By Nicolas Bernal
‘Queer latinidad’ is a recently coined term that is becoming more and more relevant in our diversified society. It describes a novel community whose components have many complementing and many contradicting characteristics. These include social conservatism, boisterous culture, sexual liberation, shared struggles and more.
The Latino LGBTQ community has a rich heritage of activism. The first openly gay candidate for public office in the U.S. was Jose Julio Sarria, who ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1961. In New York, one of the people credited with starting the 1969 Stonewall Riots — which helped inspire the beginning of the LGBT rights movement — was Sylvia Rivera, a transgender Puerto Rican woman. In Los Angeles, Robbie Rodriguez, 38, program director for Equality California, said that the last several years have been challenging for Latinx LGBTQ people.
Family gender roles in Hispanic/Latino culture are sometimes considered to be defined by clear bright lines. Oftentimes, fathers and husbands hold power over the women in their lives; same-sex relationships disrupt the traditional role. This overt silence about sexuality may be nuanced; family identity and community are important to Hispanic/Latino families, which sometimes offer a support network despite the LGBT child’s disobedience against the nuclear family. Because Latino/a LGBT people experience greater racial discrimination in broader society, primary support can come from families where they are stigmatized yet still accepted.
In the U.S., Latino/a children who identify as LGBTQ face scrutiny from their community at home and in schools, especially within a high school or college preparation experience. While facing scrutiny from family and community to maintain gender normality to prosper in the U.S, they also face scrutiny from their peers, mentors and educational administrators. This scrutiny includes a lack of acceptance and recognition as a separate educational entity within sexual education programs provided by many high school education districts. Latinas are viewed as needing to have less interest in sexual education while Latinos are told to maintain focus and to take the education seriously. When teachers are prompted to explain sexual education for lesbians or gays, the teachers or educators assume the student body to be uniformly heterosexual and refuse or consider the questions immature and outside the scope of their teaching.
Gay Hispanic and Latino men report experiencing racism both within and outside the gay community. Latino gay men with dark skin color and indigenous features reported the greatest level of discrimination, including from the white gay community. Gay bars, for example, were spaces where Latinos and other people of color would face discrimination. This motivated the creation of the first and only Latino gay bar in the San Francisco Mission District in 1979, Esta Noche. Latina lesbians also report experiencing racism from the white LGBT community. Latin gays and lesbians have been engaged in autonomous organizing since the 1970s addressing issues of racism, sexism, and homophobia.
NOTE: The opinions expressed in this blog are the opinions of the author only. It is not to be assumed that the opinions are those of GALEO or the GALEO Latino Community Development Fund. For the official position on any issue for GALEO, please contact Jerry Gonzalez, CEO of GALEO at email@example.com.