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Gay Chile

By Ricardo Segreda

In general, "machista" attitudes towards gender and sexuality are conservative throughout Latin America, but there are latitudes of freedom and tolerance among various nations, and Chile stands out as having a more visible gay subculture than most, especially in its capital, Santiago.

This is not to say that Chile has caught up with Europe and North America. In the 18 years since democracy was restored to Chile, homosexuality has been decriminalized, but it is still regarded with suspicion by most Chileans. However, as with other Latin states, HIV and AIDS in the 1980s forced the public and the government to broach male homosexuality as a reality of life. In the 1990s the Internet and a globalized economy, with the resultant cross-pollination of cultures helped liberalize attitudes among the younger generation.

Along the way, initially in response to the AIDS crisis, more gay men and lesbians have braved coming out and mobilizing for gay rights. Groups like "Moviemento Unificado de Minorías Sexuales," or MUMS have lobbied for civil rights and fought prejudices against gay individuals. A hugely popular TV soap opera, "Machos," about the lives of seven brothers, broke ground when the producers had one of the siblings come out of the closet.

In 2006, Chile's congress introduced legislation legalizing same-sex civil unions, a measure supported by center-left president, Michelle Bachelet, but it met with strong resistance from the Catholic church and conservative groups. Another similar bill was reintroduced and is still pending.

Santiago has no less than nine gay (male) bars, three lesbian bars, ten gay discos and three saunas. The most prominent gay media is a periodical named "Opus Gay," a cheeky reference to the conservative Catholic group, "Opus Dei," which unsuccessfully sued for trademark infringement. Its website,, along with and offer a more comprehensive overview of gay life in Chile. However, the unwary Net surfer should be forewarned that the domain name, has been purchased by a conservative protestant church, and one will be redirected to its evangelical homepage.



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06 Jul 2009

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