Window Media's Florida publication Express Gay News has an article this week on what life is like for Latino gays and lesbians living in South Florida.
In the article, Phil LaPadula interviews "more than half a dozen" Latino gays and lesbians living in the area (including Roberto Romero, pictured) and talks to them about whether they feel accepted, whether they are openly gay or not (some of the men decline to give their last names not because they are not socially out but because their families back in Latin America do not know that they are gay), the rise of Latino-themed bar and club nights in the area, and perceptions about family and love.
LaPadula also interviews the great Herb Sosa and Ron Brenesky of Miami's Unity Coalition about their work doing outreach and providing services to the community as well as about efforts to fill the void left by the closing of the only national Latino LGBT organization, LLEGO, back in 2004.
As a snap-shot of a culture, the article is extensive and provides interesting information. Unfortunately the article is marred by presenting the experiences of six people as representative of the community as a whole and, furthermore, by delving into the complex dynamics of dating between gay Latino men and white gay men by noting that a common link among the men interviewed for this article was that - while complaining that white gay men "don't show their emotions much," are "aloof," and "are cold and not family oriented" - most accepted, when asked, that they were exclusively dating or seeking to date white men.
Research has begun to explore the tricky relations between immigration, degree of acculturation, class status and racism that infuses the dynamics of dating when a Latino gay man enters what might be recognized as a larger urban gay community. It's a sometimes dangerous mixture that can lead to increased risk taking during sexual encounters, a decreasing sense of self-worth and, in some extreme cases, to rejection of one's ethnic identity for the sake of being accepted into a desired group.
That would have been an interesting angle to explore but LaPadula only seems to raise the issue to prove a point that if Anglos have stereotypes of Latinos, so do Latinos of Anglos, when reality is a bit more complex than that.
By the way, I assume that the guys at Unity Coalition referred LaPadula to me and I also spoke a bit about the national picture though the interview came on deadline and I'm afraid some of the points I wanted to make got lost. For example, I spoke of the work we had done in monitoring media in the past while urging LaPadula to talk to Monica Taher at GLAAD but the article gives the appearance that there are no other projects out there monitoring Spanish-language media. I also spoke of some of the funding we have been able to provide some of the local (NY) Latino LGBT grassroots organizations and, when asked about Jovenes Latinos en Accion, I erred in saying that we had provided funding to the program in the past, confusing it with Latino Gay Men of New York's VOCES youth institute program (we have funded VOCES in the past but not Jovenes Latinos en Accion, which is a program of the Hispanic AIDS Forum).
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