The LGBTQ+ Paradox: Progress Amongst Increasing Homophobic and Transphobic Violence in the Latino Community

Image capturing the vigil held in Argentina to mourn the loss of Roxana Figueroa and Pamela Cobas, two lesbian women, victims of a hate crime.

Last week, on May 17, it was International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia, which is meant to highlight the advancements and ongoing challenges of the LGBTQ+ community. Within said community, “LGBTQ-identification is higher among Latinos than white or Black American adults,” as revealed by a Gallup poll. As such, the issue of homophobia and transphobia within the Latino community is an ongoing and evolving problem.


While in some ways, trans rights have expanded, in many other ways, the threat of deadly violence is getting worse. In Argentina, people can change their gender on official identification documents. It’s one of the few countries in the world that allows this, and yet Latin American countries have some of the world's highest murder rates for transgender people.

On May 6, 2024, a man targeted a boarding house in Buenos Aires, Argentina, and set it ablaze with a Molotov cocktail, killing three lesbian residents and leaving a fourth one with severe injuries. She’s still hospitalized and is expected to survive the ordeal.

Coming out to one’s family as gay, lesbian, or trans can be a daunting experience for many, and it’s no less daunting if you’re part of the Latino community. Some would argue that it’s even more difficult due to the history of homophobia and transphobia within Latino culture. At a broader level, the current global landscape for LGBTQ+ communities has undoubtedly seen improvements compared to the past. However, a significant disparity in access to social rights and moral recognition still exists when compared to cisgender and heterosexual people.

While highly developed Western societies offer a more accepting environment for non-conforming sexual identities, regions elsewhere continue to stigmatize and even persecute sexual minority populations. Latin American countries are a paradox where legal advancements and shifts in attitudes toward LGBTQ+ individuals coexist with widespread, often violent, rejection of non-cisgender and non-heterosexual identities.

Despite these challenges, LGBTQ+ communities and organizations in Latin America are increasingly advocating for their rights, social recognition, and improved living standards. However, acceptance of homosexuality as a valid expression of sexual diversity remains a struggle for many. Issues such as school violence, workplace hostility, police abuse, and public harassment persist, highlighting the pervasive nature of sexual stigma and discrimination in Latin America.

Efforts to improve the legal and social standing of gay and lesbian individuals often face opposition from reactionary movements and anti-gender policies. This resistance reflects deep-rooted socio-cultural factors such as religion, moral conservatism, and low access to education, which contribute to negative attitudes towards sexual minorities in Latin American society.

Study shared by Pew Research CenterStudy shared by Pew Research Center

In the U.S., LGBTQ Latino people also face disparities such as higher rates of discrimination, difficulties in accessing critical services like healthcare and mental health care, economic insecurity, and more. At the same time, the level of acceptance within Latino communities in the U.S. seems to be higher than in Latin America. According to a 2022 Axios/Ipsos Poll, 62% of Latinos expressed comfort around individuals identifying as LGBTQ+.

Religion, particularly Catholicism, plays a significant role in shaping attitudes towards homosexuality and gender identity within Latino communities. With 47% of Latino adults identifying as Catholic, religious teachings often frame homosexuality as sinful or deviant. This can lead to ostracism, discrimination, and internalized shame among LGBTQ+ individuals.

Traditional gender roles, characterized by machismo, further exacerbate these issues. Machismo promotes hypermasculine behaviors, dominance over women, and rigid expectations of heterosexual norms. Same-sex relationships challenge these traditional roles, leading to resistance and stigmatization within the community.

Homophobia and transphobia can manifest in a variety of ways within Latino communities, ranging from overt rejection to subtle microaggressions. LGBTQ+ individuals often face ostracism from friends, peers, and even family members who view homosexuality as "dirty," "shameful," or "abnormal." For example, gay Latinos may be told they are not "truly men," while Latina lesbians may be perceived as betraying their cultural feminine roots.

Media representation and historical narratives also contribute to the marginalization of LGBTQ+ Latinos. The lack of diverse representation in mainstream media and the erasure of queer Latino voices from history perpetuates feelings of invisibility and isolation within the community. Especially among young Latinos, who often don’t have anyone to turn to when it comes to understanding their sexuality. Many queer Latinos also face discrimination in their own homes as parents and siblings uphold religious beliefs, machismo beliefs, and marianismo ideals.

Despite these challenges, progress has been made toward LGBTQ+ acceptance within the Latino community. The increasing visibility of queer Latino individuals in media, literature, and popular culture provides representation and validation for LGBTQ+ youth. Additionally, grassroots organizations and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups work tirelessly to challenge stereotypes, provide support networks, and promote inclusive spaces for queer Latino individuals.


Despite these challenges, progress has been made toward LGBTQ+ acceptance within the Latino community. The increasing visibility of queer Latino individuals in media, literature, and popular culture provides representation and validation for LGBTQ+ youth. Additionally, grassroots organizations and LGBTQ+ advocacy groups work tirelessly to challenge stereotypes, provide support networks, and promote inclusive spaces for queer Latino individuals.

Addressing homophobia and transphobia within the Latino community requires a multifaceted approach that acknowledges the influence of cultural, religious, and societal factors. While progress has been made, ongoing efforts are needed to promote acceptance, equality, and inclusion for LGBTQ+ Latinos. By challenging stereotypes, advocating for policy changes, and fostering dialogue, especially within inner circles and communities, a more inclusive society can be created where everyone can live authentically and without fear of discrimination.

@realtalkbetty

Being a queer Latina. #qpoc #queerlatinx #wlw #lgbt #lesbian #queer #queertiktok #lesbiansoftiktok #cuban #hispanictiktok #latinxcreated