Tag: Proposition 8

Can a Latino “Sex in the City” Character Be Far Behind?

I’m still not back to a 100% focus on the blog… actually, I doubt I ever had that level of commitment. But you get my point. I’m coming out of mega-distraction mode now that our move to California is complete and the last box has been unpacked. All I need to do now is address that pesky question of how I’m going to bring in money…

Don’t worry, I’m not turning this into one of those pathetic “please support my blog” pledge drives where I ask for donations. But I am going to cop out on the updates a few more times and issue short posts about news items until I can devote proper energy to being insightful, or least fanatical.

So that’s why I’m just going to pass along this information, courtesy of CNN: “Openly gay Latino public figures… are rare.”

Yes, that’s pretty fast-breaking stuff. To be fair, the gist of CNN’s article is that the virulent homophobia prevalent in Hispanic culture may be dying out.

I wrote about this a few months ago, when Proposition 8 passed here in California. As I pointed out then, much of the support for denying gays their basic civil rights came from Latinos. That’s because homosexuality doesn’t fit easily within a Catholic-dominated culture that invented machismo.

Still, gay Hispanics have always seemed to find some way to subtly express themselves:

Gay Latinos

In any case, CNN claims that straight Latinos are finally catching on and becoming ever so tolerant. The article points out that “El Diario La Prensa, one of the oldest and largest Spanish-language newspapers in the U.S., recently endorsed the rights of same-sex couples to marry.” And it goes on to say that “while harassment in schools for Latino gay students remains high… these students have more support than in past generations.”

So maybe someday it won’t just be white, upper-class teens with hip parents who get to come out. Maybe the tortured, conflicted Pedros of America will finally be able to explain to their parents why they’d rather design a spring ensemble than work on the low-rider.

Of course, the CNN article loses credibility for me because they laud Perez Hilton as a role model. I mean, what could be more ridiculous that praising a blogger?


The Rebuttal

One of my recent pieces (“Muy Fabuloso”) also appeared on the Huffington Post last week. The post was about homophobia in Latino culture. On the Huffington site, I received numerous comments.

Many were supportive. Several were insightful and thought-provoking. Others were diatribes. But as usual, what I focused on were the bitchy ones.

I heard that I was fanning the flames to turn this into a racial issue. I was accused of saying all Hispanics were Catholic and all Catholics were homophobes (could someone Venn diagram this for me?). I found out that I was “scapegoating Latinos” and “pitting minority groups against one another.” I discovered that I was spreading “anti-religious heterophobia,” which I’m pretty sure is a brand-new term (and concept). Finally, I learned that I simply “don’t understand the dynamics” of California, which is hilarious considering that I lived in the heart of Los Angeles for half a decade.

But my point wasn’t about California. It wasn’t about Catholic dogma. It wasn’t about Hispanics and blacks and gays all fighting it out, like we’re fireflies shook up in a jar. It wasn’t even about Proposition 8.

It was about homophobia in Hispanic culture.

As I said in my response on the Huffington Post, Hispanic culture has a powerful one-two punch in traditional machismo and religious upbringing that makes homophobia tough to eradicate.

I stand by that.

Again, using Proposition 8 as a rough gauge, we see that more Latinos supported rescinding gay rights than did the general population (53% versus 52%) The fact that it was close diminishes in comfort when one sees that an actual minority of white and Asian voters (49% of each) supported the proposition, meaning that only blacks were more likely to vote yes on this.

Add to this the fact that Hispanics voted overwhelmingly for Obama (Asian voters were less enthusiastic, and whites were more likely to pick McCain), and we see that it is not a powerful strain of social conservatism that drove the vote. Hispanics are more likely to agree with Democratic or even liberal ideas. So clearly, there is something in the culture specifically about gays that many Latinos don’t like.

The glimmer of hope, as some commentators pointed out, is that younger Hispanics are rejecting the gay-bashing of their elders. As such, they mirror the general population, providing further proof that assimilation is taking place, despite what so many conservatives insist (but that’s another topic).

Still, the feedback has prompted me to emphasize once more what I’m trying to say with this blog. My goal has been to praise and celebrate a culture that is largely ignored (except during election season) by mainstream America. However, my additional goal is to point out the flaws in this culture in the hopes that they will be rectified.

I may not always be successful, but I will continue to strive for that balance between lifting up and tearing down.


Muy Fabuloso

First, let me thank Raul Ramos y Sanchez for his thought-provoking comment on my previous post.

Second, let me give you a warning. If you should ever walk down the street of a major American city with my wife, you should not (by her own admission) listen to her she asks the innocuous question, “What’s over there?” I speak from experience. Her curiosity about hidden doors and blinking marquees has mistakenly led us into shady dives from coast to coast (imagine my surprise at walking into an S&M bar in Hollywood).

One evening, “what’s over there” prompted us to enter a covert LA nightclub, where the doorman smiled and waived the cover charge. I had assumed he did so because it was Ladies Night. But when we walked in, I saw that he had not let us in for free because of my wife. It was because of me. It was a Latino gay bar, and the doorman assumed that I was a non-straight who had brought along my hipster female friend. To make things more interesting, a talent show for drag queens was just starting. What could I do but order a beer and watch the performances? My wife and I agreed that the Christina Aguilera was pretty close to the real thing.

I was not surprised that Hispanic gay men might establish a safe house off the beaten path. Loathing of gays shows hydra-headed persistence within Latino culture. We are the society, after all, that defined the word “macho.” The old-school standards for strong Hispanic males include getting into brawls, avoiding the kitchen, and womanizing at will. They do not include an affinity for techno music and an interest in Jennifer Lopez’s wardrobe.

As such, possibly the worst insult that one can lob at a Latino male is the dreaded M-word. To call someone a “maricon” is to take the nearest English equivalent (“faggot”), triple its intensity, add several layers of hatred and disgust, and square the result. In my generation at least, nobody jokes about this word or uses it lightly.

In contrast, American gay activists have adopted the words “queer” and “dyke” in an attempt to rob them of their degrading power, similar to the way in which many African Americans throw around the fabled N-word. It’s a subject of fierce debate whether these tactics work or are self-sabotaging, but in either case, I’m pretty sure nobody in Latin America is even trying that with “maricon.” In fact, being gay in Latin America ranges from affront to God (we’re talking about heavily Catholic countries) to active death warrant in the small villages of Central and South America.

I was talking with the Bitca about the level of homophobia in Hispanic culture. She said, “But you’re not homophobic” and added that this is one of my very few redeeming qualities. Then she said, “So I guess sometimes you’re an individual and not just a stereotype after all.” I thanked her for her high praise.

But she got me thinking.

The passage of Proposition 8 in California, which bans gay marriage, received ample support from Obama backers. Much of the coverage of this oxymoronic outcome has focused on the high percentage of black people who shouted, “free at last” when they voted for president and then muttered, “damn the homosexuals” as they revoked a basic civil right.

But California has a high number of Latinos (ask any right-wing demagogue for verification of this fact), and Obama was hugely popular with them (see my previous two posts on this). It is indeed a sad fact that a great many Latinos mimicked their African American brethren on Election Day.

To be specific, 53 percent of California Hispanics voted for the proposition. While this is not an overwhelming majority, it still tops the percentage of overall voters who approved of the ban (52 percent). It is also contradictory to their supposed enthusiasm for a liberal president.

Is it possible that my old boogeyman, the Catholic Church, is somewhat responsible for the invincible strain of homophobia in Latino culture? To the surprise of absolutely no one, the answer is yes. Hey, is the Pope homophobic… I mean, Catholic? Yes, that’s what I meant.

Statistics from Hispanic Business show that 64 percent of Latino Catholics voted for the proposition. Just 10 percent of non-religious Hispanics voted the same way.

So it’s not just burly macho hombres who hate gays that are tipping the vote. It’s quiet, polite Latina grandmothers who are willing to overlook Obama’s pro-choice tendencies, but can’t bring themselves to acknowledge that gay people have rights. Let’s be clear: When pundits talk about social conservatism among the otherwise Democratic-friendly Latino population, this is what they’re talking about.

However, despite the fact that homophobia is strong in Hispanic culture, Latino gays still find ways to burst out from underground. These manifestations range from the intellectualism of the great Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas to the pop-culture pabulum of Hank Azaria dancing around in “The Birdcage.” And what would a gay-pride parade be without at least one Carmen Miranda impersonator?

It’s a broad range of expression. Perhaps it’s hopeful, or maybe it’s pathetic. I can’t tell you, because I’m just a guy who walks obliviously into gay bars. 


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