FOR CENTURIES MEN AND WOMEN WHO ARE HOMOSEXUAL, HAVE FOUGHT FOR EQUALITY. FOR ACCEPTANCE AND THE RESPECT THAT THEY DESERVE SIMPLY BY BEING A HUMAN BEING JUST LIKE THOSE WHO HAVE OTHER SEXUAL PREFERENCES. ESPECIALLY IN THE LAST CENTURY THESE FIGHTS HAVE BEEN FOUGHT OUT IN PUBLIC. AND WITH GOOD RESULTS IN MANY CASES. BUT WE ARE NOT THERE YET. THERE IS STILL ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT, STILL BATTLES TO BE FOUGHT.
It took the Argentine Senate 15 hours of intense debate while outside on the Avenida de Mayo demonstrators on both sides firmly stood their individual grounds: one side proudly waving the colorful rainbow flag while chanting slogans about equality, on the other side pious citizens reciting the rosary with passion. But in the early morning of July 15 2010, the legislators of the Argentine nation passed the equality law, making Argentina the 10th country in the world to legalize same-sex marriage. It was a close victory with a vote of 33 to 27. But it wasn’t the end of the long lasting power struggle of state versus Church.
Argentina is a Roman Catholic country. Church has been and still is a large influence in the lives of many Argentines. And so, if you are familiar with the teachings of the Holy See, it should not be a surprise that even though the equality law passed, now, 2 years later, the altercation is still very much alive. Strangely enough a religious law seems easier to be accepted by a majority than one written down by those we elected to lead us. It was this controversy that inspired Argentine photographer Gastohn Barrios to create his The Christ Within, a series of photos accompanied by a self-written poem. "It is hard for me to believe that that same Church that taught me to love my neighbors as myself now shouted in my face that I was an aberration," Gastohn explains. "It is hard to believe that that same Church who preaches that violence should be answered with the cheek of innocence and peace, now lashes out towards its homosexual children, calling them the brainchild’s of the devil." Gastohn realized his life was a sin that should be silenced, a shame that should be hidden. But at the same time he asked himself that if God loves us, how He could be offended if his people just want to be happy.
The insults addressed by the Church are an offense to our humanity and intelligence. If we truly were created to the image of God as the Church teaches us, this would mean there is a human existence in God as much as there is a Divine existence in every human being. Thinking about that Gastohn Barrios came to one clear conclusion. That particular mixture between humanity and divinity can only be represented in one concept: Jesus Christ, the symbol of divine serenity and human suffering, the one judged and crucified for believing in what he thought was the right thing. He suffered and sacrificed Himself but he would weep dearly if he knew that now, 2000 years later, we still suffer from that same intolerance and nonacceptance that nailed Him to the cross.
"Each one of us carries a Christ inside. One that has suffered, along with us, since the beginning of our existence," Gastohn continues. "And so I decided to express this Jesus in the most humanlike form. With tattoos. With shames. With a bareness and earthiness as close as any other human being. A Jesus that truly is the son of God, with mistakes and flaws, but also with love instead of contempt, hatred and resentment." 'ISÀ, The Christ Within, is Gastohn Barrios’ expression of how he felt when he realized his was gay. How he felt just before the equality law passed the Argentine Senate. And how he still feels in present day, and probably still will feel in the near future. The realization that their can only be one equality. Not only when it concerns sexual preference, but also religious choices. God has a name and his name is Love. And if we are all created to his image, we should embrace that divine part that we all carry inside us. -BM-