cnn international

Gay Latino Americans are 'coming of age'

Sept 09--- Perez Hilton is a celebrity blogger who dishes out the latest Hollywood gossip, but there's something about his personal life you may not know.

Hilton is a Latino pioneer. He is one of the first Latino public figures in the U.S. to be openly gay. While Latinos have broken ground on the U.S. Supreme Court, in Hollywood and in professional sports, gay Latinos in the nation's public arena remain largely invisible.

Hilton says deep-seated homophobia within the Latino community has forced many gay Latinos to go underground, but attitudes are shifting.

"At the beginning, when I came out to my mom, she reacted with a sigh and said, 'You're my son and I have to love you,' " Hilton says. "But now she says, 'You're the best son in the world, and we need to find you a man.' "

Some gay Latino leaders are starting to share Hilton's optimism. The Latino community has long had a reputation for being notoriously homophobic. But some surprising developments within the Latino world -- in the United States and abroad -- suggest that may be changing, gay scholars and activists say.

'Walls are starting to crumble'

"A lot of walls are starting to crumble," says Charlie Vazquez, a New York-based author whose fiction has appeared in books such as "Best Gay Love Stories: NYC."

"We're at a crossroads," he says. "A new generation of better-educated Latinos is coming of age."

Gay Latino activists point to several signs of this transformation:
El Diario La Prensa, one of the oldest and largest Spanish-language newspapers in the U.S., recently endorsed the rights of same-sex couples to marry.

Within the past three years, lawmakers in countries as diverse as Uruguay, Colombia and Mexico have passed laws granting rights and protections to gays and lesbians.

Christian Chavez, lead singer of the popular pop Mexican band RBD, recently announced that he was gay.
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