On Wednesday students discussed stereotypes and homophobia in religion with a community activist during a discussion in a classroom in Jerome Richfield.
During a discussion with a small group of students and faculty, Vianey Ramirez discussed how three issues act as forces in today’s society. Students were asked to examine everyday examples of each topic. Participants cited the education and penal systems, along with electoral voting as ways that racism have been used to oppress minorities.
Ramirez then tied those widespread views of lesbians to religion, saying that homophobia, a fear of homosexuals, has its roots in Catholicism. One student said that the belief that God created men and women to be partners is an example of what is taught through religion in opposition to homosexuality.
Because Latinos and Latinas identify as Roman Catholics, their faith has a part in how they live their lives, Ramirez said. Their faith may lead people to be in denial about their own sexuality of feel that they have to hide it.
“It creates a culture of silence, whether you are or you aren’t (gay or a lesbian).”
Others agreed, citing the tendency in Latino families to avoid discussing the homosexuality.
“We’ll accept it as long as we don’t talk about it,” said Garcia-Orozco.
Ramirez ended her session answering personal questions and elaborating on her own experiences. She encouraged students and faculty to not just be bystanders, but aware and active.
“In breaking tradition, are we just turning an eye to it, or are we going to be more vocal?” Ramirez asked.
Participants responded well to Ramirez, saying that her message was informative and insightful.
“Her perspective is very intertwined within the Chicano experience,” said Alberto Perez, a creative writing major. He added that the discussion was the first step in making a difference.
“This is an effort to change those traditions in our community that limit identity,” Perez said.
Others said that the discussion serves as a reflection of the student group’s effort to impact others.
“It’s very important that M.E.Ch.A. is making an effort to educate their members on gender identity,” said Chicano/a studies professor Maria Fernandez.
Garcia-Orozco emphasized that this type of discussion should become more common on college campuses.
“It should be constant. Not just occasionally,” said Garcia-Orozco. “I think it’s necessary at all campuses.”
“Whether we like it or not, all of that shady stuff is our tradition,” said Ramirez, who has been actively involved with race and gender issues.
In her experience, she said, an ethnic student group may address race issues, but not gender issues, and vice versa. Dealing with identity, people cannot categorize their identities only by race, gender, or sexual orientation, she said, referring to herself as a queer woman of color. The lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender movement often fails to address color issues as well, she added.
There are a myriad of forms of oppression, which should not be ignored and seen as issues only relevant to certain groups of people Ramirez said.
“If one group is being targeted against by racism, we’re all affected by that,” she said.
Garcia-Orozco added that notion that “if you don’t want to create, you’re unnatural,” is another view of homosexuality stemming from religion.
The discussion was sponsored by Professor Antonia Garcia-Orozco of the Chicano/a studies department and the student group MEChA. Garcia-Orozco invited Ramirez to speak to students in an effort to gain a different perspective.
Ramirez, also an attorney with the Monger, Tolles, and Olson law firm in downtown Los Angeles, and who has worked with the Spanish language network Univision, stressed that “part of the need to point out common ground within our various oppressions is because of the danger of not recognizing that we have common issues,” which she said results in ethnic groups using others as scapegoats. By being divided, they fail to address things that impact them all, she added.