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Recalling LGBTQ+ Stories in Hispanic Heritage Month

Man with Queer Yo Soy sign
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The Latino Equality Alliance explains its history and its work to empower LGBTQ+ Latinx people. 


The saddest chapter and the most empowering our community experienced was in the wake of the California ballot initiative, Proposition 8, that took away marriage rights same-sex couples had gained only months previously. It was Prop 22, which we'd lost years earlier and that made its way through the courts and resulted in a court ruling that codified our right to marriage yielding the "Summer of Love."

However, with a very hurtful and divisive campaign led in Los Angeles mostly by the Catholic church, voters approved the removal of our rights at the ballot box. Among these voters were Latinos who heard from the local Cardinal to vote against us. In L.A., representing the majority vote in California, the Latino vote matters - as the mainstream LGBTQ+ community learned the hard way.

When HONOR PAC opened the first openly gay campaign office in East L.A. -- on Cesar Chavez Avenue -- it became a beacon of empowerment. It was a welcomed surprise how excited our LGBTQ+ Latinos were to volunteer and help with the "No on Prop 8" campaign and even more of a surprise to see that our Latino community also welcomed us. In that experience, we felt the love of community and the love of familia - our extended Latino family. It was empowering.

We lost that battle in Nov 2008, but the results showed something critical; the overall support of LGBTQ+ issues had moved around 20 percent for Prop 22 to about 40 percent for Prop 8 among Latinos! Had we done more intentional public education on the issue, it could have made the difference we needed.

That was the genesis of the Latino Equality Alliance: The organization was born out of the empowerment of our Latino LGBTQ+ community leaders realized that if we do the work, in our own community, in culture ,and in language and from the place of love and family, we can gain the support we need to win at the ballot box. As such LEA was born with LGBTQ+ Latinos in all leadership positions and with the financial and moral support of the mainstream LGBTQ+ and Latino communities.

Impact of Latino-led LGBTQ+ Public Education

LEA's most important work today, as it was at its inception, is family acceptance because the truth is, we didn't just want to win at the ballot box, we always wanted to win our community.

That is, we wanted our own Latino community to acknowledge, accept and appreciate us. We want our LGBTQ+ youth to not just survive long enough to graduate high school but to thrive economically with a good education whether through college or trades. And we do all that - but at the core of the work is heart, it is after all the Latino way. We want the love and support of our families. Our youth should not be devalued and expelled from the family. We don't want our family to ignore our same-sex spouses. And we definitely want our children to enjoy the companionship of their primos and primas (cousins). Success for LEA is family acceptance for youth, adults, seniors - all of us.

Celebrating Hispanic History, Together

As we celebrate our cultural history, let us also lift up the fact that the LGBTQ+ members of the Latino/Hispanic/Chicano community have always been there. We play important roles in the history, culture, and advancement of our community. Let us celebrate together. !Que Viva - La Comunidad!, !Que Viva la Familia! !Que Viva el poder Hispano!

Hispanic (Latinx) Heritage Month is celebrated in the U.S. from September 15 to October 15 every year. The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988.

This observance celebrates the rich histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America. It is an opportunity for all Americans to honor, recognize and commemorate the vast contributions Latinx citizens have made to the United States' cultural, economic, scientific, and civic progress.

At the LEA, we believe that Latinx LGBTQ+ youth have the inalienable right to live and thrive in safe and equitable environments. Since our inception, our mission has been to promote liberty, equality, and justice for the Latinx lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender communities. As a non-profit organization based in Los Angeles, with a strong focus on family acceptance, LGBTQ+ equality, and immigration reform; LEA engages Latinx LGBTQ+ community leaders and organizations in direct action organizing to address issues of bullying, homophobia, xenophobia, family separation, violence against youth, homelessness, high health risk behaviors, and HIV/AIDS.

We believe that family acceptance is at the core of the work that we do. As is well known, "la familia" is one of the guiding principles and foundation markers of our culture and our traditions, and it is a fundamental value that our Latinx LGBTQ+ youth hold close to their hearts. Because family and culture don't only define us, they also infuse us with confidence, a strong sense of security, and the indisputable belief that we can accomplish anything we set ourselves to do. We understand the importance and the value of the family nucleus and family acceptance as a nexus between our youth's mental wellness, safety, and overall future success. Without our families' love and acceptance, it is clear that the path to a healthy and productive life becomes a road full of obstacles and distress that can lead to drug addiction, homelessness, violence, crime, and other social ills.

Ari Gutierrez Arambula is co-founder of LEA and HONOR PAC and Marco Gonzalez is the LEA Advisory Board President.

Views expressed in The Advocate's opinion articles are those of the writers and do not necessarily represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, Equal Pride.

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