Growing up in the Dominican community, if you’re gay, it must be real tough to come out.
With the recent proposal from Gov David Patterson to introduce same sex marriage, I wondered what a Dominican would think if I walked around the neighborhood and asked their opinions on gays.
Really, I don’t have to walk around the neighborhood to know the answer. I’m not saying that all Dominicans are homo-phobic – but a good portion of them are. I would say Latinos in general are homophobic – especially from the Caribbean. Most have no problem with letting them get married and some do. But the overwhelming response I got from most male and females I spoke to about this was: “Dont bring them near me.” But I have to be honest with my readers – I was once the same way.
Growing up, you heard urban slang like ‘pause’ or ‘no homo’ when a guy said something that can be interpreted as gay. For example, if I tell my friend ‘my back hurts,’ I would immediately have to say before or after ‘no homo,’ so that nobody would say ‘pause,’ which means to watch or cut that out. Why would my ‘back hurts’ elicit a ‘no homo’? Because it insinuates that someones been having intercourse with you and that’s why your back hurts. Follow my drift? Blame it all on Dipset (rap group) for beginning this whole thing and for it still being said even outside of NY.
But I’ve changed throughout the years. I guess you can say I was homophobic like Kanye West before and now I’m not like Kanye West today who is pro-gay.
What also prompted this post was a study being conducted by Rutgers professor, Carlos Decena. He will be coming out with a book called ‘Tacit Subjects: Dominican Transnational Identities and Male Homosexuality in New York City.’ He’s explored the subject of gay male Dominicans in the Washington Heights community for years.
A few months ago, I remember walking with one of my friends and him pointing into one of the neighborhood salons. He pointed at a guy that looked healthy and young. He was a hairdresser. But what my friend told me next shocked me. The man was stabbed more than 20 times in different parts of his body in our neighborhood. The reason? Because he was gay. How the man survived? I have no idea.
That really put it all in perspective for me. This is something most don’t expect to occur in New York City because they feel its a bastion of free-expression. This isn’t San Francisco folks. People act like what happened to Matthew Shepherd can’t happen here, but it has.
New York is no different than anywhere else. Let’s be real – white people are probably the most gay friendly in this city. I would say Blacks next and that’s really being generous considering how homo-phobic Black America is as a whole. But aside from that, New York is a city of immigrants: Asian, Black, or Hispanic and these groups aren’t too fond of gays. Its just a fact. It’s not just Dominicans – Mexicans, Cubans, Ricans, Peruvians, are also the same way.
You also have to remember the religion argument. People act like “white southerners” or “Italians in the Vatican city” are the most religious people in the world. No – no one comes close to Latinos. Trust me, I grew up in a Latino family and there are some serious Jesus lovers here.
Now, as I said earlier, I’m not blanketing these groups, but its just the reality for now. When will immigrant groups in NY become more “gay-friendly?” Probably when our parents and their parents start dying off. Its the same thing we’ve said about racism and how it will decrease as the older generation that was implicit in it dies off.
I just really hope it changes because I feel like the Latino community is still a bit behind on this issue. As bad as Blacks and Whites have been towards gays, many are trying to come to tolerate or accept it. I don’t see that much effort amongst the Latino community whether in books, seminars or television to do the same. I feel as time passes, you will definitely see change, but don’t we all wish it could come sooner?
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