In a historic first for Chile, a member of its armed forces has come out as gay.
Mauricio Ruiz, 24, made the announcement on August 27 at a press conference arranged by the Chilean LGBT rights group Movement for Homosexual Integration and Liberation (MOVILH).
According to a translation by Gay Star News, he told press that being a gay man in the Chilean army gives him “no reason to hide.”
Speaking in Santiago, Chile at MOVILH’s headquarters, Ruiz said that members of the LGBT community “can do whatever profession, and we deserve as much respect as anyone else.
“In life there’s nothing better than to be yourself, to be authentic, to look at people in the eye and for those people to know who you are.”
He added that coming out at work had improved his performance, and he was coming out publically with the full knowledge and support of his superiors: “After I accepted and have been able to tell others that I’m gay…I’ve done better [in my work], I’ve been calmer and I even slept better. I am more authentic to me and others.”
Attendees at the conference included a member of Chile’s Defense Committee of the Chamber of Deputies in a show of support. There were also representatives from a number of European embassies.
MOVILH said in a statement, “Today is a historic day, where a brave young man who applaud standing, has earned a place in the heart of every person who values and fight for equality.
“Today we are also witnessing the Navy…giving a signal against homophobia…by enabling one of their own [to]make public their sexual orientation. We are excited about this unprecedented progress and grateful for the confidence placed in MOVILH.”
Same-sex couples do not have any options for legal recognition of their relationships in Chile. Homosexual sex has been legal for both men and women since 1998, but the sex of consent is 18 for homosexuals and only 14 for heterosexuals. Additionally, public indecency laws were not updated, leaving loopholes that are often used against LGBT people.
In a landmark ruling in 2007, transgender people won the right to legally change their names and gender markers.