The Gay Armada
Latin LGBTs celebrate ‘Orgulla’ on PBS
by David Goldberg
Latinos are the fastest-growing minority in the United States, and they’re changing the landscape of the country. In the Life takes a look at the complexity of the LGBT Latino experience in its June Pride episode, “Orgullo Latino” (“Latino Pride”).
This half-hour documentary-style episode focuses on prominent members of the LBGT Hispanic community, revealing the coming-out experiences and current activities of notables such as Ricky Martin and CNN anchor Jane Velez-Mitchell. The timeliness of this feature is not for nothing: one in six Americans is Latino, and according to statistics, the Latino vote will decide the next president. New studies show that Latinos are more likely to support same-sex marriages than other minority groups. This sector of the LGBT population has a decisive role to play in our future; a half-hour documentary is just the beginning.
Hispanic community activists from different fields receive quick spotlight moments in the special. Daniel Hernandez, the political intern who helped save Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords’ life, became a large-scale gay rights activist before he graduated college. Richard Zaldivar founded and maintains The Wall Las Memorias Project, the nation’s first publicly funded AIDS memorial. Carmen Hernandez created and serves as president of the New York City LGBT Chamber of Commerce.
Inevitably, Jane Velez-Mitchell steals much of the show, as she feistily argues that “there is no downside to coming out.” The CNN anchor, out lesbian, and vegan activist notes that less than 50 percent of LGBT Americans are out at work, which is a number she seeks to change.
Because of its short running time, In the Life offers only flashes into the lives and socio-political climates of its featured subjects, and does not delve too deeply into their coming-out experiences or ongoing battles. The show seeks to highlight Latino community role models and positive players in the LGBT political arena and does not explore larger cultural issues or the annals of LGBT Hispanic community life. It does testify, quite effectively, to the growing media armada of empowered Hispanic LGBT newsmakers and the changes they are making for their communities.
At press time, “Orgullo Latino” was scheduled to air on Houston’s PBS station, Tuesday, June 5, at 11:30 p.m. See it also on In the Life’s website at itlmedia.org.
The first 20 years of ‘In the Life’
Hailed as the “Gay Frontline” by NPR’s Marilyn Pittman, the public television series In the Life celebrates its 20th anniversary this summer. For its first 18 years, the series used a hosted format that featured guest hosts such as Madonna, Harvey Fierstein, Larry Kramer, and Le Tigre. In its 18th season, the show switched to a full-on documentary-style format.
The public affairs program premiered in June 1992, and has outlived and outlasted other series to become the longest-running LGBT TV show in history. With an active website and ever-running TV outlet, In the Life has featured specials such as “NYC Pride Parade 2011,” “Women, HIV, and Criminal Law,” and “Media Bias: Trans Youth.” In the Life has also become a platform for the wildly popular “It Gets Better” videos.
In the Life skews its segments toward a more positive angle, featuring empowered and vocal members of the community in positions of success and leadership. The series has become a mainstay of inspirational and aspirational programming for the community. And at this rate, there seems to be no end in sight for this landmark program. More at itlmedia.org.
David Goldberg also writes about Blake Hayes—the afternoon-drive on-air personality on Houston’s Mix 96.5—in this issue of OutSmart magazine.