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Gay Latinos: Why Being Out and Proud Makes You a Real Man

Updated on August 16, 2013
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For boys raised In the Latino community, to be machismo is to be a real man. But, when a man begins to identify himself as gay and Hispanic, it can set into motion serious conflict within himself and with the community around him.

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While the English understanding of the phrase 'machismo' is roughly translated as being masculine, manly or macho, in the vernacular of Spanish and Portuguese speakers, it literally means a supremacy over women, according to Real Academia Española.

As dominance is closely linked to manhood in Latino communities, it becomes no surprise that boys who go on to identify as gay--especially those who are inherently less aggressive, passive or feminine--struggle to find acceptance among their heterosexual counterparts.

When Expectations of Gay Latinos Are Not Fulfilled

The portrait of a Latino male, whether in the U.S. or Latin America, is virtually the same.

Hispanic males are expected to play a central role in their families and their communities, according to Dr. Carlos Zalaquett, of the University of South Florida. The tenets of manhood, include:

  • Distinct rights and privileges enjoyed by males that female counterparts cannot enjoy
  • Courage to fight and defend his own life, property and that of those he loves
  • Honor and dignity
  • Integrity to keep one's word
  • Protection of his family name
  • Dignity in personal conduct
  • Respect for others
  • Love of family
  • Affection for children

While this list includes attributes that can easily be identified in some gay Latino men, feelings are often complicated dependent upon whether that man is more masculine or feminine.

Anecdotal evidence in the gay community suggests that a Latino man who identifies as gay is likely more accepted by his peers and his own family if he is a top sexually, or the more dominant partner overall.

While this is not always the case--not all masculine gay Latinos will find acceptance--it certainly couldn't hurt.

Feminine Latino men will have a much harder time convincing their families and peers that they can fulfill the expectations the community places on their shoulders. For example, a gay man who finds shelter in the strength and protection of another man cannot be seen as able to defend himself, let alone the honor of himself or his family.

As a result, that individual's value is diminished in the eyes of those who hold on to these stereotypes of what makes a man, and can lead to serious physical and mental consequences for that man, including but not limited to denial of his inherent sexual orientation, anxiety disorders, increased stress, depression, and suicide.

By virtue of very close-knit families and communities, many gay Latinos exhibit warm attitudes towards their own families and peer groups, especially among children, ranging from younger brothers and sisters, siblings, and nieces and nephews.

However, another source of conflict for gay Latinos (especially within the family unit) is the perception gay men cannot father children to preserve and continue the family name and legacy. Parents may mourn the perceived loss of seeing their child have children of their own.

Finally, the perception that gay love, sex and relationships do not promote a man's dignity by some in the Latino community can stir discord among a gay Latino and his family, and again devalue the man in spite of what is inherent to him.

Gay Latino Poll

Have You Ever Felt Discriminated Against as a Gay Latino?

See results

Man Up: Why Being an Open and Gay Latino Matters

While each person must take the journey to acceptance of their sexuality themselves, encouragement for gay Latinos to live openly and honestly about who they are is vital to changing the discourse within our community on this matter.

First and foremost, understanding that masculinity is not in the gender of the person you sleep with but your character and convictions is important. A Latino can still be a man if he is gay, even if he is the sexual bottom with his partner.

Based on Zalaquett's list of qualities which make up manhood in the Latino community, all of these things can be fulfilled by a gay man, some even better than a straight man might. If given the opportunity to express their love openly with family and friends, gay Latinos can most certainly enjoy partnerships and families of their own.

Providing for a safe and open environment from which gay Latinos can grow, dating and relationships could be fostered to the point of marriage. With surrogacy, adoption, parenting contracts and a variety of other means, gay couples can also experience the joys and the challenges of parenthood.

When gay Latinos are able to live openly without concealing their relationships in the shadows or with shame, the opportunity is presented for them to develop a greater love for family, acceptance for children and the protection of their family's name.

Regardless of whether a gay Latino is single or partnered, the characteristics of dignity in personal conduct, honor and the integrity to keep one's word are bolstered when they are given the opportunity to mature as openly gay men.

In hiding, there can be no dignity. Furthermore, having to act out their love in the shadows only leads to shame, and the potential for risky personal conduct that puts them (or their health) in jeopardy. Allowing Latino men to come out without fear affords them the chance to live happy and fulfilling lives as real men.

© 2013 meetbrandon

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