Gay Hispanics: Miami Herald stumbles in spinoff story from Orlando shootings

After gay rights, gun control and (more gingerly) Islamic terrorism, coverage of the mass shooting in Orlando gets subdivided in a weekend story in The Miami Herald, which examines the atrocity from the standpoint of gay Hispanics.

It's an interesting angle -- especially in Florida, the port of entry for many from Central and Latin America -- but it has some flaws. For one, it misses some religious "ghosts." The article brings up the topic of religion, then bounces off. Instead, it emphasizes twin themes:

Some want to make sure one fact is not forgotten: The vast majority of victims were Hispanics.
"This was not just an LGBT community," said Zoe Colon, director of Florida and southeast operations for the Hispanic Federation. "This was a Latino LGBT community."

Not that the tragedy doesn't call for a sensitive treatment. The newspaper appropriately tells the reactions of Orlando resident Edwin Lopez as he learned that 12 of the 49 people killed in the Pulse nightclub were personal friends.

Then the story launches rather blithely into a connection with a more general issue:

A difficult conversation has started about the struggle of being an LGBT person of color. For many Hispanics, a traditionally Christian culture laced with machismo and traditional gender roles could foster fear of rejection from one’s own family. That fear can prevent young people from coming out to their loved ones.
"You don’t want to be judged by your family. Those are the only people who have really been supportive of you your entire life," said Dominique Sanchez. The 19-year-old said she’s known people close to her who are reluctant to be open about their sexuality. "Your friends come and go. So if [your family doesn’t] accept you, then you don’t accept yourself."

We'll just note a few things in passing. One is whether Hispanics are people of color. I've met Cubans, Nicaraguans and others with skin lighter than my own, and I'm a white Anglo.

The Herald also offers no estimates on the number of gay Hispanics, the very subjects of this story.

And it's doubtful that Omar Mateen, the shooter, would have held his fire if he'd known which of the clubgoers were Hispanic.

But let's move on to the nexus of family and religion that especially troubles gay Hispanics, according to the Herald. The article quotes Zoe Colon on the need to learn about "gender identity and sexuality and how they intersect with ethnicity and religion":

That intersection can be a daily struggle even for people who have support from their families. Acceptance can come with caveats, like avoiding physical expressions of love.
"God loves sinners," said Jose Luis Rivera, a Puerto Rican resident of Kissimmee who is Christian. "But God doesn't love the sinful act."

Eh? Who is Rivera? His name is just dropped in. Does he attend church? Which one? What denomination does he belong to? Does he know any of the other five quoted sources?

And wouldn't a few church leaders help a story like this? Given the Catholic identity of so many Hispanics, Bishop John Gerard Noonan of Orlando would be an obvious choice. And he's not hard to find.

Another good option would have been Courage, the Catholic Church's ministry to gays. Courage even has a chapter in Miami, the Herald's back yard.

A third route: citing a blog posting by Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, less than 110 miles from Orlando. The remarkable message calls for a ban on assault weapons and for acceptance of Muslim immigrants. As for gays, Lynch says:

Sadly it is religion, including our own, which targets, mostly verbally, and also often breeds contempt for gays, lesbians and transgender people. Attacks today on LGBT men and women often plant the seed of contempt, then hatred, which can ultimately lead to violence. Those women and men who were mowed down early yesterday morning were all made in the image and likeness of God. We teach that. We should believe that. We must stand for that.

That's a good fit for the Herald's story theme, don’t you think? And the newspaper had plenty of time to find Lynch's message. He posted it last Monday, and it was cited in an Associated Press article -- which the Herald ran the same day as its own story.

The paper gives the last word to Stanley Ramos, a gay Hispanic social worker who spoke at Orlando's Joy Metropolitan Community Church. His main contribution is to note that some people ducked TV cameras covering the shooting. They're likely gay and trying to hide their faces from their families, Ramos says.

And what do families say about that? Having come up more than once in this article, shouldn't one or two family members of the gay victims have the chance to speak for themselves? Apparently not.

Finally, what is the Joy Metropolitan Community Church? An "inclusive faith group," the Herald says. Actually, it's part of a national denomination. And what does it stand for? In its own words, "MCC has been on the forefront in the struggle towards marriage equality in the US and other countries worldwide and continues to be a powerful voice in the LGBT equality movement." That info would have painted a rather more aggressive picture of the church, methinks.

The Miami Herald showed enterprise in ferreting out the gay Hispanic angle, in a state where both gays and Hispanics are prominent. But it stumbles -- as does most coverage of the Orlando shootings -- in heavily favoring gay advocates at the expense of fair reporting. And the paper turns a glaring light on its own error in bringing up the spirituality of Hispanic culture, then edging away from it.


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