2 min

How gay is gay enough?

The burden of proving sexuality

Here’s an interesting question: can it be proven that someone is gay? And, on the other side of the coin, can it be proven that an individual is straight? What kind of test could be used to find this out?

These questions might be trivial for many members of Toronto’s queer community but not for Alvaro Orozco, a Nicaraguan refugee who was to be deported Oct 4 because a negative decision was issued on a pre-removal risk assessment filed by Orozco’s lawyer El-Farouk Khaki.

This was the second time Orozco, who fled Nicaragua when he was 12, was denied refugee status. The first time he applied, Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB) board member Deborah Lamont ruled against Orozco because she doesn’t believe he is homosexual. If Orozco is deported to Nicaragua it could mean jail time for the 22-year-old; same-sex relationships are illegal there and offenders can face up to three years in jail.

Lamont said because Orozco didn’t pursue same-sex relationships while he was living in the US he isn’t gay. Letters from friends and community members vouching for Orozco’s homosexuality were dismissed as hearsay. But the question remains: how can it be proved or disproved that a person is gay?

The Canadian government could create a multiple choice test to settle the question. Questions could be based on inside gay information like certain slang terms and what Cher ate for breakfast on Jun 7, 1977. Some bureaucrat could decide on a threshold mark, say 70 percent. Anyone who scores a 70 or higher gets to be a certified homosexual. The information is then included on their drivers’ licence and passport. Anyone who fails to achieve that score is straight and must surrender their boxed sets of Queer as Folk and Ikea furniture to the authorities.

But who would get to determine what is standard information that every queer person should know? And what about transgendered or bisexual people? Would we need to create a special test just for them?

There is no way to tell with any amount of certainty that a person is gay. The IRB should have taken Orozco at his word and if that wasn’t good enough IRB board members could have given weight to the letters from community members vouching for his homosexuality. Or maybe all the people who submitted those letters aren’t gay either.

Whether someone is or isn’t gay is not up to any board or government to determine. If Orozco has the courage to identify as a gay man knowing the danger he faces if he’s deported, then he’s gay. Orozco and only Orozco can say with any amount of certainty what his sexual orientation is.

And if that’s not good enough for Deborah Lamont it should be.