They’ve changed social reality
Ten to fifteen years ago, there was total silence surrounding LGBTQ issues in Bolivia. You couldn’t talk about it, neither in school nor at home. “Coming out was extremely difficult. We still don’t have the same rights as heterosexual or cis people, but a great deal has happened since we started the organization,” says Alberto Moscoso, chairperson of Adesproc Libertad.
Diakonia’s partner organization Adesproc Libertad is one of the organizations that has been working the longest for LGBTQ people’s rights in Bolivia. The organization has existed since the mid-90s. Alberto Moscoso, one of the founders, started off as a young activist and is now chairperson of the organization.
“In the 1990s, HIV was a major problem in Bolivia, just as in many other parts of the world. Along with some friends, we started handing out condoms in bars. People jokingly called me ‘Condom Alberto’. But I didn’t mind, because the most important thing was that people got to know how they could protect themselves,” says Alberto.
After a while, Alberto and his friends noticed that many LGBTQ people had no information on their rights. So they decided to start an organization to continue their work. They began to seek financing from various international development organizations.
“We’ve learned along the way. Other organizations that work with human rights supported us with the technical side – writing a project proposal. When we managed to get our first financial support, we were delighted,” says Alberto.
Adesproc was started in an era of total silence on LGBTQ issues in Bolivia. It was hard to talk about it, both at school and at home. Many of the organization’s members had not come out themselves as they were afraid of discrimination.
“We were scared but we said, ‘how are we to achieve change if we don’t even have the courage to stand up for ourselves?’ So we all decided to tell our families,” he says.
Surprised at the family’s reaction
“It was hard for me to come out as homosexual. When I think about it now, I realise that I myself had a lot of prejudices. My family was extremely traditional, and telling the family is important – it’s the first social group that can either accept us or totally freeze us out,” says Alberto.
Alberto was surprised at his family’s reaction. They fully supported him.
“One of my aunts said: ‘It’s great that you’re doing this – your life on this planet has meaning. We know it’s hard to start an organization, but we’ll always support you’,” he says.
Today Adesproc is doing a great deal of advocacy work to achieve full rights for LGBTQ people. They are now a reference and are often invited to take part in debates.
“We still don’t have the same rights as heterosexual or cis people, but a great deal has happened since we started the organization, and we’ve managed to change the social reality, which is a major step on the way.”
Gives young people psychological support
Alberto says that he is one of few homosexuals who has managed to adopt children and shows us a photo of his two sons.
“They are biological siblings,” he says, “aren’t they lovely? It was a struggle and there was a lengthy investigation, but it was absolutely worth it.”
In addition to its advocacy work to achieve full rights, Adesproc supports young people in need of psychological support.
“Young people come here to get help in talking to their families. There’s everything from parents who want to provide support but don’t know how to those who think they can ‘convert’ their children. We help them communicate without being aggressive or hurtful,” says Alberto.
Have to keep fighting
The biggest threat to LGBTQ people’s rights today is conservative forces that have a great deal of political power. They are stopping development.
“They’re against our rights. And they use people’s fear and whip up hatred. We receive a lot of hateful messages online, but we’re a strong, well-known organization, so we have to keep fighting for the sake of other, smaller organizations,” says Alberto.
But despite the online hate being hard to handle, Alberto says that the organization also feels support.
“I remember the first Pride parade in 2005, there were only 26 of us in it at that time. Last year there were almost two thousand. This may seem small but the great thing is that there are many people who don’t walk in the actual parade but support us from the sidelines. It’s now a party with music and dancing. And there’s a strong sense of community among LGBTQ people,” he concludes.