A 24-year-old sailor in the Chilean Navy has become the first member of the country’s military to come out as gay, despite deep-rooted homophobia in some parts of the South American nation.
Mauricio Ruiz made his stand to prove that there was no reason why gay men could not serve as equally in the country’s armed forces as their straight counterparts.
Supported by LGBT activists, he told journalists that openly declaring his sexuality had been a difficult decision to make, but that he believed by doing so he could encourage other gay Chileans to consider the armed services as a career option.
“Personally, I hope that this is a contribution to non-discrimination in my society,” the Associated Press agency reported him as saying.
The sailor, who is based at the Chilean port of Valparaiso, said he had been given permission to make his statement by Naval top-brass.
Although Chile decriminalised homosexuality in 1999, LGBT people have been under constant discrimination for decades, and despite Government intervention many residents in the country have remained hostile to same-sex relationships.
However, in 2012 the murder of a gay man prompted a national debate which led to the Government passing hate crime legislation to protect LGBT+ citizens.