By Jaquelin Bautista
The following article appeared in the October 2019 edition of The Campus.
Throughout the past few decades, we have seen monumental progress for the LGBTQ+ community, including the legalization of gay marriage and the first national monument honoring LGBTQ+ history. However, there are many communities that are not experiencing the same level of progress and acceptance of LGBTQ+ rights. Coming out can be one of the scariest points of one’s life and many individuals fear rejection due to societal norms, religious beliefs, and discrimination. Studies show that individuals in conservative cultures or organized religions have had negative experiences coming out.
As we embark on the celebration of Hispanic Heritage month, it is important to address the internalized homophobia that exists in this culture. Studies agree that religion can affect attitudes towards LGBTQ+ communities. A 2007 Pew study found that 68% of Latinx identified as Catholic, 20% as Protestant, 8% as secular, 3% as other types of Christians (Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Orthodox), and 1% as adherents of other religions. The Catholic church has strong ties in many Latin American countries; there are traditional ceremonies for days on end and all throughout the year, including Día de Los Reyes Magos, Las Posadas, and Fiestas Patronales de San Salvador.
The Catholic church has continually rejected the LGBTQ+ community. In June of 2019, The Vatican issued an official document rejecting the idea that people can choose or change their genders, and proclaimed that men and women were meant to be together for procreational reasons.
The family is the basic unit where value, belief, and behavioral development occur, and is the main source of support in ethnic communities. Rejection from the family and cultural community are major fears for gay men and women who contemplate coming out. In a survey conducted by Genfoward, Millennial Attitudes on LGBT Issues: Race, Identity, and Experience, it was found that 61% of Latinos surveyed indicated they experienced “a lot” of discrimination towards LGBTQ+ individuals in their racial community, in comparison to 43% of African-Americans, and 27% of whites. The same survey found that 42% of Latinx believe that the acceptance of homosexuality diminishes societal morals.
All these factors impair one’s choice to come out to their family and loved ones. Coupled with these destructive attitudes is the concept of Machismo, an attitude that perpetuates men as masculine and rejects any form of femininity. This ideology limits freedom of appearance and often revokes the gender expression of members of the LGBTQ+ community. Additionally, women are expected to nurture the family and serve their husbands. For both gay women and men who want to break these gender norms, it can be daunting to push the barriers of community beliefs.
While change is being made around the world, Latinx LGBTQ+ communities face additional issues, that derive from cultural beliefs and standards and are not often discussed. Latinx sexuality is extremely complex and does not often get portrayed in academia or the media. In fact, 50% of Latinx millennials believe that issues faced by the LGBTQ community of color are incongruent with those promoted by mainstream organizations. There have been numerous horror stories of people coming out in the Latinx community, nonetheless, it is not an isolated issue; many cultures around the world reject the LGBTQ+ community.
One student at The City College of New York, who wished remain anonymous, recalled when they came out;
“My mother wasn’t upset. She said that we would figure this out. My father, on the other hand, was deeply upset. He didn’t talk to me for weeks. It was painful to see someone who loved [me] so much, go from talking to [me] every day to not even making eye contact. What my mom meant by ‘get through this’ [was] to find God. She started taking me to a prayer group, and church on Saturday nights and Sunday morning. I even had to confess. It was awful to be in a space that didn’t want me there, a space that swore I couldn’t be loved for who I am. On top of it all, other members of the church, and even the priest were always trying to “heal” me. Things between my parents and I are better, but I still hold back on being my true self.”
In order to begin to tackle these challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community, we must begin the conversation. We must talk about these issues, share the stories and journeys of Latinx individuals who are openly gay. Starting a conversation will educate those who have accepted a negative attitude towards the LGBTQ+ community.