Homosexual marriage may now be a norm, but homophobia persists
Attitudes of students and religious figures reveal discriminatory attitudes.Spain might have the most advanced legislation in the world when it comes to giving equal rights to gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgenders, but that hasn't done much to change Spaniards' attitudes toward homosexuals, a new study shows.
On paper, people say they favour laws granted by the government allowing homosexuals to marry and adopt. But on the streets it is a different story.
Some pro-gay associations believe that it is precisely a reaction to those newly acquired civil rights that has fomented a growing wave of homophobia in society, and sparked comments against homosexuals in the press.
In one recent episode, Bernardo Álvarez, the bishop of Tenerife, told a local newspaper that homosexuals were more inclined to commit sexual crimes, and that he believed only six percent of homosexuals can say they are that way because of biological reasons.
"Homosexuality shouldn't be confused with the need to exist, with that which is practiced as a vice," he told La Opinión de Tenerife on 21 December. The bishop went on to say that some minors provoke paedophiles into committing sexual acts.
But these views are not just confined to the Catholic Church. Homophobia appears to be growing among young people.
According to crime statistics, most of those who are violent toward homosexuals, a practice known as gay bashing, are under the age of 30. Last month in Barcelona, a gay couple was beaten after a group of youths asked the men for a light. In 2006, Juan Ignacio Pichardo and his boyfriend were kicked by rowdy youths when they embraced inside a Madrid Metro station.
"Education is the solution, but it is going to take some time before it has its effects," believes Jesús Generelo, who is responsible for educative services at the pro-homosexual association Cogam. In 2005, Generelo and Pichardo conducted a study that proved that homosexuals in Spanish schools are still prone to more hate, violence and discrimination than heterosexual students are.
"Gays do exist. Some are normal people who don't go around flashing their sexual orientation. Then there are the queens who go around screaming that they want sex and about all the fun they have," said one youth in the study. "These are the people who make me sick, and who deserve to be looked down upon."
After this poll was conducted, another study was taken among secondary school students in two Madrid municipalities: Coslada, where the town hall commissioned the survey, and in San Bartolomé de Torajana. In the latter municipality, only students from public schools participated because private institutions didn't want their pupils answering questions on sexual diversity.
In all, 4,636 students - or 65 percent of the school population in those two municipalities - between the ages of 11 and 19 filled out the questionnaires. The results suggest that if there is no shift in views in the future, the outlook for a peaceful coexistence with homosexuals in Spanish society isn't good.
Asked what they felt when they saw two men showing affection in public, 25 percent answered that it would make them feel sick while seven percent said they thought it was bad. Add these figures to the 32 percent who said that it didn't bother them, but that "it shouldn't be done in public," and 64 percent of the adolescents are against watching two men embrace in public. On the other hand, 34.7 percent said they "didn't find it bad."
Girls appear to be more open than boys when it comes to sexual diversity. Only two percent said they found it bad, nearly 10 percent said it would make them "sick" and only 23 percent said this should be done in private. On the contrary, 64 percent said they approved of it.
When it comes to two women kissing, boys see the subject in a different light. Nearly 58 percent said that they didn't find it bad, and seven percent who answered that they found it sickening. One boy perhaps summed up the explanation for this radical change of views. "Looking down on gays makes you more manly," he said.
Among the reasons why young people reject homosexuals can be that there are few public role models, the authors of the survey say. Kids can hardly name a famous gay person, much less a lesbian or transsexual.
Pedro Zerolo, who is Socialist Party secretary for social movements and openly gay, believes that society itself has held back. Since homosexual marriage was legalised in 2005, there have been more than 8,000 civil ceremonies. "At 40 percent of those weddings, family members didn't attend. Women were given equal rights 30 years ago and they still face discrimination," he said.
[Copyright EL PAÍS / EMILIO DE BENITO 2008]
Subject: Spanish news