A mural portraying a gay couple, a lesbian couple, and a transgender man was defaced Monday and Tuesday after online threats and homophobic remarks were made against the mural’s artist Manuel Paul.
“The defacing happened the last two nights after a conversation on social media shifted and turned negative,” said Ani Rivera, director of Galería de la Raza.
The Galería released a statement Wednesday afternoon condemning the “homophobic hate speech and physical threats” made online against both the Maricon Collective, of which Paul is a member, and the artists of “The Q-Sides,” who were also targeted for their exhibit on queer and low-rider culture currently on display at Galería.
Though the mural, located outside Galería on 24th and Bryant, was only unveiled Saturday, Rivera said that already on Monday night blue and red graffiti had appeared over both the gay and lesbian couple, followed Tuesday by spray paint defacing the transgender man in the middle of the mural. She speculated that the delay might have been caused by the perpetrators’ ignorance that the man was transgender.
Resistance to the mural seems to have centered on belief that the art was “glamorizing and claiming gang affiliation,” according to Galería’s statement. This they wholly reject, stating that both the mural and the “Q-Sides” exhibit are a “declaration of love for oldies music and lowriders – and how these art forms have informed and shaped queer Chican@ LGBTQ identities” and that “there is no intent of disrespect.”
“I think it’s a hate crime when you’re vandalizing like this, based on everything that’s been happening on social media,” Rivera said. “This cult of violence — that’s the shocking part. This visceral reaction to male on male love — you’re wrong to call for violence for something you don’t understand.”
Though not all were shocked. Maria Alvarado, an employee at Precita Eyes, said she guessed the mural would be defaced when she first saw it.
“Latinos are very macho and homophobic,” she said. “When you put two men like that outside — they’re not going to like that. If you’re a little gang-banger, you’re not going to go for that.”
Another employee of Precita Eyes, who asked to remain anonymous, said there’s a history of that site being vandalized and of resistance to some kinds of art in the Mission.
“The work that they [Galería] are doing is challenging for some folks,” he said, “and these are some old school folks. They don’t know how to do things in a sensible way.”
While Rivera agreed that this isn’t the first time they’ve faced pushback (she cited a case back in 2000 when a lesbian mural drew homophobic remarks and even a gunshot through the gallery’s window), she also said she doesn’t think the Mission is opposed to this kind of art.
“This isn’t one community. This is communities plural,” she said. “This is just one sector of a community. Everyone’s entitled to their opinion — we always know there’s going to be two sides to everything — but we’re going to continue to expand on the narratives of Chicano and Latino identities.”
She was even somewhat optimistic.
“This has had a positive impact in some way,” she said. “We’ve had endless emails and phone calls from as far away as Arizona and Texas telling us not to give up. We know there’s a community in need of this, the visibility of LGBT Latinos. We’re trying to stay positive.”
The incident has been reported to the police. Galería de la Raza welcomes anyone to help with the restoration of the mural, which will start Thursday at 9:30 a.m. and will last all day.