Queer Latin@s: Don’t Erase Juan Gabriel’s Queer Identity

In mourning one of our own tonight, the queer Latin@ community has a message for the world: Don’t erase Juan Gabriel’s queer identity.

The 66-year-old singer-songwriter died earlier today from an apparent heart attack in Santa Monica, California. Queer Latin@s took to social media to express shock and grief over his sudden death and pay homage to the legend for creating a space for queer Latinx to be themselves. Queer fans also expressed anger over media outlets and cishet fans who failed to mention El Divo de Mexico’s complete identity.

Gabriel famously told one reporter who asked him whether he was gay, “Dicen que lo que se ve no se pregunta, mijo” (“Don’t point out what’s obvious, son”).

Juan Gabriel embraced an identity that shattered gender norms in a music industry that rewards machista personas, and his talent won over even the most macho de los machos. Still, Gabriel rarely spoke of his private life and never went public with any lovers. Perhaps the complications of being in a same-sex relationship as a young gay adult in 1970s Mexico or an international superstar in the mariachi genre is exactly what fueled the heart-rending yearning and tragedy in song after song of unrequited and lost love.

Gabriel’s uncompromising queer identity and mass appeal made him a revered icon among queer Latin@s, something not lost on the superstar. In one last embrace of his queer fans, he ended his final concert with the message:

“Felicidades a todas las personas que están orgullosas de ser lo que son” (Congratulations to all people who are proud of being what they are).

Here are some of the reactions across social media:

Feature photo via Flickr