Shoot the Messenger
Misguided outrage: I felt I had to speak up here to counter so much of the misguided outrage over the article "Gay Caballeros" (by Claiborne Smith, January 13). I won't address the issue of the use of the word mayate since that has already been addressed.
What does bother me is the fact that people have turned a story about something that happens in the community into an attack on Latino and gay culture. This is flat-out ridiculous. As someone who has been in the field of HIV for more than 10 years, I assure you that this is an accurate portrayal of a subculture that exists not only in the Latino community but in all ethnicities (yes, folks, there are white men out there who do the exact same thing!). Mr. Smith did not make it up, and he had no intentions of denigrating anyone by writing this article. The fact is that the Latino community is in danger. We have the second-fastest-rising rate of HIV infection in the country, and this article illustrates one of the reasons. If people are so worried about our human rights, perhaps they should step up to the plate and start volunteering to do some outreach and education and hand out condoms. That would be far more useful than a misguided, condescending sense of outrage on our behalf.
Human rights will do our community no good if half of us are sick or dying. If you want to be angry, be angry that we are more than 20 years into the AIDS epidemic and yet the rates of infection are rising again.
It's my belief that people who were offended by this article were expressing their own version of discrimination and prejudice. After all, it's so much easier to be nice to gay folks who conform to some idea we have about what they should be. If they don't fit into that stereotype/image, there must be something wrong with them, and they're an embarrassment to the community.
Or perhaps they would simply prefer that we behave as they did at the beginning of the epidemic and simply not talk about it until people are dropping like flies. After all, this particular view of human behavior is so untidy and unattractive that we should just pretend it doesn't exist until we have no other choice but to deal with it. Personally, I'm going to continue doing my work regardless of how pretty or ugly I think the scene is. This epidemic must be stopped, and I refuse to close my eyes and pretend it's not happening.
Marie Camacho Bellows
PC and prejudiced, too: Although I did not agree with the manner in which you covered the story on "Gay Caballeros," I understand that you were covering a small part of the gay community. It was not meant to represent all Latino gay men. However, I was appalled and offended by your inappropriate use of the word mayates. Then, I was ever more appalled and offended by your insincere, self-righteous, sophomoric attempt to apologize in this week's edition (Buzz, by Patrick Williams, January 20). In your Buzz column, you claim that the Dallas Observer is neither sensationalistic nor politically correct. If that is the case, why was it OK to use the word "faggot" but not the word "nigger"? Perhaps it is because it is more politically correct to use the F word instead of the N word. I ask you, have you ever used the words nigger, cunt, chink or kike in any of your articles? Or much less used them on the front cover? If you had incorrectly used any of those words or other colloquial variations, would your apology have been as nonchalant?
It's easy to say you don't want to be PC. You claim that you are cool, hip, up-to-date, but in reality, you are just as politically correct as you claim not to be. And as prejudiced and biased. It's OK to make a mistake. We are all human and prone to make mistakes. But the true measure of one's maturity is one's ability to wholeheartedly accept responsibility for one's actions. I was personally offended by your use of the M word and ever more offended by your lighthearted attempt to "make the peace."
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No offense: I, too, have been getting a lot of positive and not-so-positive feedback to "Gay Caballeros." As a major contributor to Clay's story, I wanted to let all the readers of the Dallas Observer know that I am very proud of the work Clay did, and I stand firm in my support of this article. I am glad that people are responding, because it means that both Clay and everyone else in the article are doing their jobs. I shared my story with Clay so that the readers could see that it is not easy being who we are and that it takes a lot of courage to keep going after you have been, quite literally, beaten into the ground. I wanted to be an example for other young Latino men out there who are struggling with their identity. It does not matter if you identify as gay or not or if you only like playing a dominant role with other men; what matters is that we are not doing enough to reach this community, and awareness is the key to successful outreach. Most of the men I interview who identify themselves as mayates are not offended by this term; in fact, some are proud of it. Nowhere in the article did it state that this is the way that all Latino men act or that this is the way all gay Latinos find sex partners. This article was not meant to offend anyone--it was meant as awareness! Thanks to all the wonderful people who have called or e-mailed with positive and encouraging words.
Incredibly xenophobic: I read the article by Claiborne Smith with much disgust and dismay. Most people know very little about immigrants from Mexico. After reading this article, most of them will think that they are all repulsive sexual deviants. This will make it more palatable for the casual observer to accept the tremendous amount of suffering and discrimination these people endure on a daily basis. The article was incredibly xenophobic. Rather than enlighten people about Hispanic immigrants, it will confuse them further and cause more alienation and distrust.
John M. Lozano