Latino American Homophobia
Latinos/as in America are the subjects of a new prejudice and that oppression has contributed harshly to those who identify against the normative for family identity. Latino/a culture is one that centers itself on religious ethos and domestic nearness. From prejudice and strong religious teachings advocating marriage and procreation, Latino/a people have developed a homophobia for those who do not isolate with socialized binaries. This essay seeks to identify why those hegemonic tyrannies exist and how this culture can move from repression to tolerance. America is a country of “huddled masses yearning to be free” and ending homophobia and racial oppression will help this country to become the true “land of the free, and the home of the brave.”
Risk-taking always results in a consequence, whether positive or negative, but rewards with a lesson of truth. Crossing rivers, borders, having expired visas, and becoming resident aliens and illegal immigrants in a new country are risks taken for reasons. Latinos/as, in being a people of faith[i], have encountered America to be the biblical formation of Canaan. In living this prophecy, Latinos/as have created vitality for themselves by gentrifying dilapidated neighborhoods, establishing businesses, supporting immigrants, contributing to education reform, and maintain a faithful commitment to church and community development. Without neglecting their native culture, Mexicans in particular, maintain a social ethics implored from nativity, focusing on food, fellowship and shelter.
The American ethos of Latinas/os has further repressed the growth of social ethics. Many Americans are guilty of contending that Latinos/as are good for building houses, mowing lawns, plumbing, fixing cars, cleaning houses, babysitting children, and cooking food. This is due to the socialization of American nationalism, non-Latin Americans, as well as though who pass for white or black, seek to exert themselves above those who are not at their level of normativity. In addition, language barriers gravely influence cultural/racial division. Americans contend that Latinos/as, who speak Spanish only, wanting to live in this country, should learn how to speak English. Interestingly enough, this contention is a regression, on part of the grandchildren and great grandchildren of European immigrants to America. Once a subordinate culture gains status in a society, privilege is threaten by future minorities seeks to gain social status.
Latino/a American Christians have maintained a heteronormative position on family life due to having a culture reflective of religion. Procreation through marriage has been an ethos passed down from the Roman Catholic Church[ii]. Dogmatism on marriage and family, with the example of the church being the bride of Christ, not only became an ethos of the Latino/a people, but a way of life. In my observations of Latino/a Catholicism, this emphasis of heteronormativity is communicated at an early age. It first starts with baptism, having a close association with godparents (male and female), followed by coming of age masses/parties (quinceanera) that resemble a wedding ceremony, and lastly, a nuptial mass/celebration between a male and female. Then the cycle continues.
Homophobia in the Latino/a community is not necessarily hatred towards homosexuals, but an innate fear of those who choose to not follow the normative binary. In conversations with my Latina parishioners, I have learned that this fear is rooted in how the homosexual community is a threat to the common marriage and way of life. Latino/a family structure has been conditioned as binary and anything contrary to intercourse apart from procreation is not acceptable[iii]. However, although Americans contend that Latinos do not use contraception contending that they live in poverty[iv], Latino Americans tend to follow American normative of using contraception. Waldmald states: “[I]n the U.S., 72% of Hispanic Catholics think the Catholic Church should permit the use of contraceptives[v].”
Homophobia in Latino/a communities influences the spread of HIV/AIDS. In a report of the Impact of Homophobia, researchers contend: “[three] most common experiences of homophobia [among Latino men] during childhood were hearing that gays are not normal people (91%), hearing that gay people grow up to be alone (71%), and a deep feeling that the respondent’s homosexuality hurt and embarrassed his family (70%). The majority of men (64%) reported having to pretend to be straight at some point in their adult lives, 29% reported that they had to move away from family or friends to live their homosexual lives[vi]…” This report also contends that “social discrimination has a negative impact on levels of social support and self-esteem, and, not surprisingly, [psychological] symptoms of distress are more prevalent among those who both are socially isolated and have a low sense of self-worth[vii].” Unfortunately, when the paradox of social discrimination, socialized conformability, and mental anxiety are present, homosexual men tend to engage in secret risky behavior and increase the risks of spreading HIV/AIDS among men and women[viii].
Latino/a American Christians can move toward a theology of reconciliation and inclusion. Christian teachings on human sexuality have been crafted from white androcentric teachings of heteronormativity. The hermeneutics associated with these interpretations have influenced oppression cross-racially and culturally. In being that the Latino/a culture focuses on family, in addition to advancement of education among its youth, I contend that Latinos/as will move toward inclusion throughout the next ten years. As faithful witnesses of God and Christ, reconciliation is already happening in daily prayers and novenas. With the advent of marriage equality in the United States, I also contend that stigmatic repression will also cease.
Latina/o American Christians believe in a God of liberation. This God of liberation freed them from the bonds of Spanish rule, bounded Spanish religion with indigenous culture, and has given their people power to modify the marks of society. Pursuing innovation, Latinos/as have sought liberation in America for a better life and continuation of their culture. Because no single groups of people/cultures are homogenous, the diversity of America, her ethics and morals, will become exponents in the Latino/a culture. In being a people focused on justice and immigration reform, the voices of GLBTQ identifiers will speak volumes of sustenance in unification, contesting the state of homosexual fear among Latinas/os. Micah 6:8 is already in the making. True and justice have been matched together and homophobia will enter latency when righteousness and peace kiss[ix].
[i] Liu, Joseph. “Chapter 7: Renewalism and Hispanic Christianity.” Pew Research Centers Religion Public Life Project RSS. May 07, 2014. Accessed May 3, 2016. http://www.pewforum.org/2014/05/07/chapter-7-renewalism-and-hispanic-christianity/. Most Latinos are Christians.
[ii] Pope Paul VI. Humanae Vitae (July 25, 1968). Accessed May 3, 2016. http://w2.vatican.va/content/paul-vi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-vi_enc_25071968_humanae-vitae.html.
[iii] Catholic Church. Catechism of the Catholic Church: Revised in Accordance with the Official Latin Text Promulgated by Pope John Paul II. Vatican City: Libreria Editrice Vaticana, 1997. Part II, Section II, Chapter III, Article seven, gives a detailed account of how Christian marriage should be.
[iv] Shaffer, Helen B. “Birth Control in Latin America.” In Editorial Research Reports 1968, vol. II, 641-60. Washington, DC: CQ Press, 1968. http://library.cqpress.com/cqresearcher/cqresrre1968090400. Although written in the sixties, this report perhaps gave Americans the backbone of prejudice against Latinos.
[v] Wormald, Benjamin. “Religion in Latin America.” Pew Research Centers Religion Public Life Project RSS. November 13, 2014. Accessed May 3, 2016. http://www.pewforum.org/2014/11/13/religion-in-latin-america/.
[vi] Díaz, Rafael, George Ayala, Edward Bein, Jeff Henne, and Barbara V. Marin. “The Impact of Homophobia, Poverty, and Racism on the Mental Health of Gay and Bisexual Latino Men: Findings from 3 US Cities.” Am J Public Health American Journal of Public Health 91, no. 6 (2001): 927-32. doi:10.2105/ajph.91.6.927.
[vii] Ibid, 931.
[viii]Centers for Disease Control. Factsheet on Latinos and HIV/AIDS. Accessed 3 May 2016. http://www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/newsroom/docs/factsheets/cdc-hiv-latinos-508.pdf.
[ix] Psalm 85:10.