Donald Trump's ridiculous comments about Mexicans have enraged pretty much every Latino on the planet. Myself included. Trump's proud racism not only angers me as a Latina, but as someone whose family is half Mexican.
I was born in Uruguay, but all of my in-laws are from Mexico. Every beautiful niece and nephew of mine is Mexican-American, and they have faced racism. One niece had to actually figure out what to say when in kindergarten -- yes kindergarten -- she was told by a little girl that they couldn't play together anymore because "my mom says you're Mexican."
It's personal, Trump. For me and for millions of us.
I had not weighed in on Trump because so many people have already written so well about his inflammatory comments. Sadly, however, George Lopez recently drew attention to Trump in a way that is also hurtful to the LGBT community. Lopez, in a stand-up routine, used a pejorative "puto" to insult Trump. He got the whole crowd chanting at Trump and using the word many consider a slur.
People tie themselves in knots with their opinions about whether this word means "f*g" or not. Yes, sometimes it could be synonymous with "sissy," "coward" or other similar terms. But the word means exactly that -- f*ggot -- to enough people around the world that it should not be used. I guarantee that if you are a gay or bisexual or just an effeminate man living in Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina or many other Spanish-speaking countries, you have had that word hurled at you -- and maybe right before you were about to be pummeled. The fact that it's a powerful insult is the very reason Lopez chose that word to criticize Trump.
Lopez, by the way, knows exactly how hurtful the word is to Latino LGBT people. Years ago, after GLAAD worked with his then network on his use of the term "más puto," he was said to have understood just how ugly anti-gay slurs are and said he would stop using it.
"He doesn't mean it that way" is a common refrain around the use of this word. But it doesn't matter how someone means it. Words don't get their power solely from the intentions of a single user. It doesn't matter that you add (as Trump did) "and some, I assume, are very nice people."
While right to call out anti-Latino statements, Lopez is wrong to use a slur that is linked to anti-gay sentiments and violence. Lopez's words, no matter how he means them, have the power to foment homophobia because other people follow his lead. Trump's words, whether he means them or not, have the power to cause more immigrant-bashing and racism.
The struggle for a lot of Latinos is not so much Trump himself. The problem is the polls that indicate strong support for him. That's what hurts -- this idea that he speaks for millions of like-minded people. Or that millions agree with him.
As a gay advocate, over the years, I've had to talk myself off that ledge many times. Pat Robertson does not speak for most Americans. Most Americans don't think gay people cause hurricanes. The Phelps family and their hateful signs do not speak for most Americans.
Well, Lopez does not speak for most Latinos either. Most Latinos understand all too well how hurtful slurs are -- too many of us have been on the receiving end and know just how much pain bigotry causes. Latinos also, increasingly, have LGBT family members who are coming out to them. And Latino support for LGBT people and issues continues to grow.
But scapegoating is, sadly, a very old tactic. So, as the election year draws near, we will probably see both immigrant and LGBT bashing. Let's hope these types of statements create a sort of alchemy and lead to conversations that move us forward as a society, toward wisdom and not backward into the seemingly always open arms of xenophobia and homophobia.