On June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage across the nation, making this a historic victory in the gay rights movement. Before this decision was made, 37 out of 50 states (and the District of Colombia) had already extended this right to same sex couples throughout the course of eleven years. With Massachusetts becoming the first state in the United States to allow same sex marriage in 2004, many states began to follow suit as this issue picked up wind. With the ruling, the remaining states that had yet to recognize the rights of gay couples will now be legally required to issue marriage license to them and give the legal benefits that come with it.
Upon hearing the news, individuals across the country rejoiced with their loved ones. Celebration of the decision took on various forms throughout social media as people rallied together to show their support from likes to tweets. Hashtags like “LoveisLove” and “#LoveWins” spread throughout the internet as people embraced the news. Websites like Google and Yahoo modified their logo appearance, while Facebook created a rainbow filter to go over a user’s profile picture to show support and acceptance. Historic landmarks and tourists sites alike were illuminated with rainbow colored lights on Friday night.
Simultaneously, there was explosion from those that opposed the ruling. From justices to conservative Christian pastors, their stance on the issue began to appear in headlines and their reasons varied anywhere from states’ right to religious freedom. Homophobic remarks and attitudes were seen throughout social media when the news broke, often resulting in online arguments.
Whether you are in favor with the ruling or not, it cannot be denied that the decision will go down as an important moment in the history of the United States. The Supreme Court’s verdict was based on the idea that denying gay couples the right to marry meant they were being denied equality and therefore fundamental rights as Americans. As members of the LGBT+ community continue to fight for their rights, they have slowly been chipping away at barriers that oppress them. Celeste Ledesma, a junior at Bryn Mawr College, knew that the legalization of marriage was not the end of the fight.
Latino culture is centralized around the family unit and there are often strict social rules to uphold its values; coming out as queer can often challenge those ideals. Since that is the case, queer young Latinos/as often face the reality of being thrown out of their home or of being mistreated, of living in a homophobic household where religion or machismo often contribute to this attitude, and of facing discrimination. Often times, Latinos/as might be forced to choose between their ethnic and sexual/gender identity for their own well-being.
Ledesma argues that acceptance of being queer might depend on the generation. “When you go back to our parents’ generation or our grandparents’ generation, they might not be ready [for the change]…[the challenge then becomes of] explaining the changing world to a generation that already has their world view that set.”
Not only are queer Latinos/as fighting for the ability to be accepted by their own families, but they fight to be respected within their communities. According to a 2011 study by Mujeres Latinas en Accion, a Latina advocacy organization, and Amigas Latinas, an organization to support lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning Latinas, found that 25 percent of the 300 survey Latinas felt that they were discriminated against in the Latino community. In the same survey, they found that many queer Latinas had had racist remarks directed towards them in predominately white LGBT+ support services. This discrimination and racism can have detrimental impacts on the individual’s life. When you are rejected by your loved ones, it causes extreme emotional stress.
Apart from their attempt to be accepted, queer Latinos and Latinas also have to fight against stereotypes placed on them by their own community and those outside of it. The media continues to perpetuate the stereotypes that all Latinos are lazy, uneducated, and undocumented. Some stereotypes have been created with the help of machismo and religion, while others have been created through the systematic oppression that all Latinos and other people of color face. Standards have been placed on Latinos/as on how they should act, the roles to perform, and how they should look. When individuals deviate from these standards, it causes problems.
In a time where we encourage young people to be who they are and to love themselves, we should not be hypocritical and reject those that are different from us. Rejection of queer Latinos only fragments families and communities, driving a wedge further between them. There is nothing wrong with being queer. We love who we love, and we are who we are. If we wish to overcome things such as racism and discrimination, if we wish to overcome systematic oppression, we have to start by looking into our own community and fix the problems within. We cannot ask to be free of oppression, when we act as oppressors to others. Latinos come in all shapes, sizes, colors, sexualities, genders, and background. If we wish to create a better world for the future generations of Latinos, we have to learn to accept one another and through this, a positive social change will occur.