In a recent controversy in the Latino community, pictures of the reggaeton megastar Daddy Yankee kissing another man apparently emerged on social media. The photos show a man with an uncanny resemblance to the star kissing another man. After this, the star supposedly issued a public letter stating that he was gay.
Days later, Helga Garcia, the president of Perfect Partners Public Relations, issued another statement saying that once more, social networks are spreading false news about Daddy Yankee's sexuality. Daddy Yankee himself took to Twitter to state that technology has taken control of people’s humanity and that although people continue to invent stories about him, there is only one truth.
Before reading his publicist’s press statement, I was very excited to think that another high-powered Latino star had come out as being gay. Considering the history of homophobia and intense machismo in the Latino community in the U.S. and abroad, the visibility of stars like Ricky Martin and Perez Hilton have done much to enhance the cause of Latino LGBTQ folks. Other celebrities have already embraced their identities as members of the Latino and LGBTQ communities and are using their status to raise awareness about issues that affect the community.
Research has shown that for Latinos, coming out to their families as LGBTQ can be extremely difficult and traumatic. Due to intense pressures to perform strict gender roles within a family structure, being LGBTQ is seen as a double rejection of traditional gender roles and of traditional family structure. If one of the most iconic artists of a genre known for its hypersexualization of women and homophobia came out as gay, support for the plight of LGBTQ Latino folks could rise.
After vehemently denying the rumors that have circulated since March of this year, Daddy Yankee went on to state that he supports the Latino LGBTQ community and that he respects the LGBTQ individuals working on his team. Despite the star's respectful denial, the terms of the conversation should become less about his denial of the rumors and more about affirming the fact that Latino and LGBTQ identities are not mutually exclusive.
The generational divide in the Latino community when addressing issues pertaining to LGBTQ community members is a barrier to gaining wider social acceptance for gay Latinos. Many family members of Latino LGBTQ folks grew up in traditional Catholic societies that were sometimes also under dictatorial control. The government in those nations promoted (and often still promote) a Latino hypermasculinity that included a heavy stigma against gay individuals. The stigma has been incredibily durable and is reflected in the fact that the Spanish language (as well as its nation-state vernaculars) contains no positive or neutral words that may be used to identify LGBTQ individuals. Many older individuals who have been socialized to have negative opinions of the LGBTQ community may find themselves lacking the tools to deal with their family member's homosexuality for the first time.
The website Latino Daily News writes that "[Latino] families are rooted in the principles of mutual love and respect. We know the first priority for any parent is to protect and care for your kids, and a vital key to protecting your children is acceptance. The first step to understanding and acceptance is open and respectful dialogue within our families." Finding ways to be productive as allies within the family structure should be an important goal and a greater piece of the public discussion taking place about Latino homosexuality.
The conversation surrounding Daddy Yankee’s fake coming out has been severely limited to the problems of the damaging effect that social media can have upon a celebrity’s reputation. Instead, the conversation should now turn towards implementing possible solutions to the barriers that common people face when trying to gain acceptance within families whose beliefs and actions have been circumscribed by cultural myths about proper gender and sexual expression.