June marks what President Obama recently declared national Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. And in honor of the occasion, an LGBT issue-oriented television program released a 26-minute documentary titled “Orgullo Latino” about the contributions Latinos have made in advancing the causes of the LGBT community and displaying gay pride.
The documentary, which you can watch below, includes interviews with high-profile LGBT Latinos, including Daniel Hernandez, who helped former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords after she was shot in early 2011, Eduardo Xol, a designer for the TV program “Extreme Makeover: Home Edition” and Jane Velez-Mitchell, who hosts a news show on HLN.
“Authenticity counts,” Velez-Mitchell says in the documentary. “Being able to be who I am I think has only helped my career.”
Velez-Mitchell, who is a bicultural Latina with roots in Ireland and Puerto Rico, came out on live radio in 2007 and wrote about the experience candidly in her biography.
“I surrendered to the truth, admitting to myself, then to my therapist, and finally to my family and friends: I am a lesbian,” Velez-Mitchell wrote last year in The Huffington Post. “It was only after coming out that I realized how emotionally constrained my life had been.”
Latinos battle stereotypes of intolerance
According to the documentary, LGBT Latinos face a unique set of issues, such as changing immigration policies, dealing with bi-national couple issues and racism, in addition to homophobia.
On a national level, the documentary found, prominent Latino LGBT organizations, such as Unidos, have to work extra hard to secure funding after another prominent Latino LGBT organization, Llegó, misused funds and was forced to shut down in 2004.
A recent survey by the Pew Hispanic Centerindicates that despite the stereotype that the U.S. Latino community disproportionately displays homophobic viewpoints that a majority of Latinos think homosexuality should be accepted by society — which at 59 percent is a rate slightly higher than that of the general public.
The survey also found that gender, age and immigrant generation played a large role in the acceptance of homosexuality among Latinos. Latinas, younger Latinos (age 18 to 29) and second- and third-generation immigrants were more likely to accept homosexuality.
Similarly, a 2011 report on LGBT acceptance among Latinos found that Latinos are slightly more likely to support legal gay marriage than the general population and are just as likely to be a member of the LGBT community as any other group in the United States.
“The great concern over Hispanic homophobia, according to our data, is highly exaggerated,” the report stated. “We find that if there is one concern with LGBT acceptance in the Hispanic community, it resides at the intersection of Hispanicity and religion.”
The intersection of ethnicity and religion
According to the Pew Hispanic Center, more than three in five Latinos identify as Catholic — an affiliation that’s at the root of stereotypes of Latino intolerance. According to the religion’s doctrine, homosexual acts are sins.
The survey found that the most traditional Latinos — those who were devout Catholics — and Latinos who were recent immigrants were likely to be the least tolerant of the LGBT community.
“It could very well be the case that the reason the unacculturated are intolerant is because gay and lesbians are less upfront themselves in their home country,” the report concluded. “As Hispanics live longer in the U.S., the more they stumble across LGBT issues… the more tolerant they become.”
A handful of Latina role models
Another way for LGBT Latinos to gain acceptance is for high-profile Latinos to come out, “Orgullo Latino” found, noting that when Ricky Martin announced he was gay in 2010 it “moved tectonic plates.”
In addition to Velez-Mitchell, a handful of high-profile Latinas have come out or become strong supporters of the LGBT community in recent years, including Mary Edna Gonzalez, the only openly gay state lawmaker in Texas, Vicci Martinez, an openly gay singer and former contestant on “The Voice,” and Naya Rivera, who plays a lesbian on “Glee” and often works with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.