Openly gay in a small ‘machista’ town

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by Julio

I am a 29-year old gay archaeologist. My first experience in the field was exactly 10 years ago, in 2008. Back then I was a Political Science student interested in the past and traveling. Little did I know that the experience would change my life. I switched majors to Archaeology and have enjoyed every single field experience since then. Most of my fieldwork has happened in the North Coast of Peru. Even though research at the site is focused on unearthing amazing burials of powerful Moche women, who apparently ruled these lands in the first millennium A.D., present local communities are ruled by men and ‘machismo’. The project hires 12-20 local men each season. Most of them have children from different women. They usually tell stories about their ‘conquistas’ while sharing beer on Friday afternoons. They like to make homophobic jokes among themselves, sometimes admitting being able to have same-sex intercourse, as long as it is not their ‘hole’. As you can imagine, not such an easy panorama for a LGBT+ archaeologist. But I hadn’t come out to myself completely until 2011. By then, I already knew all the workmen and they all knew me.

In 2014 I was already out and proud among my classmates, professors, and pretty much everyone else in my life, except for my father. But that’s another story. I had a boyfriend who had already visited the excavations in previous years and was friendly with everyone. But this season was different. My boyfriend was going to move to the States for a PhD in Engineering. As a Fulbright scholar he had to leave in late July for a summer class, so he came to the excavation site to say goodbye. He spent almost a week at the excavation, where he worked like everyone else.

The day my boyfriend was leaving the excavation was the day we decided to finish our relationship. He was going to be away for 4 to 5 years. We had tried long distance before for a few months and it had been very (very) difficult. So that night, I asked Richard, the project driver, handyman, and ‘capataz’ (leader of the workmen) to please take me and my ‘friend’ to the bus station. Before getting into the car, my boyfriend and I hugged for a very long time until right before Richard showed up (or that’s what I thought). Once we got to the bus station, our driver went as far as he could from us and gave us some space to say goodbye while waiting for the bus, which was a bit delayed.

Once my boyfriend had left, Richard appeared, and we drove back to the hotel. He started asking me about ‘my friend’, what he did, and I told him about how brilliant he was and that he was leaving for his PhD and stuff. I was crying hard, staring at the window in the opposite direction of Richard during the whole ride. He would just make conversation but never commented about me crying myself out.

Julio

A couple of days later, Richard almost crashed when he was told I was gay while driving. He commented what he had witnessed to a friend, who assumed that I was completely out. Richard was shocked to find out since he knew I had made out with girls in previous field seasons, but he never told me a thing about it.

Now, I usually see Richard in the lab where he helps with the analysis of materials. I am as openly gay as ever in the lab. I am not ashamed at all and Richard is cool about it. Even though he doesn’t ask any questions, a couple of weeks ago someone mentioned my ex and he still remembers his name. Richard keeps making me the same ‘machista’ question about how many hook ups I’ve had every time we meet after some time, but now I’m sure he knows I’m gay.

 

I’ve never told him, but I am very thankful and always will be for the space he gave me the day I needed to say that hurtful goodbye. I am thankful for his tactfulness and acceptance for who I am. I never thought I could be openly gay in such a small ‘machista’ town, but I am and I know I’m lucky for it. I’ve met some closeted archaeologists who would never come out because of fear of others’ responses. I hope they could be as fortunate as I was, to be able to come out to people that already know you and appreciate you for who you are and not for whom you take to bed.

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