Whether breaking long-held beliefs about gender roles or occupying central roles in political revolutions and social justice movements, the Latinx LGBTQ+ community has contributed greatly to the fights for gender equality, racial equality, and class solidarity throughout the Western Hemisphere. Given this rich history, it is essential for UnidosUS to highlight how our Affiliate Network uplifts Latinx LGBTQ+ voices in their fight for equality and inclusion today.
By Sam Primis, Affiliate Engagement Team, UnidosUS
The Latinx LGBTQ+ community has always a played key role in Latino history, both within Latin America and in Latino communities in the United States. Figures such as Amelio Robles Ávila, who was assigned female at birth but lived his adult life as a man, was a famous colonel and significant figure in the Mexican Revolution. In Brazil, Madame Marie Durocher became the first female doctor in Latin America, but her insistence on dressing “like a man” was met with significant scrutiny in 19th century Rio de Janeiro.
In the United States, it is impossible to ignore the impact of queer Latinx icons such as José Sarria, a WWII veteran and the first openly gay candidate to run for public office in the United States. Meanwhile, the queer Chicana author Gloria Anzaldúa was a leading scholar on both Chicano culture and Queer Theory, as well as a pioneer for Chicana Feminism from the 1970s to the early 2000s.
La Clínica del Pueblo is a great example of this effort, which is a multi-site health care clinic based in the Washington, DC. area founded in 1983 by Salvadoran immigrants to serve the growing Central American migrant community in the area.
La Clínica opened up the Empodérate Centers in 2010 as a safe space for LGBTQ+ adolescents and young adults. In addition to providing healthcare to this vulnerable population, Empodérate strives to ultimately reduce stigma, break stereotypes, and create a more inclusive environment for everyone in the community. With services like individual counseling, educational groups, training workshops, support groups for people living with HIV, hosting peer support activities, and community outreach events, Empodérate is certainly among those leading the charge to shift the conversation around the LGBTQ+ community.
Manuel Diaz-Ramirez, who oversees the Empodérate program and all community-facing programs, said, “Since its establishment, La Clínica del Pueblo, Inc. has understood that any form of stigma, particularly the ones based on race, ethnicity, gender, class, sexual orientation, and HIV status, increase health inequities for our immigrant communities. Each of our programs and services, specifically our Empodérate Centers, promote access to health care without exclusions for all members of our communities #SaludSinBarreras.” By continuing the fight for equality, they honor legacies of those who fought for equality before them.
Mary’s Center, another Affiliate providing health services based out of Washington, DC, has also made outstanding inclusion efforts for their LGBTQ+ patients and employees. Their IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Awareness) Committee has a subcommittee that is dedicated to making the Center’s hiring efforts more inclusive to LGBTQ+ candidates. Their LGBTQ+ committee has also developed an official policy for employees and managers when their transgender or gender non-conforming co-workers disclose their gender identity or transition at work.
Dr. Paul Doherty, a pediatrician at Mary’s Center elaborated on their inclusion efforts: “Mary’s Center’s IDEA Committee’s LGBTQ+ work group, one of several workgroups focused on various aspects of diversity at Mary’s Center, has been the driving force behind big changes at the organization in recent years, from our posted signs inviting participants to use the restroom that best matches their gender identity (in English, Spanish, and Amharic), to our new policy on supporting employees who are undergoing gender transitions. We’ve trained staff across the organization, updated our website and clinic signage to reflect our policies of inclusion, and started a decorating contest across clinic sites for our Pride celebrations. These efforts and others were recognized by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) through our top score of 100 on their HealthCare Equality Index in 2020, designating Mary’s Center as an LGBTQ+ Healthcare Leader!”
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They recently published a blog post titled, “Explaining Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity,” which even includes a bilingual (English/Spanish) guide to pronouns. Efforts such as these are so important because they bring inclusivity to the forefront by helping guide people to create workplaces with equal opportunities for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
The Wall Las Memorias (TWLM), a community health organization serving low income populations in Los Angeles, has long been committed to promoting LGBTQ+ health and wellness while combatting stigma. Specifically, TWLM has trans and nonbinary health programs which focus on reducing healthcare disparities for transgender women of color as well as providing mental health support groups. These programs are especially important, because they target some of the most marginalized people within the LGBTQ+ community, seeking to reduce the stigma around these groups and ultimately erase the inequality that transgender and nonbinary people face daily.
Project Vida, UnidosUS’s 2021 LGBTQ+ Champion Award winner, provides housing, education, and healthcare support to communities in El Paso, and features a robust LGBTQ+ Health Service. In addition to this, Project Vida has demonstrated a consistent commitment to LGBTQ+ visibility. For Pride Month 2020, the organization hosted an LGBTQ+ Visibility Week, and created the hashtag #NothingcanstopourPRIDE on social media. Project Vida has also utilized social media to post information about LGBTQ+ civil rights history, gender identity, and to send out pronoun pins to their Twitter followers.
While these four Affiliates make up just a small fraction of the UnidosUS Network, the amazing work they do exemplifies how Affiliates both address the current needs of the Latinx LGBTQ+ community and amplify their voices. Furthermore, these endeavors are so significant not just because of their impact on the present, but also because they continue the work that Latinx LGBTQ+ heroes have done from San Francisco to Rio de Janeiro. Whether in predominately Central American migrant communities in Washington, DC or in Mexican American communities in El Paso, it is clear that Latinx LGBTQ+ voices are just as immensely important to the broader Latino and LGBTQ+ communities today as they have been in the past.
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