An activist, an election and lgbtq rights in costa rica public radio international gas smoker ribs


Bruno, 44, is an LGBTQ rights activist in San José, Costa Rica. While historically Catholic and conservative, in recent years Costa Rica had been expanding rights to the LGBTQ community and was becoming known for its progressive politics. But in January, when the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that Costa Rica should allow same-sex marriage during an election year, presidential candidate Fabricio Alvarado rode a wave of anti-LGBTQ sentiment to the top of the polls. Costa Rica was thrown into a runoff election between an establishment candidate, Carlos Alvarado, who said he would follow the court’s opinion and Fabricio Alvarado (no relation), an evangelical singer who campaigned against same-sex marriage and sexual education.

“When I came home from school I’d lock myself in my room and take out my makeup pencil. I’d draw on a beard and mustache and make my eyebrows thicker. I’d put on one of my brother’s shirts and I learned every knot that I could learn and I’d sit and watch TV, feeling happy with the way I looked,” Bruno said. “But when my parents called to me, I’d run to the bathroom to wash off my face and put on a blouse.”

“It was a moment when everything was illuminated. Have you seen the movie ‘Pleasantville,’ where everything is black and white and then all of a sudden things come into color? That’s how it was for me — I’d been living for 30-odd years in black and white and suddenly they tell me I can grow facial hair and transition and my life came into color,” said Bruno.

He went to the courts to change his name on his government-issued identification. The judge told him he had planned to rule against his request but changed his mind when Bruno’s partner gave her testimony about the humiliation they faced every time they went to the grocery store. She explained that clerks would ask for ID when Bruno paid with his credit card and would reject it because it still showed a female name and sex while he had a beard and mustache.

As Bruno’s life evolved, so did Costa Rica’s political climate. In 2017, after years of advocacy, the government started offering publicly funded hormone therapy for transgender people. Then the Inter-American Court of Human rights published its opinion that Costa Rica should allow same sex marriage.

That’s when Fabricio Alvarado took the national stage. He made headlines when he said that, if elected, he’d pull Costa Rica out of the Court rather than follow their ruling on same sex marriage. He also promised to get rid of non-discrimination protections that had been signed into law and stoked fears that recognizing transgender people would lead to men pretending to be women in order to assault other women.

With the runoff election looming, Bruno threw himself into his activism and getting out the vote. He was also working on a nationwide program to make sure transgender people could make it to the polls without being harassed. He was worried about the outcome.

On April 1, his candidate, Carlos Alvarado, won by a large margin and Bruno was relieved. Since the election, the government is set to follow the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling and they are now allowing transgender people to change their names and plan to eliminate sex from government-issued identification.

“There are three things I want: First, that transgender people aren’t reliant on a psychologist’s approval [for hormone treatment]; second, that people under 18 can get access to hormones; and third, that it’s a complete package — [publicly funded] hormones and gender-affirming surgery,” he said.

Government officials say they’re open to the changes Bruno wants to see. Doctor Gloria Terwes worked on the legislation for publicly funded hormone therapy. She underscored that as a public institution they have a mandate to ensure they aren’t putting people at risk.