Death by Machismo: Latino American Community Suffering from HIV/AIDS Due to Fear of Being Labelled as Gay
"Machismo" explains a manly sense of being or a masculine pride that's common in many cultures -- but iconized in Latin culture. Individuals who employ those attributes normally exhibit hubris and embrace a set of characteristics that's associated with aggressiveness, being oversexed, misogynistic and chauvinistic, and they show a devotion to patriarchal gender normative roles.
The hyper-masculine term is worn by many men, including men who have sex with other men but don't identify as being gay. While everyone reserves the right to choose their own labeling, the tension that exists between "identity and reality can be incredibly detrimental to the Latino community," in fact it could be lethal, because men who frequently have sex with other men but reject a homosexual identity often engage in unsafe risky sex practices -- and increase the risk of infecting other partners. Fear of disparaging terms about orientation keeps gay Latin men cloaked, particularly because Latinos belong to an ethnic group that's recognized for being pious and homophobic, yet for being suave and sexy, leading to the development of the term "Latin Lover."
Alternet.org mentioned a man by the name of Roberto in an article entitled Why Machismo Can Be Deadly For Gay Latinos. Roberto was the former supervisor of two gay bathhouses in Chicago. There, he noticed that there was a large sum of "heterosexual" Latino customers who frequented those establishments. Often these were men with families and children who would engage in same-sex interactions. These deeply closeted men choose locations, such as bathhouses, to work as an outlet, to resolve secret shame, depression and isolation. They live compartmentalized lives that unfortunately expose their families to risks. Label-fear and homophobia throughout Latin America encourages a salacious double life.
"[The Dominican Republic] is probably one of the most homophobic countries in Latin America although there are some signs that this might be changing. But, culturally, you see the figure of the 'bugarrón,' a guy who is straight but will sleep with men for money, emerge as an identity," Andrés Duque, 44, editor of the blog Blabbeando. "And you see some Dominican men adopt that identity proudly and the masculinity that it supposedly carries with it whereas they would never call themselves gay or bisexual."
"The insidiousness of machismo is manifested when individuals feel they must lie to themselves, their families and society. In this situation, everyone suffers," said Duque continued.
When it comes to homosexual and heterosexual interactions men often don't want to live up to machismo stereotypes, but do so out of a sense of cultural obligation.
"They don't want to live up to Latin lover, machismo stereotypes. There's a lot of pressure to do that and they don't necessarily see those as positive roles. We need to shift the paradigm," Lina Guzman, senior research scientist for the Latino Children and Families division of Child Trends, which is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center, said during an interview with Latin Post.
Some believe that this is a generation issue and the passage of time will prompt progression. The expectation is attitudes will morph, and social acceptability of homosexuality will potentially phase out the need for dangerous/anonymous sex. Developing a dialogue about sex, creating culturally appropriate youth outreach, educating gay, bisexual and curious Latino and African American men at an early age, providing one-on-one counseling about sexual health, and HIV/AIDS and STD prevention can be the difference between life and death for not only Latino males, but Latinos at large. HIV/AIDS is a community problem, and failure to recognize it as such leaves everyone that much more vulnerable to it.
The Latino Commission on AIDS (LCOA), the Hispanic Federation and many other organizations organize efforts for the Latino community when it comes to HIV/AID awareness, and there are federal resources made available in English and Spanish to help improve the health and lives of those who are infected or are at risk of being infected with the virus.
— LatinoCommissionAIDS (@LatinoCommAIDS) February 12, 2014