Love is Love: The Reality of LGBT Latino Community

Certain challenges come with being a Latin individual living in the U.S.A. It can be difficult to embrace a new culture, while keeping your roots and simultaneously staying true to your home traditions.

When I first moved to the US some friends laughed at my accent, strangers judged me based on my ethnicity and others made me feel like a fool because I couldn’t express my feelings in the English language. Once I overcame all these obstacles, the culture shock became less of an issue, and I was able to form new friendships that helped me understand the sacrifices many people faced to pursue the American dream.

Behind all of the stories of sacrifice, there is one community no one acknowledges. This community is facing an insurmountable and problematic plight. The community is gay and transgender Latinos. Many gay and transgender Latinos are attacked on both sides of the spectrum; fighting for their right to live the way they want without discrimination, and trying to fit into American society.

There is no doubt that religion is prominent in the Hispanic culture. Believing in a higher power can be an amazing experience when love, acceptance, and generosity is not only preached but put into action. Unfortunately, this isn’t the situation for many lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in America.

During my childhood, I was taught that homosexuality was a sin.

Leviticus 18:22 states, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.”

Many preachers have taught their passive-aggressive hatred based on this verse in the Bible.

Now and then, the church will erupt in celebration when a gay or transgender person gives their testimony about how God changed their sinful life. Many individuals in the LGBT Hispanic community have been silenced completely by the enormity of the discrimination towards them. Others have been called rapists and pedophiles. In Latin America, LGBT citizens are regularly targeted by right-wing killers, but these stories are kept under wraps.

Although the LGBT community keeps fighting for their rights in the U.S.A, in Latin America it can be harder to speak up. LGBT people are often brutally punished for exercising their right to freedom of expression. They suffer harassment, threats, hate attacks, rape, brutal beatings by public security agents, and yes, by religious institutions that believe homosexuals are the result of a lack of love from the parents or the consequence of demons entering the body. Many people are forced to flee their countries and hopefully find stability in their lives in the US., but it seems transgender people are under fire wherever they go.

When I first read about Jennicet Gutiérrez, a transgender activist, born in México, who is a United States immigrant, I quickly became interested. Tired of the violence many transgender illegal immigrants face in this country, she decided to heckle President Obama at an event. After getting booed by the audience, she was removed from the event.

In a statement, she said, “Today, President Obama clearly shut me down and tried not to bring those realities [for LGBTQ immigrants] up for him and the rest of the attendees. It’s difficult to say I’m a supporter of the president.”

Her reasons are based on the fact that trans women are more likely to face discrimination because of their gender identity. Jennicet is the first transgender person to call out to the president about the issue of immigration. She came to the U.S.A when she was just 15 years old. Her family settled in North Hollywood and today, she is battling her own war.

Jennicet is a victim of torture. What the news media does not report is the torture and rape transgender immigrants experience inside detention.

Despite the fact that the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has unveiled an 18-page guide on how officers should interact with transgender immigrants in custody, Jennicet’s goal is for transgender immigrants to be housed in detention facilities that match their gender identity. I have met many people who crossed the Rio Grande, and their testimonies are heartbreaking.

Imagine this. You pay a coyote (the person who helps to cross the river) at least $2,000. You have to walk for miles through a desert without food or water, making you an easy target for thieves and criminals. Once you reach the promised land, a whole new chapter begins. Why would someone decide to take this trip in such extreme conditions? Because the reality is, there is no choice. If they stay or return to their country of origin, they will be forced to make ends meet by working as prostitutes. Many people are embroiled in a lengthy discussion over immigration in this country. The politics surrounding this topic are nonsensical. Activism that propels people like Jennicet, to fight against abuse is where the constitution stands.

Human rights go beyond race, political status, and gender. We pride ourselves by saying yes to the LGBT community. Are we ready to stand up against our families who are unwilling to accept us? Are we ready to stand up against religious institutions preaching hate?

On June 12th, the second deadliest terrorist attack on U.S soil occurred in Orlando, Florida. Omar Mir Seddique Mateen killed fifty people inside the nightclub “Pulse.” This venue was a favorite of the Hispanic community. It was a massacre, directed against the LGBT community.

The majority of those who have lost their lives by this senseless unfathomable violence were Hispanic. I have written this piece with a broken heart. I have written this on behalf of those who lost their lives, those who shared the same ethnic and cultural background as I.

I still believe love is love. I believe that humans are not an abomination based on whom they love.

Harvey Milk once said, “Hope will never be silent.”

I will not remain silent. I ask you to help me, by adding your voice to mine, so that we may speak for those that can no longer speak for themselves. Will you join me and fight for love?

Photo Credit: torbakhopper via Compfight cc

Stephanie Ortez

Stephanie is a highly caffeinated mother of two wonderful boys. She is hopelessly addicted to non-fiction books and literature that moves her to tears. She is an admissions advisor for George Washington University online where she assists homeschooled students internationally. Stephanie lives with Bipolar Disorder, PTSD, and Generalized Anxiety Disorder. She is a passionate mental health advocate, member of Stigma Fighters. Her writing has been featured on The Elephant Journal, The Mighty, The Organic Coffee Haphazardly and Feminine Collective.

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    The problem here is love! Its not about “love everybody.. unless they think different.. then just kill them”.. Its about “love everyone”. period.

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    I am always shaking my head whenever I see and/or hear discrimination of any kind. These non-sensical people are judging the other side for making “bad choices” which isn’t even logical in the first place.

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    I can’t wrap my head around what would make someone want to harm another such as this. I hear about it all the time in the news but I don’t understand! Why so much hate in the wold. My heart breaks each time I hear those horrible stories.

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    I think it’s horrible all of the shootings we’re hearing about. We were at Disney when this one happened, and it really hit home. My heartfelt prayers have gone out many times to the survivors and all of the family members of those who made it, and those who did not.

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    I love your “I still believe love is love. I believe that humans are not an abomination based on whom they love”. This is so true. I wish more people would realize we are all different and yet all the same wanting to be accepted and loved.

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    I couldn’t agree more Elizabeth. Corruption and violence is what drives many immigrants to create a new life in this country. But now it seems this never ending nightmare is following them everywhere they go. I hope for the best too, because we’re going to need it.

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    We have to respect each other because each of us has a choice. My heart goes to this community.

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    Our world today has too much hatred and arguments. Why can’t we just accept and respect one another?

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    It is unfortunate that there is so much hate. I totally agree that love is love and people should be allowed to be themselves and not have to worry about backlash.

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    What happened in Pulse that night was completely hearbreaking. It amazes me how some people would rather see two men holding guns than holding hands and I wish today’s society didn’t have such homophobic ideas still rooted on their brains. We need to love and accept people for who they are and not base our thoughts into what we were taught when we were young.

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    There are still many nations that are very intact with their faith and that’s never a bad thing unless you use it to judge other people. The LGBT community always takes a hit, especially when it comes to discrimination and hate. I think we are definitely moving forward and although it takes too long, we will eventually get to a place of acceptance, I am hoping for the best.

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    Thank you for raising these important points, Stephanie. I stand beside you in the fight for love, and also for equality and nonviolence. The horror needs to stop.

  13. laurenhalsted

    You are so absolutely right when you say that we must fight for love. Love of the self. Love of our brothers and sisters, no matter their sexual orientation. Right on sister! <3

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