Yes, there was the issue of De Jesús white-washing his homophobic outbursts from the past to seem more palatable to those who might have the power to select him for a vacant seat in the Chicago City Council. But, hey! We have Pentecostal preacher Ruben Diaz, Sr. here in NY with his homophobic outbursts and you have Pentecostal preacher De Jesús there in Chicago with his very own hateful version of 'loving the sinner, hating the sin'.
No, those outbursts are actually par-for-the-course considering the messengers and I have learned to take them in stride. They actually inspire me to keep on exposing their hypocrisy.
What made me do a double take was the comments from a Latino HIV/AIDS service organization called Vida/SIDA defending De Jesús. From Tuesday's article in The Chicago Tribune:
Zenaida Lopez, manager of Vida/SIDA, a social-service agency that serves AIDS patients near De Jesus' church services, took issue with "outsiders" trying to influence the issue. A supporter of De Jesús' candidacy, Lopez said many community groups are based in Lakeview and don't understand De Jesus' relationship with his Latino constituents.A Latino HIV/AIDS service organization defending De Jesús and calling any criticism as being the work of "outsiders"? Yup! That did it. As someone who worked in the Latino HIV prevention field for almost 15 years myself, I immediately thought of some of the Latino organizations I encountered from time to time who received funding to do HIV prevention in Latino communities but chose to focus specifically on women, children and IV drug users, with an aversion to even addressing or mentioning the needs of HIV positive Latino gay and bisexual men.
"People in Boystown are telling us what to think when we wouldn't even be welcome in that neighborhood," she said.
Not wanting to rush to judgment, I did a perfunctory search for "Vida/SIDA" and what I found pissed me off even more. From a 2004 Windy City Times article:
In subsequent years, Vida/SIDA grew and adapted its mission to embrace education and prevention strategies among the fastest growing HIV+ populations—Latina women and sexually active young people. Moreover, it broadened its scope and provided education and services with respect to other sexually transmitted diseases.Notice anything missing? Yup! No mention of gay or bisexual Latinos when it comes to Vida/SIDA's HIV prevention strategies and a reiterated echo of distrust towards white (or Anglo) gays from Chicago's Boystown meddling into Latino Humboldt culture.
Throughout most of the first decade of the AIDS crisis, prevention strategies fell short in communities of color. While impressive organization and action politics took place in Boy's Town, other areas of the city lagged far behind. Although exported to several communities, intervention models based on gay-Anglo sensibilities were meaningless in places such as West Town. Vida/SIDA was one of the first community-based expressions of 'one size does not fit all' problem solving. The strategies were designed by Latinos and nuanced for a Latino community.
That idea continues. 'The approach and the language you use for a middle class, gay White man is not the same approach you would use with a 17-year-old Puerto Rican gang member. That has nothing to do with a difference in intelligence; it has everything to do with culture, identity, and comfort.' said Colon. 'If you don't establish a connection ... some empathy, you're not going far.'
Now, I have been in Chicago, but that doesn't mean I know Chicago or its diverse communities. But the dynamic of local community organizations and individuals standing up for someone who they consider "their own" and rejecting the influence of "outsiders" - despite any shortcomings that their hero might have - is as classic as ever.
Here is my mea-culpa: I rushed to judgment. Vida/SIDA does indeed reach out and address some of the needs of gay and bisexual Latino men in the Humboldt area of Chicago (as well as Latino and Latina transgender folk). I found the above image on their MySpace page, as well as images of a drag-queen beauty contest.
But it doesn't mean I've changed my mind that they are wrong in supporting De Jesús. As with Reverend Diaz in NY, those who argue that the poorer neighborhoods of the city are often neglected by the powers that be are quite right, which makes it easy for folk like Diaz and De Jesús to turn local community members against their better interests (in this case playing into people's ethnic pride as a means to draw support for their political interests).
This does make it easier for Anglo (or white) gays from elsewhere to pass judgment on De Jesús (or Diaz, for that matter) and grab on to a sense of righteousness without stopping to think for a moment on the local dynamics or the complexity of the issue. Which actually feeds right into the hands of homophobes like De Jesús and Diaz as they try to paint the opposition as being 'the other'.
And then there is this message left by Xavier Luis on my last post:
I was one of those 30 people who attended the meeting at La Bruquena restaurant that day with Pastor De Jesus. The vast majority of those who attended did not live in the 26th Ward.
Interestingly enough, it was from those very people that questions about important community issues like gentrification, the development of Paseo Boricua, violence...etc were absent. It was from those activists who live and work in this community, who organize LGBTQ events (which most of De Jesus' discontents do not attend), and fight homophobia and transphobia on a daily basis in the schools, programs, and institutions of Humboldt Park, that a real dialogue took place.
Please name an evangelical pastor who would meet with a group of LGBTQ leaders? Which evangelical pastor would explain herself/himself on hers/his beliefs to such a group? Which evangelical pastor would support the construction of a gay homeless shelter in Humboldt Park?
For those who live and work in the 26th Ward would know that a great Alderman like Billy Ocasio would never choose a replacement who would not work for and support the diverse experiences and initiatives of this community. Furthermore, it is from De Jesus' discontents whom I see building the racist, sexist, and elitist so-called "Boystown" and not those institutions of Paseo Boricua-Humboldt Park that are in the 26th Ward. Furthermore, as the Puerto Rican (and Latina/o) community continues to suffer gentrification (which De Jesus is against) then there will not be a forum in which to dialogue about important issues such as these. Being a "Latina/o leader" means nothing if you do not have a community to lead. ¡Fuácate!
I reprint it here with an interest of giving fair play to those who might be gay and still support De Jesús [Xavier has additional thoughts on the issue over on his blog]. Still, to his rhetoric question of:
Please name an evangelical pastor who would meet with a group of LGBTQ leaders? Which evangelical pastor would explain herself/himself on hers/his beliefs to such a group? Which evangelical pastor would support the construction of a gay homeless shelter in Humboldt Park?I say: An evangelical pastor who has his eyes on a political career and will say anything to get there (see Pentecostal preacher Ruben Diaz, Sr.'s damaging path through the NYS Senate to see where I am coming from). Harsh? Maybe. But that's my sense and I hope that others won't fall for De Jesús' claim that he will do right by LGBT Latinos once he gets to the City Council when his record shows otherwise.