Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"That's Gay" and Hispanic Homophobia

I grew up in a fairly homophobic Latin community where each gender had its role to fulfill, men were expected to settle down with a woman, and any deviation from what God intended for us was deemed wrong. If a guy gave any indication that he was gay, whether the assumption was correct or not, he'd be labeled with the derogatory terms mariquitamaricon or pajaro, the Spanish equivalent of fairy and faggot. Sometimes these words are used as a quick insult no matter who was on the receiving end.

Men have been bullied, beaten, and driven to suicide because they sought a life whose bounds did not fit neatly within the space society carved out for them. It amazes me how, to this day still, the ignorance continues to live around me. It's okay to "not know any better," but don't continue to shun education when it's been presented to you because at that point you're choosing to perpetuate the problem.

"That's gay" is one phrase that's carelessly thrown around to cast something in a negative light or hint at someone's sexuality based on factors that have nothing to do with what truly makes someone gay. It grates my ears to hear it and even though it doesn't make me any better on the assumption front, I often judge those who, in using these words so nonchalantly, condone this mentality of hatred. Thousands of dollars paid for a college degree does not a tolerant person make. Even if the person claims to be accepting and agrees that everyone is free to do as they choose, resorting to off-handed remarks and insensitive jokes might indicate otherwise. And even if you think nothing of saying it to someone as a joke, do you know who's within ear shot that could get offended?

A trip to this year's Gay Pride Parade to celebrate New York's ruling that gay marriage is legal was met with a joking "You support that shamelessness?" A mother PDA'ing with her new girlfriend resulted in a rant that she had the devil inside her and should be ashamed for leaving a husband behind for this. And the term "that's gay" and "no homo" have ingrained themselves into the urban vernacular of younger generations. Sometimes I wonder if they even know what being gay actually means.

+ Not liking something does not make it gay. In fact, an inanimate object cannot be gay. Someone, he, she, we, I, they can be gay. That colorful sweater that you think is "fruity"? It's just a colorful knitted sweater and nothing more than a possible eyesore.

+ Dressing a certain way does not make you gay. This includes cross dressing (they can still love the opposite sex) or men who wear skirts (look up kilts).

+ Men who like to be pampered, treated by a woman, or fail to fit your stereotypical idea of a macho man are not automatically gay.

+ If a man likes anal sex with a woman or enjoys having his prostate stimulated, he is not gay.

+ Limp wrists, high pitched voices, and swivel hips do not indicate homosexuality.

+ A man showing emotion, or hugging or caring about a male friend is not gay.

When someone is gay, it simply means they are turned on by and prefer to be with their own sex. That's it. There's no set correlation between the way a person dresses, looks, or acts and their sexual preferences. Gaydar be damned, unless he tells you himself or you've had sex with him, you have no idea what he might be into. For all you know he might not even fit neatly within the homosexual category by being curious about oral sex with a man, but only if he looked like a convincing woman. Or she might be into guys, but fantasize about girls as she orgasms. Using your assumptions to categorize those around you based solely on sterotypes is not only pointless, but could keep open-minded friends from sharing their "more radical" thoughts with you.

Why promote interracial love, but not inter-gender ones? Because it's not natural, they say. Because our bodies are built to mate with the opposite sex, they explain. But what about what the mind and heart desire? Are those not natural, too? Like an inheritance passed down from parent to child, so the ignorance continues to trickle down to the next generation. What will you teach your children?

P.S. Did you know yesterday was National Coming Out Day? Learn more about the Human Rights Campaign and how to support LGBT equality, help fight hispanic homophobia with the Hispanic Federation, and give hope to LGBT youth who are experiencing bullying and taunting at school through the It Gets Better project or StopBullying.gov. You can start by taking note of the words you say and the ideas you spread.

Image: erinheartscourt.com

6 comments :

  1. A nicely written post on a most difficult topic (made difficult only by the unreasonable "passion" people have on the issue.)

    I find the concept of "hate speech" somewhat bizarre - it goes beyond even the sticks and stones breaking bones and words can never heard me (well, words can hurt - but...)

    --- I went to an engineering college...and one of the things that was hammered into my head was that there is a BIG difference in a "symbol" and the actual "thing" it represented - and furthermore - a symbol is just a (random and often arbitrary) symbol - its 'not an actual' thing... words are symbols... and problematic ones because so many people "mangle" their original meanings (as well as spelling and pronounciation) that getting uptight over something "said," is pretty silly in my mind.

    Folks need to live and let live - and will need to really work on it as the world gets more and more crowded.

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  2. Wow, this is amazingly easy to counter.

    Simple: Someone says something along the lines of "That's gay."... grab them by the shoulders enthusiastically, smile big and say "I KNOW!!! I LOVE IT IT TOO!!!"

    Problem solved. :)

    xo

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  3. Very well written!

    What will I teach my children? Simple! I'll teach them the philosophy I try to live by: don't judge people based on common stereotypes; get to know them as individuals, and if you must judge, do so based on personal experience with each individual - regardless of race, class, sexual preference, or whatever.

    Also, I knew someone who you'd have thought was gay from how he dressed, how he acted, etc, but he wasn't. And someone who was gay but you never would have known it if you didn't speak to him about relationships or see him with his boyfriend. Both nice guys, and neither fitting the moulds society insists exist. Just an example of how you can't judge a book by its cover, or a person by his/her appearance or behaviour.

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  4. great post, dorkys. and very timely too. just today one of our kindergarten classrooms played a video about diversity and all kinds of families. it was a really cute story, something about a girl going to her uncle's wedding and her uncle is marrying a boy. and then it talks about how there are many types of families -- single parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, same-sex parents, etc.

    i think its important to teach children not to judge and have preconceived notions about everything. and really just accept that each individual is unique and different, be it in their religion, sexual orientation, race, etc.

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  5. My friend has two gorgeous children who in their elementary school years were made fun of because their parents were different races. Now this is much more common and most people don't even notice if a couple is interracial.

    Hopefully in the not so distant future the same will be said for same sex couples. I have had friends who have tried to commit suicide rather than admit to their families that they are gay. A person wouldn't disown their child because they prefer women with brown hair over redheads, but yet they may if their child is drawn to a same sex relationship. It is all about how you are born and everyone deserves the same respect as they make their journey through life.

    Great post Dorkys!

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  6. Some in the spiritual arena of thought accept as true that they "must stop" the "gay agenda, whatever that might be. Of course, there are folks who are very obstinate in the GLBT community about certain issues such as gay marriage and they demand to be heard and are vocal on the following stage over this debate. When I read the gentleman's essay arguing that no one is born gay, I certainly understood where he was coming from, as he felt as if the ""gay agenda" had come too far, and so, he is just as adamant about pushing back now.

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