Why Ricky Martin Coming Out Now Matters
By PopEater Staff Posted Mar 30th 2010 11:29AM
A high school friend messaged me on Facebook last night. She'd been so angry back in 1984 when Menudo replaced Ricky Melendez -- who had grown too old -- with that too-young looking Ricky Martin. But she stayed loyal and became a fan of the new Ricky. She even tracked me down in the 1990s to catch up after years -- just to tell me Ricky had been cast in 'General Hospital.' And why not? Ricky had become part of the family and we have to keep up with our family, after all.
Ricky Martin coming out is, for many people, like having a friend or family member come out. "Gay" isn't an abstract to them anymore, but the kid you knew when you were 14. The power of Ricky's celebrity status makes fans understand gay people differently, too.
Two weeks ago, iconic Mexican singer Paquita la del Barrio, who has sold millions of albums worldwide and whose songs are staples in jukeboxes in Mexico, announced that she would rather a child starve to death than be raised by a gay couple in response to marriages of same-sex couples in Mexico City. Two weeks ago, there was no word, image or story to contradict Senora la del Barrio in Spanish-language media -- just abstract stereotypes about being "gay."
Today, our friend Ricky Martin, who we Latinos have known since he was 12, is that face – a gay man who is the father of two sons. He is the face of all those people Senora la del Barrio was attacking. Her job isn't so easy anymore.
Ricky coming out is a game changer for many gay and transgender Latino children, who for too long have not had many out gay people to look up to. It's also a game changer for their mothers, aunts and grandmothers, who were once teenage girls screaming at Menudo concerts. They now have a face to the word "gay" and know a father of two who just happens to also be gay. As more and more people get to know gay and transgender friends, neighbors, family members and celebrities, they come to know that our community wants the same things all people do: to be accepted, valued for our contributions and equal chance to raise our families and take care of our loved ones.
It's true that Ricky is far more popular in Spanish than in English, and that his coming out will reverberate through Latin America. But it is no less meaningful here in America; a singer who has sold millions worldwide in English and in Spanish, one of People's Most Beautiful People in the World, a father of two, a proud Puerto Rican man who just happens to be gay. For all the boys and girls struggling to find the language to tell their coming out story for the first time, it just became that much easier. Thank you, Ricky!
Jarrett Barrios is the President of the GLAAD. He was the first Latino and first openly gay state Senator in Massachusetts and is the proud father of two teenage sons.
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