First, thank you for this blog, which I think does a wonderful job of bringing attention Latin@ lgbtq issues on a wide scale. (I am especially grateful for your careful coverage - including translations! - of the NYC drama surround Mr. Diaz Sr.'s comments regarding us gay folks.)
I know that other Chicagoans have responded to your postings regarding the De Jesus controversy, but I would like to weigh in ever-so-briefly.
I am excited about Mr. Maldonado's appointment. Despite concerns that he acquired the position via an appointment as opposed to an election, he is an established leader in the 26th Ward. Critics of this appointment should attack the process itself rather than individual appointments.
Okay, now to my main points. While the De Jesus conversation is seemingly mute, I think there are a few important points to make. I share the concerns of many others regarding the homophobic tendencies of De Jesus. His opposition to the LGBTQ high school was generally unprincipled. It should be noted, however, that many would have opposed this school's construction in a predominately Latin@ neighborhood on much more legitimate grounds. Anyone who has attended the appalling Dyke March in Pilsen would know how uncomfortable it is to experience the imposition of disrespectful outsiders in our communities. While this does not legitimate De Jesus' critiques of the proposed Pride Campus, it is fair to say that his concerns about the lack of Latin@ input were valid.
In terms of Ocasio's recommendation of De Jesus for the aldermanic position, any conversation about this topic must take into account the perilous politics of the 26th Ward. Ocasio has continually come under attack by developers who seek to further gentrification and oppose multi-income housing initiatives. This community area is under attack. Ocasio's well-established support networks have helped him to stave off these attacks. His replacement would need to be someone with a history of support for community initiatives AND a strong constituency. De Jesus was clearly a person who met both of these requirements. Litmus tests about his views regarding LGBTQ issues overlook the larger struggles this community faces (of which LGBTQ issues are certainly an important part). To be clear, Ocasio could have appointed many pro-LGBTQ folks who would not have helped to advance these broader community efforts. De Jesus expressed his commitment to these efforts and his support for the various LGBTQ initiatives that 26th Ward residents had already created. We were more concerned with his willingness to work with us than his previous statements about LGBTQ issues. It seemed as though many detractors drew on purist arguments that would disqualify almost anyone from holding this office.
This is where the discussion about local input - which others have addressed on this blog - comes into play. The views of non-residents, who are mostly middle class LGBTQ folks (Latin@s and others), oftentimes neglect to take into account the PARTICULAR struggles that this community faces.
I was one of the people present at De Jesus' meeting with LGBTQ leaders, and this neglect was readily apparent. In fact, many non-resident participants in this meeting were willing to write off De Jesus' church all together. Unfortunately, for those of us who live and work in this community on the day-to-day, we cannot afford to disregard the views of a church whose membership includes in upwards of 5,000 residents of our community. This does not mean that we validate their views, but that we engage with them in dialogues that focus on broader efforts toward the achievement of community wellness and challenge them to rethink their positions regarding LGBTQ issues.
Again, thank you for all of your hard work with this blog.
Previously on Blabbeando:
- And Chicago's new 26th Ward Alderman is... (July 30, 2009)
- Homophobic Pentecostal preacher no longer being considered for Chicago City Council (July 18, 2009)
- More reactions to Rev. Wilfredo De Jesús bid for a Chicago City Council Alderman's seat... (July 12, 2009)
- Grumble, grumble - and a mea culpa (July 10, 2009)
- Homophobic Latino preacher in line to join Chicago's City Council (July 9, 2009)