El clóset y los medios y la gran familia queer

*Este texto lo publiqué originalmente en The Huffington Post.

Ellen PageA principios de este año viajé a Mérida, la ciudad donde nací y viví 18 años, para ir a la boda de Chalo, un querido amigo de la preparatoria. Me encontré con personas que no veía desde que salimos de la escuela y platicamos sobre nuestros trabajos, nuestros planes, nuestras parejas. Estaba muy contento de escucharlos, de contarles, de ponernos al día.

También me sentí raro. Recordé mi inseguridad cuando platicaba con algunos de ellos en los recreos, a la salida de la escuela o en fiestas sobre, por ejemplo, quién nos gustaba, qué niña nos parecía guapa o a quién queríamos enamorar (así le llamábamos al proceso que iba desde invitar a una niña a salir hasta hacerla tu novia).

Según yo, cuidaba magistralmente qué decía, qué palabras usaba, en qué tono hablaba para no indicar de ninguna manera que estaba mintiendo, para que no se me notara. Porque no me interesaba ninguna chava y me atraían más bien algunos de nuestros compañeros. En estos reencuentros en la boda de Chalo faltaba algo: ese escudo imaginario que me acompañó toda mi adolescencia ya no estaba. Conversar sin el miedo de que “se me notara” algo y no tener que esforzarme por mantener apariencias me hizo sentir muy cómodo.

Una comodidad liberadora, porque el clóset es agotador.

Hace seis o siete años que le dije a mi familia y amigos que soy gay. Recibí desde sermones sobre cómo “formar relaciones que no producirán nuevas vidas destruye el amor que dios nos da” hasta un correo electrónico de “bienvenido a esta gran familia de queers” de una tía lesbiana. Hoy sigo conociendo historias igual de variadas. Las anécdotas van de lo más chistoso a lo más deprimente.

En un mundo donde la homofobia permanece en todo tipo de espacios, donde muchos jóvenes cargan esos escudos imaginarios, salir del clóset sigue siendo relevante. Y no sólo en la privacidad de nuestras casas, escuelas y oficinas, sino en la esfera pública. Por eso me emociona tanto escuchar discursos como el de Ellen Page en la conferencia de Human Rights Campaign, donde dice que es gay y recuerda que “hay personas que van a la escuela todos los días y los tratan como mierda o sienten que no pueden decirle la verdad a sus papás”.

O leer artículos como el que escribió Maria Bello en The New York Times sobre ser bisexual, contradiciendo el mito de que la bisexualidad no existe o que los bisexuales nada más están confundidos. O ver a Michael Sam, Brian Boitano, Ian Matos y Tom Daley destapando poco a poco la homofobia que existe en el mundo deportivo. Salir del clóset sigue importando y más jóvenes necesitan escuchar esas historias. Sin duda es lo que a mi yo de 16 años, tan lejos de caras conocidas que hablaran abiertamente de su orientación sexual, le hubiera gustado escuchar.

Los medios de comunicación dan forma a esos clósets, pero también los clósets moldean a los medios. Y sí, algunas de estas declaraciones de celebridades y atletas son una acción de mercadotecnia. Sí, algunas son parte de una estrategia de comunicación con asesoría de expertos en el tema. Sí, “ya todos sabíamos” que un par de ellos eran gays o lesbianas. ¿Y qué? ¿No podemos celebrar que alguien dejó de fingir y la está pasando mejor? ¿Que le está diciendo al mundo que su sexualidad no es motivo para avergonzarse o esconderse? Un truco para impulsar la carrera de alguien no está peleado con mandar un mensaje positivo. Salir del clóset, en privado y en público, todavía tiene un gran peso.

El clóset es agotador. Es una máscara pesada, como dice el personaje de José María Yazpik en La vida en el espejo cuando le confiesa a su papá que es gay. Yo quiero que vengan más Ellens, Marias, Michaels, Toms. Más Rickys, Chavelas, Rachel Maddows y Kevin Kellers (para los que somos fans de Archie Comics). Quiero que cada vez más mexicanos y latinoamericanos se animen también. Total, de varios ya sabemos y ya ven que no pasa nada. Yo prometo enviarles un mensaje de bienvenida a la gran familia queer.


The closet, the media and the big, queer family

*I originally published this post on The Huffington Post.

Earlier this year, I traveled to Merida, the city where I was born and lived for 18 years, to attend my high school friend, Chalo’s, wedding. I ran into people I had not seen since we finished school, and we talked about our jobs, our plans, our significant others. I was so happy to catch up with them.

I also felt weird. I remembered my insecurities when we used to talk at recess, after school or at parties about, for instance, what girl we liked or who we wanted to date. At that time, I thought I mastered the art of choosing every word carefully, and even my tone of voice, to make sure they couldn’t tell I was lying. To keep it from showing. Because, of course, I was not interested in any girl, but actually attracted to a few of our male classmates. At this reunion at Chalo’s wedding, there was something missing: That imaginary shield I wore my whole time as a teenager was gone. Chatting with them without fearing that they could tell I was into boys, and not trying to maintain a certain appearance made me felt so comfortable. A liberating sort of comfort, because being in the closet is exhausting.

I told my friends and family I am gay about six or seven years ago. They responded in different ways, from lectures of how “forming relationships that won’t result in new lives destroys the love that God gives us,” to a, “Welcome to this big family of queers,” email from a lesbian aunt. Now I still hear of stories as varied as mine. Anecdotes range from the funniest to the most depressing.

In a world that still makes a lot of room for homophobia, where many young people still wear imaginary shields, coming out of the closet is still relevant. Not only in the privacy of our homes, schools and workplaces, but publicly. That is why I am moved by Ellen Page’s speech at the Human Rights Campaign conference where she said she’s gay, and reminds us of “people who go to school every day and get treated like shit, or feel like they can’t tell their parents the whole truth.” That’s why I’m glad to see in the New York Times Maria Bello’s article about being bisexual, fighting the myth that there is no such thing as bisexuality, or that bisexuals are just confused. That’s why I get excited to learn that Michael Sam, Brian Boitano, Ian Matos and Tom Daley are brushing off homophobic stereotypes in sports. Coming out still matters, and young people need to hear these stories. My 16-year-old self would have definitely wanted that.

Media shapes these closets, but closets shape the media as well. And, yes, some of those coming outs serve marketing purposes for celebrities and athletes. Yes, some are part of communication strategies with the help of experts. Yes, “we already knew” a couple of you were gay or lesbian. So what? Can’t we celebrate that someone stopped pretending, and is having a better time? That they are telling the world they have no reason to be ashamed or hide? A publicity stunt to advance someone’s career and sending out a positive message are not mutually exclusive events. Coming out of the closet, privately and publicly, is still powerful.

Being in the closet is exhausting. It’s a heavy mask, says Mexican actor José María Yazpik’s character when he comes out to his dad in La vida en el Espejo. I hope to see more Ellens, Marias, Michaels, Toms. More Rickys, Chavelas, Rachel Maddows and Kevin Kellers (for us fans of Archie Comics). I want to see more celebrities in Mexico and Latin America coming out too. We already know who a few of you are, anyway. It’s no big deal. And I promise to welcome you to this big family of queers.


Seis años después

Al final de mi primer año en la universidad estaba trabajando en un campamento de verano. Una compañera, Emma, de la nada me preguntó frente a otros counselors, “Quique, eres gay, ¿verdad?” Contesté que sí con esa misma naturalidad y (si esto fuera un musical, justo aquí empezaría la música) sentí que me quitó un peso de encima. Un peso que sólo reconoces por completo hasta que ya no está.

A propósito del Día Internacional de Salir del Clóset (porque, ¿por qué no?, si también hay Día Europeo de la Solidaridad y Cooperación entre Generaciones, y Día del Taco, y…), algunas cosas que pienso o he aprendido en estos seis años:

  1. Permanecer en el clóset es un derecho que hay que respetar.
  2. Permanecer en un clóset de cristal, también.
  3. Excepto cuando dicho closetero se toma la libertad de atacar deliberadamente los derechos y necesidades de otros.
  4. La prisa para hacerlo le pertenece sólo a cada quien, pero ser feliz no es algo que suceda así nada más. Es una decisión. Requiere valor. Y, sabiendo que tristemente en algunos lugares puede costarte la vida, insisto en el derecho a callar.
  5. Esto es como consejo de terapeuta y es muy cierto: Conviene hacerse de una red de apoyo antes de. Amigos o familia o quien te acomode. A veces no tenemos personas gays cerca y de confianza, y tampoco son necesariamente los mejores aliados. Como bien dice mi querido Miguel Cane, el mundo no es para nada un ring de gays vs. bugas. “Quien te haga daño puede ser cualquiera. Hasta la pinche inventada, por ejemplo.”
  6. Todos los días hay pequeños actos de salir del clóset que cuentan más de lo que pensamos (un poco como lo que dicen de que una sonrisa puede alegrarle la mañana a alguien): en casa, en la calle, en la oficina, en el salón de clases…
  7. Salir del clóset como aliado heterosexual es requerido y bienvenido. Y no está padre que alguien se ofenda por que piensen que es gay si no lo es.
  8. Salir del clóset como estrategia mediática y demás es súper válido. Y es una muy buena señal que la carrera, las ventas, el rating de alguien, hoy, se beneficien por eso. Cuando personajes que tienen un público (gente que los admira, que los sigue, que toma en cuenta lo que dicen y hacen) salen del clóset, es como tocar la puerta de otros y decirles que, cuando salgan, las cosas serán un poquito más fáciles. Sea Christian Chávez, Ricky Martin o Harvey Milk.
  9. En esta sociedad mediatizada, los medios de comunicación dan forma a los clósets. Pero también los clósets moldean a los medios. Los clósets determinan decisiones laborales, políticas públicas, votos en cámaras legislativas. En México necesitamos más personajes abiertamente LGBT: deportistas, periodistas, políticos, artistas, empresarios reconocidos… Inserten aquí enlaces a las cuentas de Twitter o páginas de Wikipedia de quienes juzguen necesario.
  10. Para quien sigue adentro: piensa en todo lo que ya no tendrías que evitar para perpetuar la idea de que eres otro alguien. Piensa en todo lo que ya no tendrías que controlar. Qué decir. Qué hacer. Con quién salir. A dónde no ir. A estas alturas, una orientación sexual se vuelve talón de Aquiles sólo si tú lo permites. Y lo más probable es que ya varios a tu alrededor lo sospechen. Hazte la vida más fácil.

GLAAD Media Awards

Each year the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) gives out a number of media awards to honor outstanding images and stories of LGBT people. Since they first began in 1990, they’ve become the single most prestigious recognition of its kind. In 2012, the 23rd GLAAD Media Awards were presented in ceremonies in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. This last one just took place last weekend.

A few weeks ago I talked to Rich Ferraro, Director of Communications at the organization, about the awards and the organization’s influence in the media.

How did the GLAAD Media Awards start? What is their purpose?
GLAAD is an organization that works with the media to tell stories about lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender people. We work with a wide range of media from entertainment outlets, movie studios and TV networks to national news outlets in America, religious press, sports media, online media. We’ve seen that when people hear stories about LGBT people, and allies of LGBT people, they come to learn that LGBT people deserve the same opportunities as they do.

The GLAAD Media Awards honor those stories. They began with an awards ceremony in New York 23 years ago with just a handful of honorees, because LGBT issues were not so spoken about in the media, and certainly not spoken about in a positive way. We wanted a way to say you’re doing a good job, and we want others to follow. And now what we’ve seen is that the awards have become the most visible LGBT event in America, and likely around the world. We’ve had celebrities from Ricky Martin to Ellen Degeneres and Josh Hutcherson, star of The Hunger Games.

Can you tell me about the process of choosing honorees?
We have nominees in English and Spanish-language for a total of 35 categories including news, entertainment, TV, film, as well as some smaller parts of our culture like theatre, comic books, where stories of LGBT people are impacting our culture and creating change. GLAAD has a series of volunteer juries with expertise and with industry experience in all of these different areas. The juries come up with a pool of nominees with a termometer in the media year-round, whether it’s music artists who have used their recent albums to raise awareness on LGBT issues, or monitoring local news media.

GLAAD’s Board of Directors, staff and some of our major donors choose. They vote on the winners. The criteria for voting on the awards recipients is that they are fair, accurate and inclusive of our community, of the full diversity in the LGBT community, it should be original content, a news story that we haven’t heard before, tactful, reaching Americans and those around the world, and overall quality.

Ricky Martin, award winner.

There are three ceremonies. Is there a different set of categories or audience for each? Do they have different goals?
The goal of each ceremony is to provide a platform for celebrities and media outlets to talk about their support for LGBT people. It is also to honor public figures and media outlets who are doing an exemplary job. The GLAAD Media Awards have become an industry benchmark that a lot of different movie studios, production companies, newspapers and television networks strive for. They want this recognition. They want to know that they are doing a good job for our community.

The GLAAD Media Awards are also a fundraiser for GLAAD’s work year-round to tell stories of LGBT people. The awards in the three different cities are part of our fundraising. It’s also kind of a way for us to get in front of different communities around the country. In addition to the people who attend the events, each of these has a program with young adults, LGBT and their allies, who come to the awards for free through generous donations from our sponsors. They are able to interact with others like them, to say hello to celebrities who support them for who they are, and they get to see the show.

Do you think the GLAAD Media Awards somehow help push forward or enhance someone’s career, a certain media or show’s success?
I think what they’ve done is they’ve pushed celebrities, public figures and media to do a better and more proactive job at telling LGBT stories.

Cory Monteith and Naya Rivera, stars of “Glee” and this year’s hosts at the NYC ceremony.

Speaking of GLAAD’s work more generally, where does GLAAD draw the line between calling out on media’s unfair representation of LGBT people and issues, holding them accountable for their words and images, and making it seem as if GLAAD is maybe trying to censor the media?
More and more when we’re calling out celebrities or media outlets, we’re trying to do more than just get an apology. We’re trying to make it a teachable moment for our culture, and we’re trying to start a national dialogue.

Last year Tracy Morgan, a comedian and actor, made a joke in a standup routine that if his son was gay he would stab him. At GLAAD we hear stories when we work with organizations such as The Trevor Project, we know of the harm and what could happen to LGBT young people when their parents don’t accept them. We’ve also heard terrible stories about the violence that LGBT people face. What we wanted with Tracy was not to bully him into an apology, not to get a two-sentence press statement, but we wanted to use that as a way to really start a national dialogue about what it means when parents reject their LGBT kids, and the violence that LGBT people face.

We spoke with Tracy Morgan, we told him we wanted to take him to The Ali Forney Center, which is a homeless shelter for LGBTs in New York City. He went there with us, he met with young adults whose parents didn’t approve of who they were, and as a result these kids were turned away. Thankfully they had an organization such as The Ali Forney Center to welcome them.

Tracy then spoke with the media and told his fans, who are people that maybe wouldn’t generally hear of this, about why they should accept LGBT people. They heard from someone they admire and from someone whose career they follow that the right thing to do is to accept your kids no matter what. We also worked with teens at The Ali Forney Center to get them to talk about their own stories in the press. After they met with Tracy they went to The Daily News, The Wall Street Journal, MTV News, to some really powerful and international news publications so they could talk, not only about meeting with Tracy but also about their own personal stories.

More and more we’re really trying to push the envelopes. It’s not so much about GLAAD versus the media. It’s about GLAAD telling a wider story.

You can follow Rich Ferraro and GLAAD on Twitter, learn more about GLAAD Media Awards and this year’s honorees here, and read about a project I collaborate with on GLAAD’s blog.


English version of LGBT en Español: transgender youth, Ricky Martin in Honduras, gay telenovelas

From GLAAD’s blog, here’s the newest edition of LGBT en Español where I collaborated (more information on this project here):

Awareness of transgender youth in Spanish-language media

Last month, Univision.com published a 22-page photo essay titled “The 7 Signs of a Transgender Child,” that began with Chaz Bono’s story and explained his role in transgender visibility. The piece delved into transgender people in history and legal challenges, debunked myths and offered parental advice on how to best support a transgender child.  In late September, CNN México published an article titled “Transgender children, the difficult path to their true identity,” that details the story of two American transgender youth, Tammy Lobel and Mario. Despite some inconsistent gender pronoun use, the article shed light on the stories and struggles of some transgender youth.

Ricky Martin Faced Anti-Gay Opposition in Honduras. 

Ricky Martin’s October concert in Honduras garnered controversy after far-right activists demanded that the government deny his visa. In the weeks leading up to the concert, anti-LGBT religious leaders sought the help of Africo Madrid, the nation’s Minister of the Interior, who stated Martin’s family “is not the type of family that Honduran law and society wants to construct and promote to youth.”  An age restriction limiting concert entry to those 15 years of age and older was added as a result of the protest. Nevertheless, the concert went off without a hitch in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa.  This story was extensively covered by the Honduran media as well as U.S. outlets such as Univision.comImpre.com, Telemundo’s Al rojo vivo and Mega TV’s Paparazzi Magazine among others.

Developments in LGBT-inclusive telenovelas

In the last edition of LGBT en Español, we introduced you to Harold and Alcides, the two gay protagonists of the Telefutura re-airing of the Colombian telenovela, El último matrimonio feliz (The last happy marriage). Things are getting complicated as the two find themselves in a love triangle with Daniel (Felipe Calderon), Harold’s much younger and financially dependent ex-boyfriend who hasn’t come to terms with the relationship’s end. Meanwhile, Alcides is struggling with coming out to his friends and dealing with his feelings for Harold. El último matrimonio feliz airs weekdays on Telefutura at its new time 8:30p.m. ET/OT and 7:30 p.m. CT. Meanwhile in Mexico, a news outlet, El Gráficomentioned in an article that the Mexican television network TV Azteca is in the development process for a telenovela, Cada quien su santo, which will feature a gay character and his relationship with his homophobic father. Neither an air-date nor U.S. syndication were mentioned in the article.

LGBT in Mexico: Catholic Church challenged on LGBT equality; LGBT bloggers. Mexico’s nationally-distributed newspaper Milenio published an article about the LGBT community organizing to phone bank to reach Catolitel, the hotline of the Archdiocese of Mexico. The nature of the calls is to complain about LGBT exclusion from the Catholic Church, specifically the opposition to adoption and marriage for LGBT people. Reforma, another nationally distributed and high circulation newspaper, unveiled a new blog by columnist Genaro Lozano, who writes about LGBT issues in a positive way. Lozano recently posted a piece about LGBT equality in Latin America. And the Mexican political website Animal Político published an article by writer and journalist Miguel Cane, in which he tells of his experience as a victim of homophobia.

LGBT occupation of Wall Street, adoption, and Hollywood 

Los Angeles-based Spanish-language newspaper La Opinión published an article by Yurina Melara Valiulis about the inclusion of LGBT people and organizations in the Los Angeles version of the national Occupy Wall Street Movement. Another article by Valiulis appeared in San Francisco’s El Mensajero, about Los Angeles County’s campaign “Raise a Child,” which aims to encourage LGBT couples to adopt children. In honor of Coming Out Day, English-language publication Latina Magazine published a piece on the top six openly gay Latino celebrities in Hollywood. And Univision.com reported in an article that Eva Longoria’s intimate scenes with Kate del Castillo in the movie Without men have been censored in Spain. The article is also linked to a video interview that Univision did with the movie’s director Gabriela Tagliavina, who talks about some of the film’s LGBT elements.

- Daniel Alvarenga, Brian Pacheco, Monica Trasandes, and Enrique TorreMolina contributed to this report.


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