LGBTQ Rights are Global
Emily McGranachan ’12, East Coast Regional Manager
Study Abroad Program: CIEE Liberal Arts Santiago
Advanced Degrees: MA in Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs from American University
Employer: Family Equality Council
I studied abroad in Santiago, Chile in the spring semester of 2011.
When I applied to the program I made it clear that I needed to stay with a host family that would accept me and my family. I have lesbian moms and I had been in spaces where I was not comfortable telling people about my family and I hated that experience. So I wanted to be able to share stories about my life in the U.S. freely. I lucked out and had a host family that embraced me and my parents without question and with lots of love. This was particularly interesting because Chile is an overwhelmingly Catholic and conservative country. At least the government has been for decades.
In 2011 I gathered friends and we attended the annual Marcha de la Diversidad Sexual pride march in Santiago. Tens of thousands of people waived flags and celebrated LGBTQ identities. I saw a group of marchers with a ‘Familias’ sign and ran over, announcing, “Tengo mamas lesbianas también!”. They recorded me talking about my family and a few weeks later, unfortunately after I had already returned to the U.S., somehow my interview ended up on the news in Santiago. My host family was so excited and surprised to see me. Incidentally, right before I left I was also stopped on the street by a local reporter who was asking passersby about gender and infidelity. I ended up talking with that person as well and a clip of our conversation also appeared on the news.
Now Chile just passed civil unions. LGBTQ rights and recognition are progressing there, which is no surprise to me. The Marcha I went to back in 2011 was passionate and organized. It was only a matter of time for the laws to catch up with the people.
Today I work with Family Equality Council, a national organization that connects, celebrates and represents LGBTQ parents and their children in the United States. I frequently think about my experience traveling and living internationally when talking about LGBTQ rights and the global movement, something I would not be able to do if I had not had the opportunity and skills to live and learn abroad.