A recent comment posted to my article on fatherlessness has prompted me to discuss the issue of heterocentrism and its effect on the Latino community.
Before I begin, let me define what I mean by heterocentrism. Heterocentrism is a set of prejudices and discriminatory practices which posit heterosexuality as the norm and non-heterosexuality as abnormal and, thus, inferior. It is implied by the term heterosexism, and vice versa – just as white supremacy is implied by the term racism, and vice versa. Heterocentrists believe the only proper, working relationships are those based on heterosexual pairings and view any form of non-heteronormative relationship as an aberration. Such a perception then leads heterocentrists to oppose gay marriage rights, gay adoption rights, or any kind of civil rights that would place non-heterosexuality on par with heterosexuality.
That said, it’s clear that heterocentrism is a cornerstone of traditional Latino culture, as much as Catholicism and family values are. In fact, that heterocentrism, Catholicism and the importance of family are key characteristics of Latino society is no coincidence, since all three tend to feed into one another. Catholicism, for example, is unabashedly heterocentric and family based; it’s even unabashedly male-centric and patriarchal. The three persons embodying the Holy Trinity – God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost – are all perceived to be masculine, and good Catholics seek guidance by their father behind the pulpit while they pray to their father in heaven. Plus, that the Catholic Church condemns all forms of non-heteronormativity and non-monogamy should go without saying.
Yet, I would not go so far as to blame Catholicism for Latino heterocentrism, because a disconcerting majority of Latinos, Catholic or not, subscribe to heterocentrism in all its ignorant glory. Heterocentrism is the primary cause behind our community’s rampant homophobia, which makes the macho man an idol in any household and labels the less-than-macho man as persona non grata. Gay brothers and sisters, gay mothers and fathers, gay relatives, gay friends, gay members of the community: anyone who falls outside the heterocentric model is marginalized, ignored, and forgotten.
Fortunately, heterocentrism is losing its once solid grip on the Latino community. As newer generations of Latinos begin self-identifying as non-heteronormative and many more begin identifying with the LGBT community’s struggle for gay rights, the main opponent to Latino heterocentrism seems to be time. It’s to be expected, then, that successive generations of Latinos are also less religious and less family-oriented – or at least less in a rush to marry and have children – than their parents were. (In an effort to avoid applying a Whig history model to changing patterns in the Latino community, I’ll admit that I don’t know what accounts for the community’s progression toward enlightenment ideals. But this progression seems to be occurring outside the Latino community, as well.)
Still, those of us who know better can’t afford to sit idly by and wait for the Latino community to completely snap out of its heterocentrism. Time can only do so much. It’s up to those so appalled by heterocentrism, machismo and homophobia to see that they are erased from our collective mind.