Gay Belize. Not two words we have ever heard put together.
As for every destination, we do a quick Google search to see what is available for the LGBT community in that country, whether this be nightlife, beaches, accommodation or events.
However, when we googled ‘gay Belize’, very little came up at all.
We knew there was a community, statistically there must be. We even found a Gay Belize Pride Page on Facebook which has 59k followers.
Who knows better about gay life in Belize than an LGBT local? We were lucky enough to find someone willing to answer the questions we had about gay Belize and they provided a very insightful picture.
Read our interview below with Rob*, a 23-year-old local gay male from the Cayo region of Belize.
TGG: What is the stereotypical view on the LGBT community in Belize? Is Belize gay-friendly?
Rob: ”The normal stereotypical view is that many straight men assume that gay guys are feminine. I’ve heard people talk about guys who are not “masculine” enough. Those who embrace femininity are “labelled” gay (it’s just jokes nothing as in physical abuses and stuff like that, although it’s something to not joke about because you can never know if the person is gay and is having a rough time).
Even myself, sometimes I see a guy wearing a pink shirt and I go “ooo interesting”. But that doesn’t mean he’s gay. There are also many gay guys who aren’t feminine. You wouldn’t consider them gay because they are giving you some butch realness, but they are. The same concept and ideologies can be seen with lesbians I would say. ”
TGG: What changes have you see over the years, whether this be law or attitudes towards LGBT people?
Rob: ”In 2016, with the removal of the sodomy law (it was illegal to have oral/anal sex for any couple not just homosexual) there was a definite change in the way that Belizeans saw LGBT people compared to when the law was active.
I personally noticed that many religions weren’t happy about it. Some even stopped sending their children to school. There were also protests outside the Supreme Court on the day that everything was finalized. They couldn’t do anything about it though, which was amazing, I was extremely happy! However, since then, acceptance is slowly happening. Many gay people are starting to be more open in the community by being themselves in social locations such as in downtown San Ignacio and in tertiary level educations such as the University of Belize. Although many religious people are opposed to the LGBT community, many non-religious people are more open-minded.
The biggest change that I have definitely seen is acceptance in the younger generation. The older generation still have their ideologies regarding sexuality, but some of the old folks are starting to change their views. They are starting to acknowledge the changes that are happening in the world by seeing it through international news such as CNN, NBC, FOX. They were able to get the first glimpse of such changes when the US legalized same-sex marriage. After that the first “similar change” here in Belize occurred with the removal of the sodomy law. Personally for me, my father has acknowledged the changes. He doesn’t let the “machismo” come in to play in his life as he did before when I was younger.”
TGG: Is there a gay scene to be found anywhere in Belize? Does gay Belize exist?
Rob: ”Gay friendly places in Belize would generally be the “tourist locations”. These include the Cayes, (Caye Caulker etc) and places like downtown San Ignacio. Therefore, there is that commodity or locations where gay people can be themselves. Since there are many tourists roaming around, these places start to become locations for gay couples, tourists and locals, to visit for dates. However, I am not so sure if local gay couples tend to be comfortable with holding hands if a crowd is present.
I have heard of a bar in San Ignacio and in the north (Corozal) that has become kind of an “unofficial gay bar”. Many gay guys tend to go there to socialize, go on dates and have fun. Gay guys tend to go there so often that many homophobic straight men now avoid these bars. I don’t know where exactly those bars are, there hasn’t been any “official gay bar” that has opened to my knowledge.
When it comes to gay pride, last year there was just some small events throughout the week that was promoted by UNIBAM and organised by several LGBT organizations, such as PETAL, Our Circle, EYBM, BYEC, and so on. In Belize City and in 2015 there were festivities that took place in Caribbean Villas Resort in San Pedro also.
Also last year there was a social gathering in the welcome centre in San Ignacio where the organizers educated the attendees about the LGBT community in Belize.”
TGG: What advice would you give LGBT travellers in Belize?
Rob: ”The advice I would give would be stay in tourist locations. If in Belize City and in San Pedro, there are some locations that are not safe. Not because of people being homophobic, but because of violence that occurs where there isn’t enough security. Even I tend to avoid certain locations in Belize City where there aren’t tourists walking about. This is also the same in other countries. I won’t find myself walking in a dark alley when visiting Cancun or Playa Del Carmen.
But do enjoy and be yourself. There are tourist areas with acceptance towards LGBT travellers such as Cayes, San Ignacio, Dangriga. Acceptance is slowly increasing as time goes by and as people start to realize that the world is changing and changing for the best. Also, do note that you can encounter persons who are homophobic and because of their ignorance and machismo they might feel the need to let you know of their disapproval but as RuPaul has said “People talking since the beginning of time Unless they paying your bills, pay them bitches no mind”.
I can assure you if such an encounter happens you will have people coming to your aid and showing you support, calling 911 and getting rid of the drunk person who is trying to show his “manliness”.”
We can’t thank Rob enough for working with us and telling us all about gay life in Belize. Incredibly insightful and useful to know. We have found Belize to be one the friendliest places we have ever visited so it’s not surprising to hear that there will be people there to support you if you are in trouble.
There seems to be some positive changes happening, albeit slow. There is still a way to go, so we still feel the need to be sensible and cautious. However we hope that when we visit Belize again in the future, things will have moved on for the better.
This is the first interview with a local we have conducted. Look out for more to come in our “Local Gay Stories” series as we continue our journey through Latin America.
*name has been changed to remain anonymous