Sunday, April 3, 2011

Is it Obvious?

by Abigail Garcia 

Language is a way humans communicate in either a spoken or written way; it can also be a nonverbal method of expression or communication. In Carlos Ulises Decena’s article Tacit Subjects, the “silent” or “tacit” method is used among the families of “Dominican immigrant gay men in New York” who are still “in the closet”.

In this article, the term “Tacit Subject” refers to the gay men in Dominican families. In their families, their sexual orientation is left to the family’s imagination. Everyone knows they are gay, but no one talks about it. Their sexual identity “is a matter of interpretations and requires that the other interacting with my informants recognize  and decode the self-presentation of bodies and the information about them that circulate in family networks.”

A great example of  a “Tacit Subject”  can be seen the popular American drama/comedy Ugly Betty (adopted from the Colombian telenovela Yo soy Betty, la fea). In this show, there is a character named Justin Suarez who is the son of Betty’s sister, Hilda. Through the seasons, Justin gives off signs of his sexual orientation by the way he speaks, dresses, and expresses himself. The family and Justin never talks about it in an open space.

In the episode of Hilda’s wedding, Justin is asked to dance by his boyfriend. He gladly takes his hand and they dance, embracing each other, smiling,  and having a good time. Everyone at the wedding sees it and realize what is going on but no one actually says anything. There is a mutual understanding that Justine is gay, but no one actually says anything to him about it…prime example of “Silent Tacit”.

In the article, “Coming Out” in a Dominican family is not easy. In the Decena’s piece, there were themes of self-empowerment and self-determination that the subjects go through when it comes to “coming out”.
Cue the music:

Diana’s Ross “I’m Coming Out” song is track # 13 on Top Gay Songs’ website
Along with “Dancing Queen” by ABBA and YMCA by the Village People, 
this song is seen as a gay anthem. 

“Coming Out” to the gay men in Decena’s article is an “individual, private matter…part of their coming out involves taking ownership of their lives.” With each of the men in the article, each one approaches “coming out” in a different way due to their social status.

In this piece, the Alpha Males would be Sabato Vega and Maxio Dominguez. Sabato Vega is the college educated, English speaker who had created an organization for Gay Latino men in  New York City. During family parties, he brought his boyfriend and did not feel the need to say he was gay because he felt it was redundant. Maximo Dominguez was English speaking and was involved “in various projects including support groups and activist initiatives among LGBTQ Latinos in New York City.” According to the articles, they were the “brokers between their family members and local institutions.” It was very interesting to connect their families’ neediness with the men’s ability to express themselves within them: “ regulating the ‘public secret’ of their homosexuality to the realm of what is tacit helps sustain kin relations that also depend on the knowledge, experience and resourcefulness Dominguez and Vega contribute.”

The other gay men include Franciso Paredes, Pablo Arismedi, and Rogelio Noguera. In order to succeed in their everyday lives, they have to work a little harder than the alpha males. Franciso Paredes is a dark skinned engineer who came to New York City and had to get a job at a restaurant because of his undocumented status. Eventually he found a woman to marry him in order to make him legal. The only disadvantage to his story is that he has to be careful “from being accused of marriage fraud, for instance, should information about his homosexuality reach immigration authorities.“ According to the Center of Immigration website, "Marriage to an American citizen remains the most common path to U.S. residency and/or citizenship for foreign nationals, with more than 2.3 million foreign nationals gaining lawful permanent resident (LPR) status in this manner between 1998 and 2007".

Paredes' undocumented situation means that he needs to be more careful of who he expresses himself to: “the possibility of being ‘outed’ as a homosexual in immigration court underlines the importance of attempting to control how and where information about one’s sexuality circulates.” It is important that his sexuality remains tacit in order to protect himself from being deported.

Pablo Arismendi could be considered the lowest of the males because of his undocumented status, low level of education, and lack of immediate family members living in the United States of America. He resides with his aunt and has only “come out” to a cousin. With it comes to his family, he says that he has shown of signs of living a gay life by bringing "partners into family gathering” and as a result, he is saying he is gay "without resorting to a verbal declaration of his gayness.” This indirectness, however, would not deter his mother from his gayness because "his mother's perception of his homosexuality is more a matter of mother's intuition than anything else." "Mother's intuition is vital when it comes to the tactic's subject of coming out." 

In a "Coming Out of the Closet" interview, Ricky Martin was asked "Who do you think suspected[that you were gay] in your family?" His response was: "My mother asked me once..."  He then continued on how supportive his parents were about him coming out of the closet.
Ricky Martin and Mother

Start video from 2:27

If Ricky Martin was among the of the men in the article, he would definitely be in the alpha male category because of his economic independence and his family's bond with him. Unlike Sabato Vega, Maximo Dominguez, and Ricky Martin, Arismendi is not able to confront his family about being gay because it might "rupture the bonds Arismendi has and needs." In his case, he needs to say quiet in order to preserve the only resources he has in this country. 

In conclusion, Decena's article gives us the impression that the more economically stable/independent the tacit subject is, the easier it is take ownership of their lives and not have to live in fear. The more unstable and less independent men have to live a more cautious life. By being "silent", the men can be looked on as weak, but they are actually the complete opposite. Having to be silent and  hide one's identity for every day survival definitely takes strength and courage. 

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