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tv   Maria Hinojosa One-on- One  PBS  June 28, 2017 1:00am-1:31am PDT

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>> hinojosa: as the first latino elected to the massachusetts state legislature, he fought for affordable housing, public safety, and environmental justice. today he's taking on the media and its protrayal of gay america. president of the gay and lesbian alliance against defamation jarrett barrios. i'm maria hinojosa. this is one on one. so jarrett barrios, welcome to our show. >> thank you for having me. >> hinojosa: you are the youngest ever and the first latino to head the gay and lesbian alliance against defamation, glaad. >> glaad. >> hinojosa: glaad. now, a lot of people might know
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what glaad is, but there might be a lot of people who also don't know. so what is it that glaad does? >> we are an organization that works for the full equality of gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people. we believe in all of us, including gay folks, being accepted, respected, and valued, but understand that there's a lot of discrimination, there's a lot of homophobia out there in politics, but also in culture, in life. and to really move ahead towards full equality, the belief of glaad is that we have to impact the culture, the culture change, change people's hearts and minds. so what we don't do... you won't find us in washington, dc lobbying on a bill. we don't have lawyers in court. what we do do is we work through the media to get the stories of lesbians and gay people out, gay and bisexual and transgender people out, so that the public can see. and we believe with the public seeing the stories, understanding the storylines, the words, the images, people
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will conclude that gay folks should be respected and accepted like everybody else-- that we advance our equality by telling our stories. >> well, do you feel that right now in america that... i mean, where are we? in a lot of ways, people feel like everywhere you turn, in your neighborhood, wherever you may be living, there's going to be a gay couple. or maybe a gay single person. you know, you turn on the television, and you see, you know, regular looking folks who are gay. but then you also hear, or maybe you don't hear enough about, the hate attacks, the kind of threat of violence that gay folks live under. so where are we, really, on the spectrum? >> we have... glaad studies justice questions, or where is america going? and we have something called the pulse of equality poll. and we've seen that in the last five years america has... about 20% of americans, one in five voters, have become more accepting of lesbian, gay,
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bisexual, and transgender people. and by accepting i mean some of them may have been very, very anti gay, and now are more fair minded on it, but maybe, you know, not necessarily supportive of equal marriage protections for gay people. but some of them might have been somewhere in the middle, and have come even closer. and the reasons for this are many. the most impactful way to help america understand, as you say, is knowing somebody. you sort of imply, "well, everybody knows somebody." actually, not everybody. about 75% of americans know somebody who's gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgender. however, knowing them, very impactful, but isn't as impactful if the folks who are gay don't actually talk about it. and so being out... being out, and in particular being out and talking about the ways in which you're less equal. about 70% of america thinks it's illegal to fire somebody in the workplace because they're gay, but it's only illegal in 21 states.
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29 states you can get fired. if america would understand that... >> hinojosa: so let's just be clear, just so we can make it clear. so that means that, for example, i'm your boss, and in 29 states, i suddenly say, "you know what? i don't like the fact that jarrett made a nice compliment to a fellow coworker who's a man. therefore i can fire jarrett"? >> well, that can be sexual harassment, so let's be clear about that. >> hinojosa: okay. but i don't like the fact that... >> you don't like the fact that i've got a picture of a guy on my desk who happens to be the person i'm in a committed lifetime relationship with, you can say, "i don't like the fact that that's who your husband is. i'm firing you." >> hinojosa: and it's legal? >> and it's legal in 29 states. in 29 states. now, most americans think it's illegal. so when i talk about the importance of people telling their stories, people don't like that. americans are fair minded. they don't like the fact that that's okay. but if they don't know that it's illegal, they don't get moved to support this type of equality. >> hinojosa: well, so what is the point at which... because
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you mentioned gay marriage as kind of one of the issues. so are you saying that in order for us as americans to be completely kind of gay and lesbian accepting that everybody has to be on the same page in terms of same sex marriage? >> i don't think americans are on the same page about anything. we're all over the map. but on the issue of providing the same basic protections to gay couples that heterosexual couples have, at the end of the day marriage is about love and respect and commitment. >> but it's also about a lot of paperwork and legal issues and, you know... >> precisely. and that's where the protection piece comes in. it's how people take care of one another. and that's why the legal rights are important. and so when we talk about marriage, at least from my perspective, it's really important to tell the story of why it is folks want to get married. it isn't about some abstract concept. it's because people who have
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decided to spend the rest of their lives together, often when there are children involved, need those protections to take care of each other. to honor one another, but also respect and protect each other. >> hinojosa: so do we have any folks... let's say in the media. is there a couple, a gay married couple that we can kind of look and say, "oh, look, they're the ozzie and harriet of gay america," or that just does not exist? >> well, there are openly gay and lesbian people, and this is actually a very important point, and part of glaad's work. we want to promote images of folks who are gay, tell their stories, whether through entertainment, like the television show glee, in that narrative, very important. >> hinojosa: let's stop with glee for a second. from your perspective, as somebody who's watching the media and its treatment of gay and lesbian youth, what's so unique about what glee is doing? >> well, i got into a debate with a newsweek reporter recently about this. he thought that the show was bad
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for a gay folks. and he thought because the young man, the boy who likes to sing sometimes, you know, female roles, right, he's a very talented singer, that that was a bad stereotype. i look at that, and i think the interplay between the boy, who has come out as gay on the show... and it started out he hadn't told his family or anybody, and now he has. and the way in which the father kind of deals with it. at first, you know, he was sort of trying to push his son into sports and things, and over time the son comes out, and the father accepts him. what a wonderful thing for america to see. >> hinojosa: especially because the dad is kind of like a working class dad. i think he's, like, a mechanic or something. >> exactly. >> hinojosa: and you don't expect the dad to say, "son, it's okay, i know you're gay." >> and what is the lesson for america? that families that love each other, that stick together, this is the way you embrace your gay children. and there are many gay kids who
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are not. the rate of suicide among gay teenagers is four times the rate of heterosexual teenagers. >> hinojosa: which again... >> very important. and that's about self esteem and acceptance. >> hinojosa: so how can... >> what parents do. >> hinojosa: right. but how can we have these two things going on at the same time, where at the same time you've got ellen degeneres, you know, who's got a show, who's a huge star. >> now a judge on american idol. >> hinojosa: and now a judge on american idol. but you still have got teenagers in america feeling so lonely that they're going to commit suicide because they realize that they're gay, that they're a gay teenager in america. >> we're on a road. we're on a road, maria. the road is towards... it's sort of like that arc that martin luther king mentioned in his speeches, an arc that bends towards justice. justice in this case for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, that comes out of people understanding who we are, that we have our own aspirations for ourselves and our children. my two sons, i dream about about them going to college, and what happens after college, and them living independently. but there are also challenges,
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barriers that we face, right now, quite particularly, the discrimination that is so rampant, and the violence-- bullying in schools, the kind of violence that children face day to day, particularly middle school and high school. what children face, which is what causes these self esteem issues, not just parents, but what peers experience... sort of force them to experience, really, really important issues to address. but we are in a place where it's being talked about. there are role models. there are openly gay people out in the media, in entertainment, in sports, in politics. and those public people living their lives are role models not just for those kids, but for all people. there was a television show that's called so you think you can dance. back in, i guess it was probably the summer... may of '09, they had a dance... a couple... and this is... couples dance and complete, kind of like american idol, what have you. nigel lithgoe, the judge, said something to... the couple
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happened to be two men. the first time they had two men dancing. and they were actually not a gay couple. one was a gay man, one was his straight best friend. and after the show, nigel sort of lectured them-- "you two should be dancing with women." and the message that sent to all the gay kids out there was "it's not okay to be who you are." the message it sent to all the straight kids out there was, "you know, these kids who you might know who you think are gay, it's okay to pick on them. it's okay to make fun of them. look what we just saw on television." >> hinojosa: but i'm going to stop you, because somebody might be watching and say, "okay, well, look, jarrett, i'm completely... i support gay rights. but you know, if i'm seeing a couples dance, let's say a waltz, and somebody says, 'you know, i kind of want to see a man dancing with a woman'..." and then suddenly this person is saying, "wow, the fact that i want to see a man dancing with a woman doing a waltz makes me... there's a problem with that?" >> no, it's about the messages that come out of it, the media messages. and the way that was
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communicated sent a message that if you happen to be gay, or if you happen to be in a position where you're dancing, that that's not as acceptable, it's not as okay. kids who are coming out and see that take a message from that that isn't accepting. you have your antennae out when you're a young kind and you haven't told your parents, you haven't told your friends, you're living by yourself, wherever you are, boise, idaho, nashville, tennessee, tampa, florida, where i'm from, not new york city, not los angeles, but places where you don't have the kind of support in your community, all you've got is yourself, and your ability to decide whether or not you've got a life in front of you, whether there's a place for you to live where you're going to be accepted, where you can be respected, not discriminated against, safe, safe, physically and emotionally safe, you take cues from everywhere. and so these messages that you get from the media are very, very important. this is why glaad is something of a media watchdog. we want to make sure that the messages aren't exclusionary, that they embrace all of us.
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and so if you're sending a message about being gay or not, that it be one that is a positive one, and an inclusive one. sure, it's okay to dance in a straight couple, but there's a way to express that which doesn't say... doesn't have to say that, you know, if you're gay, you stink, right? >> hinojosa: interesting. >> and it's those gay kids that we're so concerned about. and young people are in particular vulnerable, because they don't have networks of support that adult folks who've come out that have their professional relationship, that have their families, do, particulary adults in big cities. >> hinojosa: so let's take on an issue that when you were coming out as a young man was not necessarily front and center in terms of the community, the gay community, and that's transgendered folks. i know that within the community there's been a lot of discussion about this. and certainly america's kind of trying to figure out, what are we doing with this? and we'll go back to popular culture for a minute. a show called america's best dance crew on mtv. >> great.
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my kids watch it. >> hinojosa: i know this because of my kids, i'm watching with my kids, which is good, right? because it gives us a prism into what's going on in terms of popular culture for young people. >> it's good to watch television with your kids, maria. >> hinojosa: it's a good thing to watch television. >> good thing to know what they're watching. >> hinojosa: though i tell them all the time, "it's not really reality, sweeties, it's not really reality." but on this show, you had a transgendered kid performing in a... >> a woman, a young transgender woman, yes. >> hinojosa: so he was a... what's the... >> she. she. >> hinojosa: she. but she used to be a he. >> hinojosa: yes. >> and we don't know in what process, then... the reason why i'm bringing this up is because again, there might be really a lot of really well-meaning folks who just say, "i don't know what to do with this." >> what i can tell you is this. that transgender woman who performed... young woman who performed with her openly gay friends in this dance crew, was a good dancer, and they did really well on that show. and... >> hinojosa: she definitely owned it, for sure. >> she's... that's why they're
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on that show, not to be judged for something that shouldn't matter. what should matter is how she dances. that's what she's there for. >> hinojosa: so you feel like whenever we look through this stuff that all of us are just too obsessed about the fact that... >> her gender identity is relevant to her, but shouldn't matter to us insamuch as we judge her on a show that she's there to dance about. in the same way that somebody's sexual orientation or their race or their religion or the color of their skin or the color of their eyes shouldn't matter. >> hinojosa: but you feel as a gay activist that essentially you have to be kind of coming down to this ground zero, which is whatever it is, do not discriminate against this person. >> hinojosa: sexual orientation and gender identity are aspects of our lives. but because of the way americans, some americans, make an issue of it, they become barriers to our being able to achieve the same things that everybody else wants. and at a very basic level, you want to be able to live in your neighborhood, have your kids go to school, you want to be able to live your life, you want to be able to go to work and bring
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home that paycheck and know that your kids are going to have a better life than you had because you worked hard for them. and that's okay unless and until people intervene in that-- they fire you from your job, they say to you, "you can't have the protections of marriage because that would mean something to us." marriage is a personal decision, and shouldn't be debated in this public way. if two people love each other, they should be able to take care of each other with all the rights and protections that marriage affords them. that's what, i think, most of us want. that's what full equality is. i want to take a... >> hinojosa: i know what story you're going to tell me, because this is exactly the question i was going to ask you. because a lot of times, as you said, you may have a gay neighbor or a friend or a coworker, but it doesn't mean that that person is necessarily telling you everything that's going on in their life as a result of being gay and perhaps discriminated against. you, because of your activism, you talk about this. you ended up dealing with a regular kind of family issue with your own son, who ends up
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in the hospital, right? >> right. well, i have a couple of stories like that. yeah, actually, i can tell you... i want to tell you... can i tell you a different story? i want to tell you story... nathaniel, my younger son, 13 now. that was when he was very young. when we was 12 last year, we moved to a new neighborhood, jamaica plain. jamaica plain's a larger latino neighborhood. a lot of domenican kids, and i'm cuban. >> hinojosa: this is in massachusetts, right? >> this is in jamaica plain, massachusetts. and because of that, we have the best little league in the city. no, hispanic kids are the best. to make a perhaps an overgeneralization. but we had the best little league in the city. nathaniel tried out for his baseball team, and made one of the teams. very excited. comes home from practice after his first day talking all about... again, new neighborhood, trying to make new friends, excited with all the teammates. he's going to be center field, he says. comes home the second day, "oh, dad, i think i'm going to be right field." very excited. comes home the third day and he's in tears. i said to myself, "what happened?" so i went to his room, wouldn't talk to me about it, because he was not supposed to be crying,
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and he's a big boy. shuts his door, doesn't want to talk about it. so i called the coach. the coach says to me, "i was going to call you later about this, jarrett." apparently there were a couple of kids who had played on the team several years. these kids knew each other very well. nathaniel was at his third day of practice, trying to make new friends. the other two kids were calling each other gay. nathaniel doesn't know that as an epithet, because in our house that's not a bad word. so he offered, "my two dads are both gay." >> hinojosa: oh, my gosh, your son was trying to be helpful here? >> he was trying to make friends. >> hinojosa: oh, my gosh. >> and those kids started making fun of him. >> hinojosa: so he says, "i've got two gay dads, let me help you out"? >> no, no. well, they were like, "oh, you're both gay? yeah, my dad's gay." trying to make friends, start conversation. and they both started making fun of him. and that broke my heart. and it broke my heart because of what it said about them and about us as a society, that all we want... what we want is nothing... i want to be able to go watch my son play baseball. he doesn't want to play baseball anymore because of this. and yes, it's the kids, but it's
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not just the kids. it's all of us, because we live in a world where it's okay, where we don't correct kids when they say that, when we don't say to kids, "all of us deserve to be treated fairly." >> hinojosa: but these are parents who have kind of grown up in an america where gayness is out there. i mean, i'm just wondering, what's going on with the parents? do they not hear, or is it that the parents themselves are still in that place where they're... >> this is... so when you asked me the question earlier, what do we have to do as parents, my belief is... not just me, but all of us. it isn't about asking other poeple why they're different. it's about telling our own kids how we, despite all of our differences, we all want the same things. we want to be able to play baseball, go watch our kid play baseball. you know, we want to be able to go to work. we want to be able to do things and be successful as americans based on how hard we work, based on our values, based on things which should matter. not identities, not color of skin, religions, things which shouldn't figure into people's calculus for how we are judged. >> hinojosa: but at the same time, when you're living in a country where you're getting all
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of these mixed messages, you know, where, for example, the obama adminstration, let's say, which was very open in terms of gay rights, first time ever that... >> can i ask you a question? i want to ask you a question. what do you mean when you say gay rights? >> hinojosa: you know what? that's a really good question., and i think that's... >> is it a right you don't have, maria, as somebody who's a heterosexual woman with kids? i only want the same thing you want. i just want rights. i want equal rights. >> hinojosa: but that's what i'm saying. if you've got a president who says that he believes.... >> in equality in gay people, the same treatment as everybody else. and by the way, i want the same responsibilities, too. i want the ability to pay my taxes as a married person. >> hinojosa: you also know that the obama administration, by many folks in the community, the gay community, was seen as, "what's up, here? you had made certain statements in your campaign that made it appear like you were going to stand up for equal treatment of gay and lesbians under the law." >> right.
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>> hinojosa: has he delivered, and what does it say to you that a president like barack obama maybe hasn't delivered? >> you know, i think that what he feels and what he's been able to get done are two different things. what a president campaigns on and what they can actually accomplish... obviously with health care and a lot of other things going around, it's not quite... perhaps hasn't been quite as easy. we had a big victory, we being not gay people but all of america recently when the hate crimes bill passed after ten years. >> hinojosa: huge. and just put it out there, because i think that some people... unless you're following the issue of hate crimes, you might have seen it and not quite understood. this was a battle that had gone on for ten years to federalize a crime against gays and lesbians. >> or people based on race or religion or any other group. it used to be the case that if you committed a crime on federal land, or in a federal
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jurisdiction, you could prosecute somebody for a hate crime, since the '60s, based on race. those were usually voting rights violations in the '60s. late '60s this law was passed. it was... so the law was both expanded to include a hate crime against somebody who's gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender. but it was also federalized so that if there's a state... so if you're in, i don't know, alabama, mississippi, puerto rico... there was a recent hate crime in puerto rico, where it doesn't look... didn't look like the district attorney was going to take it up as a hate crime. and what is a hate crime? a hate crime is when you commit a crime against somebody, and you use kind of language, racist language, homophobic language, which is evidence that you didn't just kill the person, or you didn't just rob the person, or you didn't just maim the person to do it, but you did it because of that identity, because of their race, because of their religion, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. and that if you do that, it's not just a crime against that person. it's a crime against a whole community.
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because gay people, or african americans, or latinos, or jewish people, you live in greater fear knowing that that person doing it for that reason might come after somebody else. so that the enhanced penalty, the additional crime, time tacked onto the sentence, is a result of it being not just against the person, but against a community. that's the idea of a hate crime. so what the law did, they federalized it and said, "well, if mississippi, say, doesn't want to prosecute it because they don't see prosecuting a murder of a gay person where there's ample evidence that it was because of their sexual orientation, then the federal government can step in." so the us attorney from mississippi, who reports to the us attorney general, can take that case on and prosecute it. and that was the real impact, saying that the united states isn't going to mess around with politics at the local level, which sometimes is what happens in these prosecutions. people have to get elected as a da, they don't want to prosecute it because, you know, "oh, it looks like they're supportive of gay people." this is about fairness. and finally we have a law that will allow people to protect in
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a sort of negative rights way, because it's prosecuting people who have committed crimes, but protect the dignity of a community by making these go forward, these prosecutions go forward. >> hinojosa: so what, in your dream-o-vision, jarrett, when you say you want to reach the hearts and minds of americans, how do you do that? you said, "i want gay neighbors to kind of not just..." >> tell their stories. tell their stories to the neighborhood. you know... >> hinojosa: how about if you're not the gay neighbor, and you're not sure what to ask your neighbor, because you don't know how to... what do you want them to say, "tell me about your life, what's it like?" like, you know... >> this is the power of the media, by the way. why shows like glee are so important. because what you do is you tell that story through the media. people are very comfortable sitting in front of their television watching it through an entertainment venue, whether it's, you know, a reality show or a sitcom. and it doesn't take away the importance of gay folks coming
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out and telling their stories and living their lives. and i think you realize that as a gay person. i realized it, amazingly, when we finally had kids. in some ways it's... you know, because there you are, two dads at the pta meeting, right? and, you know, this is who we are. and it wasn't like we weren't a couple before, but you weren't quite as public in places where it sort of stood out. >> hinojosa: and was it easy for you? >> you know, it's sort of like it's easy and it's sort of... you sort of think about it in a way that you didn't before. but it's important. and so even if it's not easy, you've got to embrace it, because it's important to get past that. >> hinojosa: this is your life, right. >> and it's your kids' life. and it's your neighbors' lives, and it's all the other kids and their parents in that classroom's life. and they need to see that, you know, i'm here, i'm in this classroom with my son for the same reasons other parents are. i want my son to succeed at his school. i want him to do his homework. i also want to know, in my case, is he wearing his uniform? what are the uniform rules at a parochial school? what are, sort of, the rules of the road here, so that i can
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make sure he's meeting his end of the bargain back at school? that's no different than any other parent. >> hinojosa: all right, we've got one minute left. tell me what your dream is for what happens. what's the place, what's the nirvana, if there is one, where gay and lesbian issues are no longer an issue? >> it's when my son can play baseball and tell his friends that he's got two dads, and nobody bats an eye. that's when we've reached full equality. that's when we live in an america where gay people can live like anybody else. >> hinojosa: so is that ten years from now? >> if i had a crystal ball... it's not yet, that's for sure. and it depends on people telling their stories, gay folks telling their stories and america understanding that we just want acceptance, we want to be respected, we want to be valued for our contributions, and let's put those stereotypes aside. >> hinojosa: jarrett barrios, thank you so much for joining us, and for your good work.
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>> hinojosa: continue the conversation at captioned by media access group at wgbh
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