Puerto Rican ‘Harvey Milk’ speaks out

Written by Robert Waddell

Pedro Julio Serrano, the first openly Gay candidate who ran for public office in Puerto Rico 11 years ago, spoke at Hostos Community College in the Bronx on November 5th. Serrano said that he was considering a future run for the Puerto Rican senate in 3 years. He was modest and confident of victory.

«Politicians should be honest,» said Serrano, «We (the Gay community) is every where in society.»

Serrano is the communications manager of the National Gay and Lesbian Task force. He studied communications at the University of Puerto Rico and worked for the Puerto Rican Health department. Ten years ago Serrano became the political and media director of the Human Rights Foundation of Puerto Rico. He has worked with Voices of Equality for Freedom to Marry and Serrano is also the founder of Puerto Rico Para Tod@s, Puerto Rico for All, which advocates equalityfor LGBT Puerto Ricans.

Hostos Professors Rosa Velazquez and Angel Morales of the Humanities department organized the day’s event, which was held in the Longwood Arts Gallery.

«He’s an important Puerto Rican and a well known activist, it’s appropriate that he’s here at Hostos,» said Morales, who called Serrano the ‘Puerto Rican Harvey Milk.’

Speaking on a range of topics from Gay marriage, adoption, his coming out and his interest in poltics, Serrano said that today Puerto Rico Para Tod@s has launched a campaign against homophobia. Serrano said the worse part of combating homophobia was how he has encountered hypocracy.

«The God I know is full of love and compassion,» said Serrano to a packed audience. «Religion is not supposed to hate or judge other people….Being Gay is not a sin, homophobia is the sin.»

Serrano, who spoke mostly in Spanish, said that one of his responsibilities was to combat hate speech and derrogatory language that demean others. He told a story of introducing himself to someone on a plane who had said something offensive. Serrano reminded his fellow passager that he was not there to hear this other person’s hatred and that they were equally paying the same air fare.

Another form of hate speech, Serrano explained was that some Latino Gays hear the word ‘pato,’ shrug and accept the insult.

«I don’t have feathers or a beak or walk funny,» said Serrano. «I’m a human being who deserves dignity.»

Serrano recounted how he told his parents that he was Gay. At first they did not accept his coming out of the closet. He realized that for all of his inistance that his parents accept him, he first needed to accept them for who they were, he said. Eventually, his parents learned to appreciate Serrano for who he is as a human being, he said, but for others in society, they’re not as lucky as he was.

«I have love and support from my family and my lover while others do not….so it’s my opportunity to create a society that’s free and open for every one.»

Humiliating and unconstitutional, Serrano called any legislation that forces Gays to ask for their rights — like adoption, marriage or not being harrassed — rights that the straight community takes for granted.

Serrano recalled a lesson his mother once taught him, that he is neither less nor more than any one else. He was once reminded of this at a political rally and his mother’s words resonated with the activist.

«There’s a road between homophobia and acceptance,» said Serrano, «With a lot of love you can over come anything.»

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