The country’s leading Latino advocacy organizations have endorsed a first-of-its-kind public service campaign, aimed at helping families understand – and accept – their Latino sons and daughters, brothers and sisters who are gay or LGBT. Over twenty groups, including the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund (MALDEF), the Cuban American National Council, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), the National Hispanic Medical Association (NHMA), the Dolores Huerta Foundation and the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, are endorsing the Familia es Familia Campaign.
The public service campaign was announced in a press conference this weekend at the NCLR annual conference, in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Being close to one’s family or having loving family members, say some gay Latinos, does not make coming out any easier.
“I remember when I came out to my Mom, I was in my early twenties,” says Ingrid Duran, one of the creators of Familia es Familia. “At first my Mom’s reaction was ‘what did I do,’ or ‘this isn’t normal,’ but after a long journey, there is now full acceptance,” says Duran, whose partner Catherine Pino also went through a similar situation.
Prominent gay Latinos such as Duran and Pino recognize it is not easy to have that “conversation.” The two women, who have a long history of work in public policy and Latino nonprofits, were asked by the group Freedom to Marry to create the comprehensive campaign. The aim is to provide Latino community groups with bilingual resources and training to help give guidance to Latinos on how to accept and work with gay family members.
“A growing majority of Latinos in this country know that every gay or lesbian person is part of someone’s family – a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a loved one,” said Evan Wolfson, founder and president of Freedom to Marry, a group which supports gay marriage.
Though there is a perception that Latino families are “conservative” and reluctant to accept or talk about a gay family member, Duran says the numbers show this is not the case. Sixty eight percent of Latino Catholics believe that being gay is morally acceptable, and 62 percent of Latino Catholics support allowing same-sex couples to marry. Moreover, 73 percent of Latinos agree that a person can express support for gay rights and still be a good Christian.
Duran says the information will help avoid situations like those experienced by Latino actor Wilson Cruz, who has talked publicly about being initially rejected by his family when he first came out as gay. Cruz has been honored by organizations for his advocacy and work with gay youth.
In the Familia es Familia brochure, a Latino parent talks of having kicked the son out of the house when he first said he was gay. “It was eleven years before I understood what a mistake I’d made,” said the Hispanic parent. After more than a decade, the parent apologized, “and now, after all this time, our family is whole again. I never want my son to experience that kind of rejection again.”