...I'm happy to stand beside Perez Hilton as a trash-talking, high-profile, gay Latino.
According to CNN, gay Latinos are coming of age - there aren't that many of us to talk about besides Perez Hilton, but we're out there. And while deeply seeded notions of masculinity and homophobia still exist in our community, our home countries are one step ahead of the U.S. when it comes to gay rights - "Uruguay, Colombia and Mexico have passed laws granting rights and protections to gays and lesbians."
I've always felt that the Latino community has a love/hate relationship with homosexuality. Yes, it's derided in the church, but popular culture - from daytime talk shows to our telenovelas and our literature, are all laden with strong gay characters. From cross-dressers to fashionistas (after all, Latin America's biggest export is beauty queens - who do you think gets those girls show-ready?), Latinos here in the U.S. and back in our home countries are not immune to things gay - and guess what? They love it.
Of course, I'm writing about how fun it is to be gay and Latino from the perspective of a college-educated man with a white-collar job. I've been fortunate enough to create a community for myself and live the life I want with the man I want, out of the closet and with as much denim and leather as I like. But I do remember how frightening it was to come out of the closet, how horribly embarassed I felt for myself and my parents to confirm the rumors that I was a "pato" - Puerto Rican slang for gay - an insult that first came my way from a kindergarten teacher who thought I was too swishy.
When I think about the role of the church in some Latino communities, I think it's a blessing and a curse for gay teens to be around pious people who make no qualms about condemning gays. I was lucky enough to take the best parts of my Christian upbringing to build a life for myself, but I can see how the same messages that empowered me can devastate someone, sap their will to forge ahead, and ultimately render them another sad statistic.
But this was supposed to be a happy post. I do think things are changing, for the better, for gay Latinos. We just need more of them out there...soooo, maybe I should get a show on CNN? Just axin'..