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Coming Out as LGBTQ and Hispanic

For many Hispanic and Latino/Latina/Latinx individuals, coming out involves some specific cultural factors worth considering. These factors include having to deal with a culture highly influenced by religion and particularly Catholicism, strong family foundations, traditional gender norms and machismo, as well as racism and the lack of visibility of Hispanic and Latinos in the leadership of LGBTQ community. Many Hispanic and Latino LGBTQ people have endured intensive prejudice and discrimination from the various communities to which they belong. Yet, thanks to courageous Hispanic and Latino LGBTQ activists, writers and scholars, their families and their allies, this is a time of growing support, acceptance and visibility.

Religion - According to the U.S. 2000 census, 70% of Hispanic and Latino families identify as Catholic. The second largest group is most likely Protestant, followed by people who do not consider themselves members of any church, Jews, and finally a very small number of converts to Islam. In all of these communities, the Bible is a frequently quoted source by those who condemn homosexuality. Those who use the Bible this way support their view with a literal reading of the texts and often take quotations out of context, ignoring their historical and cultural origins, and using them as ammunition against people they hate or fear.


Patriarchy and the Family - In many Hispanic and Latinx contexts, the family remains a crucial institution that defines both gender and sexual relations between men and women. Therefore, any behavior that deviates from the expected heterosexuality must be kept secret.

Responsibility to one’s family is a very important value. Family name and image are very important values and every individual family member is seen as a reflection on their larger family

There is a strong cultural norm that families must solve problems on their own and not mention them outside the inner family circle. If problems remain unsolved or are considered unsolvable, then the family often no longer discusses the matter, and buries it in silence.


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Many Hispanic/Latinx families have parents who believe they would do anything to insure their children’s welfare. However, like parents of all ethnic groups, many are ill prepared to deal with having a LGBTQ child because of a lack of education with regard to human sexuality and sexual identity.

Gender stereotypes and the position of women in patriarchal societies influence the treatment and stereotypes of gay men in these societies. This can be seen, for example in the contemptuous term term “Maricón” used to slur gay men in Mexico and throughout the Spanish speaking world by comparing them to women.

Patriarchal cultures with deep roots in the institution of heterosexuality can also be experienced as requiring that women commit themselves to men (of their culture) while subordinating their own sexual desires.

Machismo  -  Most, if not all, cultures have double standards by which male and female sexual and gender behavior is judged. In Hispanic and Latino communities, these values and beliefs are often referred to as machismo and are highly valued. Machismo doesn’t have to lead to homophobia but it can if it leads to the“ the repudiation of all ‘ feminine’ virtues” in men and any suspicion of masculinity in women.


Media - The media (particularly TV and movies) and popular jokes are powerful means through which Hispanic and Latinx individuals learn about LGBTQ people. Spanish television in the US often portrays gay men stereotypically, as extremely effeminate, ridiculous, humorous characters. LGBTQ people and their contributions to society are rarely if ever depicted, though during the last decade, some Spanish soap operas have begun to include a few gay characters portrayed with a positive image. The sexual orientation of successful and famous gay persons is avoided, depriving LGBTQ youths of important role models. Lesbians are rarely portrayed in the media and, when they are, they are also shown stereotypically as very masculine women.


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Tradition - Tradition is highly valued in Hispanic and Latinx cultures. The idea of joining a support group strike some member of Hispanic and Latino communities as untraditional and contrary to the values of privacy and family pride.

Economic Circumstances - Hispanic/Latinx same-sex couple families in Florida are disadvantaged compared to white non-Hispanic/Latino same-sex couple families in terms of income, homeownership, and disability.


Female same-sex households in Florida in which both partners are Hispanic/Latina earn over $23,000 less in median annual household income than white non- Hispanic/Latina female same-sex households and over $27,000 less than white non-Hispanic/Latino male same-sex households.

Male same-sex households in Florida in which both partners are Hispanic/Latinx earn $13,140 less in median annual household income than white non-Hispanic/Latina female same-sex households and $17,500 less than white non-Hispanic/Latino male same sex couples.

Some Hispanic and Latinx LGBTQ individuals, parents and allies are highly motivated to form or join support or civil groups, but they are limited by their financial circumstances and/or overwhelming work schedules.

[Source: Hispanic & Latino Same Sex Couples in Florida: Report Based on 2000 Census by Jason Cianciotto & Luis Lopez. Adapted from De Colores: Lesbian and Gay Latinos: Stories of Strength, Family and Love Discussion Guide by Nila Marrone and Peter Barbosa]



LGBTQ Latinx Celebrities

Dan Bucatinsky / Actor

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Patricia Velasquez / Actor, Model

Ricky Martin / Musician

Mathew Rodriguez / Journalist

Emily Rios / Actor

Ian Matos / Olympic Diver

Julio Salgado / Artist

Vicci Martinez / Musician

Shane Ortega / Soldier

Axis Mundo / Artist

Michelle Garcia / Editor

Carlos Padilla / Activist

Richard Blanco / Poet

Frida Kahlo / Artist


Patricia Yurena / Beauty Queen

Mario Jose / Singer

Orlando Cruz / Boxer

Yosimar Reyes / Poet

Michelle Rodriguez / Actor

Carmen Carrera / Fashion Model

Linda Perry / Musician

Laura Aguilar / Photographer

Perez Hilton / Journalist

Jennicet Gutierrez / Activist

Wilson Cruz / Actor

Mondo Guerra / Fashion Designer

Christian Chavez / Musician

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LGBTQ Travellers to Central America


Central America can be an unwelcoming place for gay men and lesbians, but there are some bright spots. Same-sex marriage was legalized in Mexico in 2009 and in Costa Rica in 2013. The current president of Costa Rica, Luis Guillermo Solís, has been unusually vocal in his support for gay rights, and even flew the rainbow flag at the presidential house.

Advocacy groups in other Central American countries are eager to follow suit. Consensual gay sex has been decriminalized all around the region, with the exception of Belize. Gay and lesbian travelers can actually be barred from entering Belize, though we are not aware of any such incidents.

That said, official and unofficial harassment is possible anywhere in Central America. In general, public displays of affection will not be tolerated and gay men (and possibly women) could find themselves the target of verbal or physical abuse. Discretion is definitely the rule in Central America, especially in the countryside. Lesbians are generally less maligned than gay men so women traveling together should encounter few, if any, problems.


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LGBTQ Venues in Latin America

There is usually at least one gay bar in big cities, which makes meeting people easier. Some of the more public gay and lesbian scenes:

--Costa Rica: There is a thriving gay scene in San José and in Manuel Antonio.
--El Salvador: The charming mountain town of San Vicente is a popular gay destination.
--Guatemala: Travelers will find a small and subdued gay scene in both Antigua and Guatemala City.
--Mexico: The biggest and best gay scene in the region is at the bars and clubs in Cancún and Playa del Carmen.
--Nicaragua: Travelers will find a few gay-specific bars in Managua.
--Panama: Bars come and go, but the gay scene in Panama City is surprisingly limited. The normally discreet population is more open during Carnaval festivities, which usually feature a gay float in the parade.



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