Living Gay in Costa Rica

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GAY Traveler vs. Living GAY in Costa Rica


They're GAY friendly but it's still viewed as a SIN.
They're GAY friendly but it's still viewed as a SIN.
There is a BIG difference between traveling Costa Rica as a gay man or couple, than actually BEING a gay man or couple LIVING here. Costa Rica takes Clinton’s, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ policy for military gays, one step further- culminating in, ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and Don’t ACT’…… GAY in Costa Rica. Most Costa Ricans have the exact same attitudes toward gay folks as the majority of North Americans held back in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s. Read that as- ‘IT’S A SIN.’ However, it should be noted; Ticos are some of the nicest people on the planet, and wouldn’t normally think about discriminating you to your face.

For this article:

  • Acting gay does NOT mean swishing your ass back and forth with a pink boa draped around your neck. For this article, ‘acting gay’ is defined as hand-holding and any other public displays of affection that straight persons would enjoy without fear of repercussion.

Many gay, expat gringos say they’re ACCEPTED by their ‘straight’ Tico friends, or in the community in general in which they live. This is probably true, but only because the gay couple in question, act in PUBLIC, as if they’re merely friends. Knowing ‘gay’ and seeing the act of ‘gay’ are entirely two different things. So they fulfill the ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and especially the Don’t ACT’ policy to a tee. So why wouldn’t they be accepted? Let them start ‘acting gay’ and rest assured, things would be quite different very quickly. Flaunting your gayness in Costa Rica will NOT get you an invitation to Christmas dinner at the mother of your ACCEPTING Tico friend. Will they discriminate against you to your face? Maybe, maybe not, but PLEASE, Ticos, as I’ve mentioned, are among the nicest people on the planet, but they can also become quite passive/aggressive when it comes to such moral issues. You WILL BE discriminated against in the most subtle of ways- bartenders become a little slower (not sure that’s possible here), paper work remains at the bottom of the stack a little longer, more mean-spirited stares by resident rednecks, whispering, and you surely won’t see a Christmas ham from your friend’s mother.

What is TRUE, if you’re ONLY visiting Costa Rica, gay couples can often get away with MUCH MORE gay-like behavior. Tico’s just figure it’s those ‘CRAZY, GAY, GRINGOS,’

“Let’s at least get their money before they swish back to where ever it is they came from.”

So, if you hold hands walking down La Fortuna, hey, locals may not say a thing. Personally, I don’t believe it’s worth the risk. It’s the same reason we would tell you to drink bottled water. So, we recommend playing it cool as a gay person or couple visiting Costa Rica, with a couple of possible exceptions- San José and Manuel Antonio, and to a lesser degree, parts of Jacó and Puntarenas. And for living here- it's basically acting as if you're friends, and then they won't care how gay you are.

Just remember, why do you think 75% of gay Ticos are STILL in the CLOSET? The exact same reason it can still be difficult to 'come OUT' in the STATES- Matthew Shepard was NOT that long ago. And some of us are still uncomfortable with the possibility of losing our entire family- yeah, it really DOES happen.

Here's OUR video about traveling in Costa Rica as a gay person or couple vs. living in Costa Rica GAY.


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