An LGBTQ role model is a celebrity or public figure that serves as a positive reference point for the community. The qualities of this series of LGBTQ role models go from artistic skills and strength in the face of adversity to professional sports star in a hyper-heterosexual world.
Positive representation of the gay community is an essential asset for the development of openness in our current society. Having well-respected gay male role models representing us and giving a valuable image to the world is a way to demonstrate that the LGBTQ community is also a fundamental piece in the growth and improvement of a country.
In the same order of ideas, it is also vital to highlight the representation of Afro-Latino gay role models and their increasing contribution to society to restructure misguided popular views of this particular minority.
Latin America is known for its slow development in the theme of inclusion of the LGBTQ community and the “ironic” racial discrimination within the society. So, the constant participation of Afro-Latino gay men in social events is a way to reduce the stigma and segregation. With the help of positive representation in the cultural, political, artistical and sports arena, we also can achieve or, at least, contribute to the normalisation of diversity in Latin American society.
If we analyse the definition of role model, we can find several Afro-Latino gay male celebrities, athletes, and even politicians in Latin America who have developed incredible projects with a crucial impact in culture, art, and sports. In this article, we list some of the most prominent Afro-Latino gay role models you should know. Feel free to add other notable Black gay Latin-Americans in the comment section.
1. David Miranda (politician)
The 34-year-old Brazilian Federal Congressman, David Miranda, represents the state of Rio de Janeiro and was chosen by Time Magazine as one of their 10 Next Generation Leaders.
With the arrival of Jair Bolsonaro as president, known for his racist, homophobic comments, and record violence against LGBTQ Brazilians, Miranda has become a poster boy in the defence of social minority rights. He also addresses the issue of police violence and wage protection for some of the poorest people in Brazil. These actions have resulted in hundreds of death threats towards David Miranda and his family.
Death threats don’t stop the charismatic deputy from his current priorities of fighting for the rights of the disadvantaged in Brazil. Miranda has worked tirelessly in the development of education on LGBTQ issues for teachers and politicians alike.
2. Waddys-Jáuqez (director)
This famous Dominican actor and director is well-known for his creativity. His most acknowledged project is the movie “La Barbería,” the film that took him to Broadway.
As a child, he dreamed of magical worlds and believed that he was adopted and his wealthy family would come to rescue him someday. It is this fantastic imagination that has won Waddys Jaquéz 16 awards statuettes for his contributions to the world of theatre from the Association of Chroniclers of Art (ACROARTE).
He has directed “El camaleón, Cabaret y Circo,” a super successful theatrical play in the Dominican Republic, and many other important works. “Super Willie Against the Four Villains,” “In the Heights” and “Perfectus Quórum,” won the award for the Best Sovereign Musical for three years in a row. His most recent musical, “I Like it Like That,” starring Tito Nieves for the Broadway circuit in New York City, was presented full house for six months.
3. Gabriel Acevero (politician)
The first openly gay man of Afro-Latino descent elected to the Maryland General Assembly is Gabriel Acevero. He describes himself as a Democratic socialist and finished in first place with 31% of the total votes.
“I’m humbled by the trust and confidence the people of District 39 have placed in me, and I’m committed to working every day to better the quality of life for all residents,” he told his supporters.
“We’ve led the country on repealing the death penalty, passing the Dream Act and marriage equality; and we can lead again by building a just economy and educating our children to lead it,” said Acevero in an interview made by Blade.
4. Benny Medina (music executive)
Medina first earned his TV and music executive credentials as the manager to Jennifer Lopez. He has also worked with other famous artists such as Will Smith and Mariah Carey, and the story of Benny Medina inspired the 90s sitcom The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Benny created the Medina Company through which he has collected huge revenues from managing legendary personalities of the music industry. He has contributed to the careers of many household names from his executive management role.
According to estimations, the Medina Company has earned around $6 million from managing the professional career of Jennifer Lopez. The company amassed 10% of earnings Jlo movies, 15% from music rights and 50% from Jennifer’s ‘Nuyorican Production’ company. Nice work, if you can get it.
Medina is openly gay. His relationship with Jlo alone has turned him into an essential part of the Lopez family. In March 2007, he was 48th in the Power 50 ranking of influential voices in LGBTQ America produced by out.com.
5. Ritchie Torres (politician)
As the first out gay Bronx City Council Member, Ritchie Torres’ story is full of obstacles, discrimination, and drama. He fiercely endured all of these battles, including winning in one of the most conservative offices in America.
Now the council member is aiming for the next step. The son of a single mother who lived in public housing is running for congress. If he wins, he will become the first openly LGBTQ black Latin person elected to Congress; and the lone LGBTQ member of the New York City congressional delegation.
“It’s a historic race,” Torres said during an interview with Gay City News. “I’m black, I’m Latino, I’m LGBT–I’m a millennial. I’m a child of the Bronx. My values and beliefs are shaped by who I am and where I come from. It’s true of most people, but it’s true of me, especially.”
6. Ian Matos (diver)
Matos, the Brazilian 3-meter champion in 2013 and bronze medalist in 2012, came out as gay in an interview with the newspaper Correio in 2014, inspired by British diver Tom Daley. The Brazilian champion made public his relationship with a man in the same interview. “From a young age, I knew I was gay, but it was here that I got to live my sexuality.” Matos was living in Rio de Janeiro at the time.
He said a friend had advised him to stay in the closet until after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio. However, the pressure of hiding boyfriends, avoiding gay parties and not being himself proved too much for the young sportsman.
He hoped that coming out would not impact his ability to be a successful diver nor cost him any potential sponsorship. Matos competed in the men’s synchronised 3-metre springboard at the 2016 Summer Olympics, where he and Luiz Outerelo finished 8th out of 8 teams.
7. H. G. Carrillo (writer)
Herman “H.G.” Carrillo is an Afro-Cuban American writer and Assistant Professor of English at George Washington University in Washington, D.C.
He is best known for Loosing My Espanish, a novel that addresses from a Cuban immigrant’s point-of-view the complexities of Latino Immigration, religious associated education, homosexuality, and working-class struggles. His short stories have appeared in Kenyon Review, Conjunctions, The Iowa Review, Glimmer Train, Ninth Letter, Slice and other publications.
Carrillo is the 2018 Writer in Residence for The Kratz Centre for Creative Writing at Goucher College and sits on the executive board of directors of the PEN/Faulkner Foundation. He lives in Washington DC where he is working on a novel.
8. Orlando Cruz (boxer)
Cruz is a Puerto Rican professional boxer. He represented Puerto Rico at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games as an amateur.
After a long and successful career as an amateur boxer, Orlando qualified for the Sydney Olympics in Australia. After climbing the ranks as a professional, he received the chance to fight for the featherweight world title. Cruz was 30 years old at the time; and known as “The Phenomenon” and “The Olympic” among Puerto Ricans.
On October 12, 2013, Orlando Cruz faced Mexican Orlando Salido for the world title feather OMB version at The Thomas & Mack Centre in Las Vegas. Salido ended Cruz’s dream of becoming the 73rd World Champion of Puerto Rico after seven rounds.
A month later, Cruz married film director José Manuel Colón in Central Park with New York City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito officiating the ceremony.
Proper representation of Black gay male role models in Latin American society allows the public to learn about the lives of this demographic; and normalises the participation of LGBT communities in different roles for the region.
It is vital for Afro-Latino gay men to be seen as role models. We can face adversities, develop success and contribute in a positive way to our community. All we need is a chance to serve as an excellent example for the next generations.
The men described in this list are perfect examples of the constant fight the LGBTQ community has faced throughout history. But even when the obstacles may seem insurmountable, these individuals are proof that it is possible to achieve real change. They provide inspiration to other marginalised communities and LGBTQ people around the world.
The participation of these Afro-Latino men in the arts, sports, and politics is a perfect launching point for the next generations to follow and continue the hard work these role models have started through their incredible talents, and an insistence on living their lives out in the open.
- You may also like The Taboo of Being Black and Gay in Latin America