Omar Nuñez Golding / Venezuela
“When I was 18 years old, I made the ‘mistake’ of kissing someone of the same sex in a nightclub in Caracas called Tártara, which was located in the CCCT (a mall in the east of the capital of Venezuela). Around me there were many heterosexual couples who were drunk and kissing, but it was me who was thrown out of the place along with my companion because ‘it’s wrong’ for two men to kiss, because, although it’s not illegal, these people of the nightclub shielded their homophobia alleging the ‘right of admission’.
My friends and the friends of my friends who were with left the place for me, while the friends of the boy I made out with sided with the local authorities. They said that was ‘not the place’.
Another homophobic situation I experienced was at La Estancia (a public garden and cultural center located in the east of Caracas, managed by the government). Some soldiers who were on site felt they had the right to search my belongings (my wallet and my bag) simply because I had used the swings. While doing this illegal check, these officers insulted me and made fun of me with homophobic comments, something classic for venezuelans even when they don’t explicitly know your sexual orientation.
Although both experiences were traumatic and highly discriminatory, they weren’t nearly the worst I had in Venezuela.
The worst thing I’ve ever experienced was when I was a kid, at school. It happened every day and was a constant terror.
The fact that I have decided to make this testimony with my name implies, logically, that I will give names of others and names of places, because it’s necessary to be fair and explicit.
I studied from first grade to ninth grade at Colegio Santo Tomás de Villanueva in Las Mercedes (an urbanization in the east of Caracas). From second grade —when I was barely 8 years old and I didn’t even know what it meant to be ‘homosexual’—, I began to suffer bullying from my classmates because I was ‘effeminate’. The school authorities watched in silence. I had very kind teachers, the vast majority I remember with great love, but the experience in this place is something that haunts me until now.
When we were in fourth grade, it was mandatory for all students to do a specific sport for physical education, which involved competing in games against other classes in the school. I chose volleyball because it was where my friends played. In the first game I was humiliated by all the promotions that were in the public. Well, they made fun of the whole team, but they specifically directed homophobic slurs at me. They also threw cans, bottles and paper. The authorities were silent. My teacher at the time took matters into her own hands, but it was at that moment that the nightmare began.
I didn’t want to go to school. Every sunday I got sick (probably somatizing) and breaks felt like a nightmare, because I always felt someone was stalking me. Primary school was horrible in this aspect. The insults, the threats of ‘caerme a coñazos’ (threatening violence in the venezuelan dialect) were constant, but everything would be much worse after high school.
Going to recess was a constant panic. I was always afraid that people would see me. Everyone knew my name and who I was, and they identified me as ‘the faggy’. I had to endure being hit (which I responded to), having pencils thrown at me, or having insults written in notebooks almost every day. But the school, as an institution, didn’t care, because ‘in Venezuela there is no bullying, only chalequeo’ (a term that refers to making jokes of someone).
If I thought this couldn’t get any worse, I was sorely mistaken.
The real hell, which I experienced in this catholic school, occurred in the ninth grade. I wasn’t very clear of my sexual orientation, because although I was already attracted to other classmates my age, I had never developed feelings for someone of the same gender, only for girls, but that year everything changed.
In ninth grade, between 2010 and 2011, I fell in love with who was my best friend. I will not go into details about this person because there’re some who do deserve privacy, but the fact is that I told a supposed ‘friend’ and she decided to tell him. He denied any kind of relationship with me and that all my class (and the others) confirmed what seemed to be a fantasy for them: I liked men.
This caused the bullying to increase to levels that I wouldn’t have imagined before, and all this while I was experiencing for the first time what a ‘despecho’ (a love disappointment) was. I started failing all the courses, skipping classes whenever I could, making myself sick and everything to avoid having to go to that awful place.
I once heard, when a group of students older than me insulted me, that one of them advised them to leave me ‘calm’, claiming that ‘those bugs go crazy and shoot up the whole school’. Sometimes defense can be the worst offense. I also had to endure aggressive comments even from the people who served in the canteen. In this school there was a line for boys and another for girls, and one of those who worked in the canteen told me to line up for women. The school authorities knew this and did nothing.
I started taking antidepressants for the first time when I was just 15 years old. I practiced self-flagellation and had suicidal ideas. The least I was interested in at that time was studying. The school decided to give me psychological help (although I was already receiving therapy), and although I felt confident with this therapist assigned to me by the institution, she only fueled the disrespect that the higher authorities of the place had for me.
All this has only served as a prelude to tell what my worst experience was in this place, and that happened on my birthday, March 22, 2011. Venezuelan tradition indicates that when you have your birthday, your friends can give you ‘salita’, that is, they can give you light blows on the back. But in this school my friends were few, so when three promotions cornered me in the middle of recess, before the eyes of many teachers, those who wanted to beat me (who easily reached the number of 50) weren’t my friends.
There I was, barely 16 years old and three promotions ahead of me singing the song from the ‘salita’. I’m an agnostic, but at that moment I saw God, because the recess bell rang. It’s probably one of the few moments in my life where I have considered that I have good luck.
The situation never got better, so that year I decided to change to another school. I was so desperate that my mother agreed to pay for transportation for me to study in El Paraíso (a sector in the west of Caracas), where I had many friends, but it was an area far from home. However, due to the bad grades I had that year (I only passed English), the school I was in sent me to repeat the grade, so I lost my place at the other school.
I want to clarify that in this place I also met wonderful friends who are still in my life, and that there were two teachers in particular in high school who did everything to defend me, both from my classmates and from their superiors. They are Yumaira Chahin and Mercedes Escalante. I thank you so much for making that last year a little less miserable.
But Geraldine Lange, coordinator of basic 1, and José Ricardo García Toro, the institution’s director since 2008, never took action on the matter, and obviously they knew it. As for the name of my companions, I have really forgotten most of them, as there were too many participating in this and I have tried for years to disassociate myself from their memories. One of them even died a few years ago of an aneurysm and I confess that I didn’t even feel sorry for him, despite being a year younger than me.
I left school, there was no way I was going to spend another year there. I wanted to sue them, I wanted to do something against the authorities who for almost a decade were silent witnesses to the physical and especially psychological abuse I suffered within their gray walls, but I couldn’t. Why? Well, the Venezuelan Constitution indicates that you cannot be discriminated against because of your race, sex, or economic class, but nowhere was sexual orientation mentioned.
School was indeed an ordeal, but Venezuela, an even bigger hell from every possible perspective, only made it worse, as there was (and is) no explicit law that you could easily turn to report the years of abuse. In addition, in this institution I suffered another type of abuse, like many others who studied with me, but I decide to omit it in this text because they go off the topic of LGBTphobia in Venezuela, but there are many things that were (or are) poorly at the Santo Tomás de Villanueva school.
I’m not a victim. I want to make it clear that this is a way to vent and also to create awareness about my experience, but my intention will never be to victimize myself.
Going back to that defender who thought I could ‘do a school shooting’, I just want to say something: I didn’t. I have never killed anyone and my conscience is at peace, but now I ask… Are my former classmates, the school authorities, or the legal authorities of the country clear-minded regarding what is expressed in this testimony?
Currently I’m dedicated to writing and music. It’s been 10 years, I’m 26 years old and I currently have a boyfriend who makes me very happy. I have friends and family who love me and I have had many years of therapy to try to overcome these things, but I hope that this testimony (which without a doubt must be less serious than others), reaches enough people and creates awareness that Venezuela is behind on too many things from hundreds of different areas.
Indeed, it hurts whoever it hurts, Venezuela, the socialist paradise according to the communists, is undoubtedly homophobic.”