Gay El Nuevo Herald Columnist Stirring up Latino Mainstream

Gay Miami journalist Daniel Shoer Roth, author of a newly published collection of columns, will be one of the influential authors featured at the Miami Book Fair International this weekend at Miami Dade College. Roth has collected a series of his most thought-provoking columns from Miami’s el Nuevo Herald in a bilingual volume titled “Stories of Truth and Hope,” which was published in collaboration with the Dade Human Services Coalition. In the spirit of Roth’s column “En Foco,” which takes a raw look at the social and economic issues facing his community, the book hopes to inspire a sense of hope and fuel civic activism.

The author is the first to admit his own unique background colors his perspective. “I’m a gay Latino Jew,” he says, “Throughout the book, you see a special sensitivity to minorities. I grew up Jewish in a very Catholic society and gay in a very machista country. This book is definitely the result of feeling discriminated against, but it takes a positive route and, hopefully, will foster tolerance for any issue, including gay issues.”

A native of Venezuela, Roth came to the U.S. in 1997 to study journalism and Latin American and Caribbean studies at New York University’s graduate school. An internship with el Nuevo Herald landed him a full-time position as a reporter in 1999. Eight years later, he is a full-time columnist exploring the contentious issues in Miami’s conservative Hispanic culture.

One of the difficult topics Roth tackled early was the struggle of young gay children. “Gay children were being kicked out of their homes, and the public welfare system didn’t have a structure for these children,” Roth says. “They were facing substance abuse, prostitution and suicide.”

Roth also used a column as a vehicle to publicly come out to his readers in a first-person piece titled “The Closet Where Pain is Stored.” He was surprised to find his readers extremely supportive. But Roth found his readers less enthusiastic about a column that advocated the rights of homosexuals to marry, published just two weeks after Spain legalized gay marriage.

The only gay-themed column in the book is titled “A Man’s Pain in a World of Children,” which discusses the pain Roth felt as a young child who realized he was “different” in a society that demanded strict conformity.“In a Latino newspaper, these are very tough subjects,” Roth says. His work has gained national attention, earning him a 2005 award from the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation and recognition by the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association.

One of his columns told the love story of two older men, one of whom was dying of cancer.“It wasn’t really about the fact these men were gay,” Roth explains. “One of them was dying, and it was about the relationship. I received over 100 e-mails from readers, and some of them were even giving advice to them.”

Roth acknowledges that his column and now the book make him a spokesperson for the community.“There are a lot of outreach opportunities with this book,” he says. “It is platform to reach out to temples, churches and activist communities. I can do this because I’m comfortable with my sexuality. When you’re really happy with yourself, you have nothing to hide. I’m happy my readers know it and they respect it. They might not agree with all of my views, but they support the way I voice them.”

While Roth insists he tries to “live for the moment,” the success of his book has given him a larger agenda.“The gay issue in the Latin community is definitely important to me,” he says. “Whatever my next project, it will definitely have the gay component because that’s part of my identity. It permeates everything, just like my Hispanic culture. I write for a mainstream culture, but there is always a deeper context.”

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