Thursday, April 26, 2012

Peace Corps walks a fine line about "openness" for LGBT volunteers


Yesterday at Julius’s in NYC, I picked up a copy of “Gay City News” and found a front page story about the Peace Corps and gay volunteers. The link is here.

The piece is by young volunteer Tymon Manning, and is called “Lending a Hand in Peru, Returning to the Closet”.

The Peace Corps has apparently never had a “ban” on gays like the military, but it has to walk a tightrope between non-discrimination and advising volunteers to keep a low profile on personal matters that, rightfully or not, could disturb members in host countries because of different cultures.

Manning writes about the “machismo” of Peruvian and much of third world culture.  He mentions the phrase “mas o menos” as an allusion to the idea of being “less of a man”.  He did not encounter any personal problems with his hosts, who sometimes teased him for being “skinny” although in the pictures he looks quite strong and well muscled.

After my own layoff at the end of 2001, I looked into the Peace Corps in 2002 and visited a couple of information meetings in Minneapolis.  It seemed from the application form that the Peace Corps wantd to see evidence of extensive volunteerism and socialization from volunteers. It didn’t pursue it.

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