Monday, August 27, 2012

Living GAY in Costa Rica is GAY!

Living as a gay man or gay couple in Costa Rica is a LOT different than traveling as 'gay' in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica LOVES to market itself as an extremely 'gay friendly' travel destination but I can tell you, living here gay is a completely other matter.

Our belief about living gay in Costa Rica is that Costa Rica takes former President Clinton’s, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy for military gays, one step further- culminating in, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and Don’t ACT’…… GAY in Costa Rica. Most Costa Ricans have the exact same attitudes toward gay folks as the majority of North Americans held back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. Read that as- ‘IT’S A SIN.’ However, it should be noted; Ticos are some of the nicest people on the planet, and wouldn’t normally think about discriminating you to your face. We’ll get back to that later.

For this post:*Acting gay does NOT mean swishing your ass back and forth with a pink boa draped around your neck. For this article, ‘acting gay’ is defined as hand-holding and any other public displays of affection that straight persons would enjoy without fear of repercussion. Seriously, WTF does acting ‘gay’ mean anyway? Are you acting ‘straight’? So, it’s an act? If acting gay is swishing your ass and talking with a lisp, then acting straight must mean tight jeans, leather jacket and saying the f-word a lot. Could these be stereotypes? Ummmmmm.

Many gays that live here in Costa Rica voiced that we should act as ‘gay’ as we want out in public; as that’s the only way the country will eventually change its attitudes and views regarding homosexuals. That is indeed true, but it won’t be at OUR expense. The most effective ‘POSITIVE’ impact will come from gay Ticos themselves. As gringo’s living here, we are not viewed as real citizens (and WE'RE not), and in fact, would come across like we’re ‘pushing’ our gayness where it’s not wanted, which also won't win any points. Although I do realize BEING who you are in public can help shed some of the misconceptions with some folks. But therein lies the problem.

A Brief History: We live in La Fortuna, and most people know we’re ‘those gay gringos who live next to the park,’ and we do get left alone. It should also be noted, we’re not HUGE fans of public displays of affection by ANYONE, but I’ll admit it would be nice to stroll around the park, or anywhere for that matter, holding hands, or stealing the occasional kiss (ok, we’ve done it a few times,,,whatever). The irony is Tico’s LOVE to ‘make-out’ in public, and often appear to be about 2-seconds from doin' the nasty at any given time. The other irony, La Fortuna is home to an unusually high number of gay Ticos, C-L-O-S-E-T-E-D, but numerous nonetheless.

You’ll frequently hear many other gay, expat gringos say they’re ACCEPTED by their ‘straight’ Tico friends, or by the community in general in which they live. This is probably true, but only because the gay couple in question, act in public, as if they’re merely friends. I got a million bucks saying unless you knew they were gay, and you might, you wouldn’t necessarily KNOW they were gay. Knowing ‘gay’ and seeing the act of ‘gay’ are entirely two different things- know what I mean? So they fulfill the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and especially the Don’t ACT’ policy to a tee. So why wouldn’t they be accepted? Let them start ‘acting gay’ and rest assured, things would be quite different very quickly.

When we first arrived in Costa Rica they may have thought we were gay but they weren't sure...which is the way they like it.

Flaunting your gayness in Costa Rica will NOT get you an invitation to Christmas dinner at the mother of your ACCEPTING Tico friend. Will they discriminate against you to your face? Maybe, maybe not, but paa..leeez, Ticos, might be nice to your face but they can also become extremely passive/aggressive when they feel they've been disrespected. Especially disrespected in such a sinful, immoral, blatantly gay way. You WILL BE discriminated against in the most subtle of ways- waiters/bartenders become a little slower (not sure that’s possible here), paper work remains at the bottom of the stack longer, more mean-spirited stares and whispering by resident rednecks and you can definitely feel the 'distance' many will keep once they know you're gay.

Personally, we’ve been blatantly discriminated against, in probably the most popular restaurant in La Fortuna, Don Rufino’s. It was U-G-L-Y. One of the owners had no problem loudly voicing his dislike and disdain for “us GAYS” in front of about 15-20 patrons. And take my word for it, not one person had the guts to stand with US- Ticos or Gringos, friends or not. We have NEVER set foot in their AGAIN.

We haven't stepped a foot inside of Don Rufino's for the past 5 years now.

What is TRUE, if you’re ONLY visiting Costa Rica, gay couples can often get away with MUCH MORE gay-like behavior. Tico’s just figure it’s those, ‘CRAZY, GAY, GRINGOS,’

“Let’s at least get their money before they 'S-W-I-S-H' back to where ever it is they came from.”

So, if you hold hands walking down La Fortuna, locals may not say a thing. Personally, I don’t believe it’s worth the risk. It’s the same reason we would tell you to drink bottled water (why risk it when you're only the country for a 10-day vacation). So, we stand-by our Travel Tip of playing it cool as a gay person or couple visiting Costa Rica, with a couple of possible exceptions- San José and Manuel Antonio, and to a lesser degree, Jaco.

Just remember, why do you think 80% of gay Ticos are STILL in the CLOSET? The exact same reason it can still be difficult to 'come OUT' in the STATES- Matthew Shepard was NOT that long ago and some are extremely uncomfortable with the possibility of losing their entire family- Yeah, it happens here, a LOT.

Mine and D'Angelos Video: Gay Traveler vs. Living GAY in Costa Rica. Hope it Helps!

TONS of Costa Rica Travel Info and VIDEOS on our website: Travel Costa Rica NOW and if you want to visit our YouTube Channel: iCostaRica24 ENjoY!


  1. You said "As gringo’s living here, WE are not viewed as real citizens", so I guess that means that both michael alan AND D'Angelo are gringos.

    Since michael alan appears to be caucasian and D'Angelo appears to be Latino, which of the two of you experiences more anti-gay prejudice due to your different racial makeup?

  2. Yup, both gringos. We met in Las Vegas and came down together. We're usually together... we've been here so long now, we pretty much just get left alone, no one really gives us the time of day... which is fine by us, so not much prejudice now.