They started dating shortly after meeting at a common friend’s birthday party and moved to an exciting new country together soon after, however, the journey of this gay, biracial couple has been filled with hardships that encapsulate the untold struggles of a community that has chosen the Emerald Isle as their home.
Their own journey to coming out couldn’t be any more different to each other, while Kelvin’s Spanish family was accepting to the idea of their son being gay, then 18-year-old Edgar’s strictly Catholic family couldn’t be any more against the idea of their son being homosexual.
“My mother begged me to chose not to be a gay (like had a choice in the matter), scared that my soul will end up in hell and my father couldn’t bring himself to say anything to me. More than anything the fear of the societal judgement and their religious beliefs are the reason they cannot accept me for what I am till now, however, they have come to accept that I love Kelvin and that we have is not a phase but a relation as sacred as any.”
With around 2.59 million Catholics in Panama, representing 69.7% of the population, the majority population’s outlook towards homosexuality and homosexuals is no different than that of Edgar’s own family, if not worse. “Panama is a homophobic country and living in Panama as a gay couple was not easy, leave kissing or hugging Edgar in public, even holding his hand would attract peoples attention in the worst sense, people would look at us weird even if we were just hanging around. We would maintain a certain distance every time we went out, looking over our shoulders. We would laugh but not too loud, we would walk beside each other but never together, our happiness was eclipsed by constant fear like we were committing a crime and that is no way to live for anyone just because of who we chose to love.”
The couple’s decision to move to another country was not only motivated by their personal struggle but also Panama’s declining economic condition, Being at the centre of the controversial Panama Papers scandal the country suffered a huge economic loss as an after effect including an increase in inflation. Like most immigrants, one of the reasons behind Edgar and Kelvin leaving Panama was to look for better job opportunities. With over eighty-eight thousand immigrants coming in from countries like India, Brazil, Bangladesh Italy, most of the people coming to Ireland are motivated to do so due to dwindling job opportunities in their own homeland.
“We do miss Panama, our social and gastronomical culture, our sunny seashores and our colourful Caribbean lifestyle, who doesn’t miss home, but Ireland was our beginning, it was our new seashore our new home. It has been a series of first’s of us the first time we got our home together, the first time we kissed in public. The Irish weather may not be sunny but the people sure make up for it.
We have experienced solidarity, we have experienced acceptance not only for who we are as a couple but for us as individuals, I have never faced racism here and was amazed when the BLM protests happened, people stood with us shoulder to shoulder raising their voice for something that was happening hundreds of miles away, they raised their voice and they supported all those desperate for their help.
The couple moved to Ireland in October 2019, and discussing their journey as immigrants they also recount how the move was also a milestone in their relationship which was still in its early stages “people say that moving in with your partner will change everything, Well, that is totally true. It is challenging and it is difficult because it is not the same as waking up with the same person beside you once a week, or even spending the whole day together and just like hanging out, it is also about adjusting your way of living for someone else, even though we are from the same country, I, as an Afro Latino have totally different customs that Kelvin, and I’m not used to some kind of things that he does. That’s when it comes to the controversial part, it is challenging to live with your partner, but I think it strengthens your relationship as well. It will help you to form a stronger bond between the two of you.”
The couple’s journey to Ireland while physically smooth was filled with confusion and doubt mainly due to the lack any formal source of information “Kevin was always reading, and seeing these YouTube videos of people that said that they waited for more than three or even four months to find a house or room here. So he was afraid, thinking where are we going to stay, are we going to need to live in a hostel? Besides, that one of the most difficult things was to gain accurate and simplified information about things like housing, opening a bank account, the documents you need to work, the process of getting a PPS and IRP”
Even though the INIS site does provide information on immigration for most that information is not just not enough, starting a new life in a foreign land is a daunting process, the additional hassle of applying for appointments and permits just adds to the confusion something you cannot prepare yourself for, which leads to individuals to rely on unverified sources of information that provide very objective accounts of life in Dublin, just like the boys did.
Lastly offering advice to fellow members of the LGBTQ+ community they said, “one of the best advice that we could give to a same-sex couple is that if you feel unaccepted and unwelcome in your country, if you don’t even have the liberty to be out in the street with your significant other or hold their hands, hug them or even kiss them then take action. Take that next step, whatever it may be, to stay and fight for your rights or to start new somewhere else. Never be bullied into silence. Never allow yourself to be made a victim. Don’t accept others definition of your life, for no one has the right to be the saviour of your soul if it comes at the expense of you never loving or being loved for who you are, and if your love and happiness gives rise to hate within someone else, then it says more about them than you because love is love”.