Gay Watch: Belize

When the Cayman Islands suddenly and famously refused entry of an Atlantis Events cruise to its ports in 1998, Belize let the boat dock. More than a decade later, gays are slowly beginning to find a voice in Belize.

BY Dan Allen

August 02 2009 11:00 PM ET

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"Belize is an interesting mix of Central American and Caribbean culture, similar to the nearby Bay Islands of Honduras," says Greg Hamman, owner of Undersea Expeditions, a California-based diving tour company that's been taking gay and lesbian groups to Belize since the 1990s.

"With its small population, Belize doesn't offer gay nightlife, but we aren't there for a circuit event," Hamman adds. "We travel to enjoy the natural beauty of the country and encourage its preservation, while giving the people we interact with the opportunity to see us not only as openly gay and lesbian visitors but also as people who respect and appreciate what their country has to offer."

For those dead set on sniffing out the country's nascent gay underground, San Pedro on the largest island of Ambergis Caye is the safest bet -- but use common sense, warns Orozco. "No affections in public, as it's frowned upon even for heterosexuals," he says. "Take simple precautions, like be aware of your surroundings. Generally speaking, if you go looking for trouble, trouble will find you."

Though it's been slow in coming, Orozco does see a growing acceptance of queer identity in Belize. "There are small groups of people who are 'out,'" he says. "Exposure from North American television does provide some sensitization about the process of coming out. The younger generation, I must say, is much more bold than the older. There is a small trans population, and I must say too that effeminate guys are on the front line of a passive unorganized social movement to be themselves."

"Our divers who've been traveling there since the 9'0s definitely notice more openness on the part of locals," says Hamman, whose most recent group visited Belize in June. "The boats and resorts we use welcome us back as old friends now, not as novelties."

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