Hispanic Heritage month is a time to celebrate our history, culture and our unapologetic costumbres. What I find momentous about this time of the year is that we also get to celebrate many of the civil liberties that are not available to us in our native countries. Namely, freedom of expression, which is a legally protected freedom to be who you are and by extension who you choose to be with.
This summer the United States Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage. This decision was celebrated by many and opposed by plenty. Irrespective of how straight folks feel about the rights and lives of the lesbian, gay, bisexual transgender community they are our loved ones – our brothers, sisters, cousins, fathers, mothers and members of our chosen family. Although the Latino community was also part of this still unfolding narrative, when it hits home, some of the old school ways of being persist. Lets just say…its not uncommon for our culture to be less than progressive at times. Despite our personal beliefs and views, at the core of our relationship with an LGBT loved one is…well love. That love and respectful relationship can still exist even if we don’t always agree about lifestyles or life choices. Here are a few ways to improve your own relationship, or help other family members relationships, with an LGBT relative.
Look at the Whole Person
Too often we zero in on what the individual does behind closed doors as the basis of how we treat or relate to them. Who someone sleeps with is not all that they’re about. Gay folks have dreams, fears, ambitions and desires like every human being, like any straight person. Acknowledging that they are complex people with many sides and parts of their personality will go a long way when it comes to maintaining or reestablishing your bond.
Focus on What You Have in Common
The easiest way to negotiate a relationship is to focus on commonalities. If love exists chances are you are important in that person’s life. If you worked out together or golfed together the fact that you now know more about their sexuality does not change your history or future with this person. You can still hang out, grab a beer and talk futbol like you always have.
They are the Same Person You Knew Before
That loved one that you may now see through a different lens is the same person you cried with, who loaned you money, baby sat your kids or covered your ass at work. Their values are still the same. Their loyalty, integrity, honesty and humor are still intact. Ask yourself, what changed for you? Because they haven’t.
There are no such things as stupid questions. Ignorance is worse. Your loved one wants to be understood. Open communication is the key to any healthy relationship – whether he’s your boy or your primo.
And Above All…
Our views and opinions on LGBT issues are usually deeply tied to our personal politics and our views on religion, marriage and biology. Regardless of your personal beliefs, we need to stand shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with the LGBT community. As Latinos we know what the face of discrimination looks like and how it feels. Our audacity to love and be accepting, in the history books, will be more telling of us a culture, than intolerance.