Hispanic Community and LGBT Issues

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Arizona State Senator Steve Gallardo made headlines when he publicly came out following the announcement that Senate Bill 1062 was vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer. During a District 29 legislative candidate forum, candidates were asked questions about their sexual orientation. Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez, founder, president and CEO of Concilio Latino de Salud shares her views on how LGBT issues have changed in the Latino community.

Richard Ruelas: Arizona State Senator Steve Gallardo made headlines as he publicly came out, following the announcement of Senate Bill 1062 that was vetoed by Governor Jan Brewer earlier this year. Earlier this month, during a legislative candidate forum, four district house candidates were asked questions about their sexual orientation. How have views on gay issues changed in the Latino community? Here to talk about this is Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez, founder, president, and CEO of Concilio Latino de Salud, a non-profit, community-based organization dedicated to improving the overall health of the Hispanic community here in Maricopa County. Thank you for joining us.

Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez: Thank you, it's a pleasure to be here and, of course, when we talk about health, we don't talk about the absence of disease but really the expression of the potential -- intellectually, physically, spiritually and emotionally of any person.

Richard Ruelas: It sounds like for the last 25 years since you've started this group, you go into communities and try to start the conversations that maybe people don't want to have.

Elizabeth Oritiz de Valdez: Yes.

Richard Ruelas: When we deal with issues about -- in the LGBT community, the gay community, what don't people want to talk about? How are Latinos viewing these issues?

Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez: I think they're -- the views are in the whole spectrum. There was a lot of stigma associated with being gay, especially when the HIV epidemic started. That increased the stigma, but once the dialogue starts coming out and people start understanding that being gay or to be lesbian is not your sexual preference but it's your identity, it's who you are sexually, emotionally, spiritually, and that has changed all the perspectives that we have. Still there's a lot of stigma, and there's a lot of homophobia that we can talk about, but all is really the seed of this is the lack of information that people do not understand what it is to be gay or to be lesbian means.

Richard Ruelas: Because we've seen attitudes change across the country, across all demographics, across all ethnic groups. Is it different? Are there cultural differences that make it harder in the Latino community? Or is it about the same?

Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez: It depends. Like the majority of those Latinos that are limited in Spanish or prefer English are more conservative belief systems, where the Catholic Church was more influential in their growing up. So you will see more traditional Latinos, monolingual or limited in Spanish, that those that have more recently arrived and have a different perspective in life, like in Mexico City is one of the first cities in Latin America where the gay marriage is a privilege and it's a right, even before the United States. So it really depends a lot where you are coming from.

Richard Ruelas: So the acculturated, let's say, the third generation Arizonian who grew up in a Catholic household in Arizona or California might have harder views than someone who just came.

Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez: Correct.

Richard Ruelas: So does that reflect Mexico and Central America's attitudes towards this issue?

Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez: Absolutely, it's also changing. It changes --

Richard Ruelas: It sounds --

Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez: If it's a rural area or it's in the urban city.

Richard Ruelas: Oh --

Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez: It really depends on a lot of factors but in general, in general, that's the situation. The more acculturated you are, the more how to say, the more tendency to be more conservative in your views.

Richard Ruelas: Does it surprise you that a man like Steve Gallardo who's been in the public life so much would be closeted or people in a forum would be asked by a gentleman to state their sexual orientation? And he was even afraid to say the word gay.

Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez: Yeah, I don't think it's right for us as a community to ask people about their sexual orientation in the political arena, because it has become something bad to talk about, or he's coming out of the closet, but they are brave, and it's about time that if you are gay, lesbian, (inaudible) it doesn't matter if you are a leader in the community.

Richard Ruelas: But you're seeing it get better I guess, like attitudes have changed around the country, you're seeing them -- you're seeing people be more understanding, abuelos being more understanding of their grandchildren.

Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez: Yes, and more capable to even support their gay son or granddaughter or grandson into these. But everything is about education and everything is about the experience. When people is in contact with another person, that feels that it is different from you are, in this case, the gay community or the lesbian community, and you see that they are just like you in many instances. Then you look at that human being and not at the sexual preference.

Richard Ruelas: And then that helps with overall health and being able to talk about issues that might be --

Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez: Sexuality is part of health, and it's very important to talk about these issues at the early stages. When we're talking about sex education, we're talking about also, how you're responsible for your body and how you're responsible of your interaction with others.

Richard Ruelas: And it's important to have this conversation here and I thank you for having it with us, Dr. Ortiz.

Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez: It is my pleasure.

Dr. Elizabeth Ortiz de Valdez:Founder, President and CEO, Concilio Latino de Salud;

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