Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Today, Ricky Martin matters more than ever.

Last year, I made a big deal about Ricky Martin’s coming out. While many dismissed it as inconsequential or cowardly (because he didn’t do it earlier), I was convinced that the reverberations would be hugely significant. After watching the video to “Lo Mejor De Mi Vida Eres Tú,” I’m more convinced than ever that Ricky Martin is pivotal in our communities’ imagining and expanding of Latinidad.

The first piece I wrote [Why Ricky Matters (to me.. and maybe a few other boys)] on Ricky caught quite a bit of attention through its initial re-posting by my dear friend Andrés Duque at Blabbeando. Shortly after, the piece appeared on Racialicious, lgbtqnation.com and a couple of other blogs. Perhaps the reason for the circulation was that I refused to dismiss Ricky’s coming out as inconsequential and placed a great deal of emphasis on its potential impact on the lives of those struggling with their own identities and ways of expressing and being.

In the piece, I imagined the young boy who lives in rural parts of Latino América or parts of the U.S. (particularly those parts of this country that are inherently and historically Brown), who might be struggling with his own feelings, his own body and/or his own imagination of what is possible.

Revisiting the blog piece today, I realize I was somehow evoking the spirit of the It Gets Better Project. And while I continue extremely critical of this campaign (for many reasons, not the least are its ageist and classist narratives), I do believe the visualization of imagined possibility is important. For the young boy who, like myself in my early teen years, finds himself living in rural México, seeing a public figure with pop culture prominence spanning a few decades might help in the process of imagining and/or visualizing what being a Brown man who loves other men might look like.

Of course, the same arguments of class could be made against my imagining of Ricky Martin’s image as relevant to a young man who might not imagine himself living with the resources the pop star enjoys. However, I believe the difference in this case is that it is Ricky’s embodiment of Latino and Queer that is important (as opposed to Dan Savage’s trips to France as a sign of "it getting better").

Later in the year, I wrote a piece titled “How Ricky Martin is Changing the Face of Latino Fatherhood,” based on Ricky and his two sons' (Valentino and Matteo) appearance on the cover of People En Español’s father’s day issue. Given People En Español’s circulation, the image of an openly gay Latino father and his children, would be in countless Latina/o supermarkets and living rooms. Yet again, the image of Ricky’s queer Latinidad was helping us imagine a more expansive Latinidad that includes more of us.

With Ricky’s reemergence into the public light, we had the opportunity to see a queer Latino strike down racist stereotypes about inherent homophobia in our communities. Perhaps the best example was on The View when Ricky responded to Joy Behar’s suggestion that his culture kept him from coming out. In a moment that made him even more beautiful in my eyes, Ricky refuses to take the bait and simply states that people all over the world are struggling with their sexuality. (Thank you!)

Recently, I was interviewed by the San Antonio Express-News for a piece titled “Ricky’s Rebirth.” In the interview, I reiterated my belief that Ricky Martin’s coming out and public image as a queer Latino father was of monumental significance for our communities (Note: The writer of the article reached out to me because of the aforementioned Change.org piece). Also, in the same article, there were others interviewed who agreed with what might be a mainstream belief that Ricky Martin's coming out is “not a big thing.”

This morning, Ricky's new album "Música + Alma + Sexo," hit stores and I typed faster than my queer fingers could to download it on iTunes. Refusing to shy away from the "sex" in sexuality by daring to have the word "Sexo" in the title of the album, I am excited to see where Ricky takes us as an openly queer historically sensual performer. 

Watching two brown men in an affectionate embrace in the “Lo Mejor De Mi Vida Eres Tú” video, I’m pretty darn sure Ricky will continue to matter to me… and maybe a few other boys. 

(For the linguistically challenged: The Best Thing About Me Is You)

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