#BBCtrending: How difficult is it to come out of the closet in Colombia?

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Image source, YouTube

A Colombian YouTube celebrity broke new ground by coming out online in a country where homosexuality is still taboo.

Juan Pablo Jaramillo started his video with seven seconds of excruciating silence before announcing that he wouldn't talk about his usual subjects: friendship, travels or music.

"I think this is the most serious video I've ever had on my channel and the most serious I'll ever have," he said. He invited viewers to watch the entire 19-minute video before passing judgment.

Jaramillo's YouTube channel "Jaramishow" regularly pulls in hundreds of thousands of viewers, but his coming out video has been watched by more than than 2.5m people. The hashtag #TienesNuestroApoyoJuan ("You have our support Juan") was trending in Colombia after the video's release, with more than 50,000 tweets in three days.

In Colombia, same-sex couples have many of the same rights as opposite-sex couples. But Mauricio Albarracin, director of NGO Colombia Diversa, said social attitudes have not caught up to the relatively progressive legal system.

"On one hand we have advanced legislation but on the other we have sectors of our society that refuse to accept it," he told BBC Trending.

Albarracin called Jaramillo "brave" for making the announcement but also for its timing - the suicide of a gay Colombian student who faced homophobic bullying is still in the news.

"This is the first time someone that young has publicly said that he is homosexual," Albarracin said.

Jaramillo acknowledged that he was taking a personal and professional risk by coming out online.

"I could lose all I've got, including my sponsors, because it is not a secret that I live in a country that hasn't yet given its full support to gays," he said in the video.

He told BBC Trending that he was worried about criticism before making the decision to post.

"It was really difficult to do this because I first had to tell my family, and also in Colombia people are still very traditional," he said.

Image source, Twitter
Image caption,
Translation: Thanks for being such a spectacular person who has made us smile thousands of times. This is my idol before / This is my idol after.

The comments on the video - there were more than 66,000 - were overwhelmingly positive.

"This is the first time I have watched you. I'm also gay and I agree 100 percent with what you say," wrote Joaquin Cordoba.

"This video can make us more tolerant, respectful and open-minded. You made us realise that the fact that now that we know you are homosexual it doesn't really change much," commented user Arantxa Garcia.

Jaramillo says the reactions that surprised him the most were messages from people thanking him for helping them to tell their relatives about their sexual orientation.

Reporting by Gabriela Torres

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