

Why did you decide on a campaign that targets straight people?
Because I think the message is more ingrained when it comes from straight people. The straight community knows about marriage, they have information about the topic, but the gay community has had to educate the heterosexual community about what marriage does and can mean for us.

I thought a great way to do that is through videos where straight people share messages against homophobia, against discrimination over sexual orientation, and pro-LGBT rights. I began locating various people, leaders of opinion and influential members in their industry, and thankfully the majority of them agreed to make a video.

Since August 2011 we’ve been recording a series of videos with academics, journalists, reporters, public figures, from a congressman to a surfer, a news reporter to a ballerina.

How do you differentiate yourself from other viral campaigns like ‘Todo Mejora’ (the Spanish-language version of ‘It Gets Better’)?
For us it’s important to create a relationship with institutionalized and non-institutionalized LGBT community activists and other organizations. Social networks have permitted for individuals to control and spark a movement from wherever they are. We don’t pretend to separate ourselves from entities with whom we can create fruitful relationships.

Todo Mejora is a project specifically against homophobic bullying. We cover a wider range of goals: visibility and awareness of marriage quality, anti-discrimination. I believe we have to add, not subtract.

I’ve heard comments from some gay people who’ve said that they don’t want straight people speaking for them. But it’s through straight people we need to form the important partnerships to raise visibility of our causes. I think the goal is to integrate into the whole of society.

What do you think are the next steps for the LGBT community in Peru?
We don’t have any laws that favour us. Some proposals have been made but there is no law against hate crimes, and each year we see an increasing number of attacks on the most vulnerable LGBT group: transvestites. We also don’t have an anti-discrimination law against sexual orientation. However, there are some municipalities that have brought on some anti-discrimination protections.

I believe in marriage equality, where we can have access to partner benefits and adoption rights. We also strive to ally ourselves with any laws that will protect LGBT communities. If we can start with a civil union law, let’s start with that.

We have a Congress that’s heavily influenced by the Catholic faith. We have prominent religious leaders who are open about their anti-gay sentiment. That doesn’t help with the development of laws we need.

Now that Igualdad has a global presence, what has the response been from both politics and the public?
The public response has been positive. We’ve grown in followers, in people who’ve gotten in contact with us wanting to know more about the organization. I think one of the best experiences I’ve had is meeting so many heterosexual people who really want change, who want to live in a society that will be better for their children.

I don’t measure success by how many people click the ‘like’ button or how many people re-tweet my story. I feel my success when I see that people are interested in the project or express their desire to lend their support.

Have you encountered any obstacles in the development of the campaign?
Within the program, the principle difficulties we’ve had are the lack of sponsors and funds. Manpower, we have. We’re now a team of people whose background ranges from economy to academics, medicine to law. Between my team of Gonzalo Rivera , Alonso Vascones, Juan Carlos Dávila, Carlos Ponce de León and Mariloli Camarero, we keep growing and challenging ourselves.

We’ve made a calendar of events from here until December. With more funds, we’d be able to make a much greater campaign, but we’ve made great achievements with the resources we have. Another area where we can improve is relationships with other organizations, not just LGBT, but with the government and other social organizations.

What’s on the horizon for Igualdad Peru?
The point of Igualdad Peru isn’t just to make a video. We also have plans for a series of seminars and programs to open dialogue so people can give their opinions, debate issues and inform themselves. For example, we’ll be holding a seminar about religion and sexuality.

Who do you want to make your next Igualdad Peru video?
In the videos we’ve recorded there’s a little bit of everything. We have several actresses and journalists and reporters who have agreed, and we’re always on the look out for people.

We’d love to work with opera tenor Juan Diego Florez, chef Gastón Acurio. Maybe even Nadine Heredia, Peru’s first lady and photohrapher Mario Testino. They’d be pivotal because they’re such high-profile figures who could have a greater influence.

I think that eventually, with all these movements that have risen, we’ll help society change, we’ll lend each other a helping hand. At the moment, Proyecto Igualdad and Todo Mejora are the only two organizations in Peru that use viral video campaigns to spread a pro-LGBT message. My dream is for Igualdad Peru to eventually be for everyone.

Twitter: @Igualdadperu