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Last month, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) joined allies across the nation in recognizing LGBTQ Pride Month – our nation’s annual awareness month and celebration of LGBTQ people, culture, history, and achievements. During Pride NLIRH hosted and participated in a bevy of activities, including marching in the Capital Pride Parade and organizing a Google Hangout about the connection between reproductive justice and LGBTQ liberation. After this peak of activity, we asked Sebastian Velasquez, our Policy Analyst and lead on NLIRH LGBTQ liberation work, to reflect on the significance of Pride and how we celebrated it this year.

By Sebastian Velasquez

In the midst of a more sexually liberated and inclusive United States, Pride is a space where we center solely on celebrating our existence outside of an underground world and the victories brought by the LGBTQ liberation movement. Much of the current approach to combat homophobia is focused on raising awareness and educating others about the incredible diversity within the fluid spectrums of sexual orientation and gender identity. While this is undoubtedly important and essential work, the public displays of affection and acceptance during Pride go beyond this standard in order to celebrate our community.

Pride is an opportunity for people of color, immigrants, and transgender individuals to diversify the faces of LGBTQ people, who confront different forms of systematic oppression. It is for this reason that having multiple ethnic, racial, and ideological transgender and queer groups present during Pride activities provides added value to a movement that – without us – is incomplete in its approach to social justice. During Washington, D.C.’s Capital Pride Parade NLIRH staff organized a reproductive justice contingent, which was led by women and composed by LGBTQ-friendly faith groups, undocumented queers, and gender non-conforming individuals. Our very presence, which is outside of the idealized cisgender Anglo-descendent gay male, was a revolutionary act in itself.

On a daily basis, we continue to push mainstream LGBTQ organizations to be more involved in identity politics that transcend marriage equality and exclusively focus on sexual orientation. As a result, our LGBTQ liberation movement grows stronger in numbers and vision for a more accepting world for ALL people, regardless of their gender identity, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, or immigration status.

Our approach to Pride was comprised of community and coalition building, civic engagement, and leadership gathering. It was an act of courage and joy to see the people in our RJ contingent that not only understood intersectional work, but also lived in the intersections in their daily lives. This was particularly important because we served as a visual representation of our theme, which was multi-dimensional LGBTQ liberation. Our contingent was comprised of allies from Queer Undocumented Immigrant Project (QUIP), Advocates for Youth, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, and the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice – all of whom were able to reconcile the complex identities held by diverse groups of LGBTQ people from many walks of life.

As an undocumented, queer, Catholic, humanist, and secularist Latin@, I marched next to herman@s who have helped me walk with my chin up and feel proud of every aspect of who I am. For once in an LGBTQ space, I was walking as a whole and not forced to choose between my multiple identities. Our participation in Pride attests to the always growing and comprehensive fight for justice and rights. May the rainbow and all of its colors continue to illuminate our pathway for equity.

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In honor of LGBTQ Pride Month, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health began interviewing Latin@ poderos@s in Texas by asking one simple question: “What makes you poderos@?” We were so inspired by their answers that we decided to extend this special blog series to celebrate our LGBTQ herman@s throughout the year.

By Anonymous

“Pride is an easy word to use, but does it mean the same thing to every individual of every culture? Is it advertised the same way for everyone? I thought I had pride in being a lesbian and being a woman of color. In reality, a lot of my Latin@ culture prevented me from fully understanding what I was being prideful towards. When I first came out my senior year of high school, it took a toll on the relationship I shared with my parents. I found it hard to have pride in who I am when I was hurting the woman I loved the most, my mom. One thing I knew was that I took pride in being Colombian and I took pride in having the values that I was raised with. I was raised to obey my parents with what Colombians from 1950’s deem ‘normal.’ Disobeying my parents and being ‘different’ was hard. Not just because it put a strain on my family but because it could have potentially separated me from them. For many years after coming out, I put [my mom’s] happiness before mine, and that meant sweeping the topic of my sexuality under the rug. I became invisible at home. Sadly, over time, I had to accept that I wouldn’t make both of us fully happy if I still denied myself. So, I started to put myself first, but still respecting my parents and my culture. I learned that it is better to work with my mother and let her know that I cherish her for who she is, and in turn, hope that one day she can cherish all of me as well. I realize now that I take pride in who I am. Being lesbian isn’t a crutch in my life or culture, it has helped me have different perspectives and value my family more than ever. Being Latina is also not a crutch in my sexuality. We need more solidarity in the Latin@ community. We need to stand together and educate each other in a way that works hand in hand with our culture.

El orgullo es una palabra fácil de usar. ¿Significa lo mismo para todas las personas de todas las culturas? ¿Se anuncia de la misma manera para todos? Pensé que era orgullosa de ser lesbiana y ser una mujer de color. En realidad, gran parte de mi cultura me impidió comprender plenamente a que le tenía orgullo. Cuando salí públicamente sobre mi sexualidad por primera vez mi último año de escuela secundaria, empezó haber problemas en la relación que compartía con mis padres. Me pareció difícil ser orgullosa de quien soy cuando le estaba haciendo daño a la mujer que más amo, mi mamá. Una cosa que sabía era que será orgullosa de ser colombiana y me enorgullecía haber sido criada con esos valores. Me criaron para obedecer a mis padres con lo que los colombianos de 1950 consideran valores ‘normales.’ Desobedecer a mis padres y ser ‘diferente’ era difícil. No sólo porque había tensión en mi familia pero potencialmente esa tensión me podía separar de ellos. Durante muchos años después de haber salido públicamente, puse la felicidad de mi mamá antes que la mía, y eso quería decir que enterré el tema de mi sexualidad bajo la alfombra. Me hice invisible en casa. Con el tiempo tuve que aceptar que no podíamos ser totalmente felices si todavía me negaba a mí misma. Así que, empecé a ponerme primero, pero respetando a mis padres y mi cultura. Aprendí que era mejor trabajar con mi madre y apreciarla por lo que es con la esperanza que un día ella me apreciaría a mí también. Ahora me doy cuenta de que me enorgullezco de lo que soy. Ser lesbiana no es una muleta en mi vida o en mi cultura, me ha ayudado a tener diferentes perspectivas y valoro a mi familia más que nunca. Siendo Latina tampoco es una muleta en mi sexualidad. Necesitamos más solidaridad en la comunidad latina. Tenemos que permanecer unidos y educarnos unos a otros en una forma que trabaja de la mano con nuestra cultura.”

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Each March the U.S. celebrates women’s achievements and contributions to society during Women’s History Month. Though March has come and gone, it’s better late than never to acknowledge women and our innumerable contributions. In honor of this Women’s History Month, we picked a fierce poderos@ to profile, based on her valuable contributions to social justice and society in general.

This year our Women’s HERstory Month poderosa is Sylvia Rivera, who was a trans woman activist and queer youth advocate whose activism spanned over the course of four decades. She is sometimes referred to as the “mother of all gay people” – a title bestowed upon her during the Millennium March because of her important contributions to the LGBTQ liberation movement.

Sylvia Rae Rivera was born on July 2, 1951 in New York City to Puerto Rican and Venezuelan parents. She was orphaned as a toddler and raised by her grandmother for part of her childhood. However, her grandmother strongly disapproved of her defiance of traditional gender roles, including her affinity for wearing make up. As a result, Rivera began living on the street with a queer and gender non-conforming community at age 11 – an experience that would later influence her advocacy efforts for queer youth.

Rivera became politically active during the late 1960’s – a time when the nation was exploding with change from various social justice movements. She was involved in Puerto Rican and African American youth activism through the Young Lords and Black Panthers. But she really came into her own as an activist around the Stonewall Riots in 1969, which was a series of riots that sparked the modern wave of LGBTQ activism. While she was heavily involved in the LGBTQ movement, she noted its exclusion of transgender people at times. As a result, she focused her advocacy efforts on people who were often left behind.

Later in life she gave speeches about the Stonewall Riots and the importance of unity within the LGBTQ movement. While she struggled with personal demons, including substance abuse and a failed suicide attempt, she remained a vocal activist for equality until her death in February 2002.

More than a decade after her death, Rivera’s legacy and contributions to LGBTQ liberation remain strong. She was a founding member of Gay Liberation Front and Gay Activists Alliance, and helped found Street Transgender Action Revolutionaries. The Metropolitan Community Church of New York, in which she was actively involved, named its queer youth shelter “Sylvia’s Place” in her honor. Additionally, the Sylvia Rivera Law Project was established in 2002, to fight against the discrimination of gender non-confirming people. But perhaps fellow activist Riki Wilchins best described Rivera’s integral role in the LGBTQ movement, saying “In many ways, Sylvia was the Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement, a term that was not even coined until two decades after Stonewall.”

We invite you contribute to Rivera’s legacy by making a donation to the Sylvia Rivera Law Project.

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Post by Nicole CatáIMG_20130802_115313_070

Because the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health is kicking off the Latina Week of Action blog series with posts about gender and reproductive justice, I was hoping to highlight a piece by Lauren Rankin at Truthout called “Not Everyone Who Has an Abortion Is a Woman – How to Frame the Abortion Rights Issue.”  The piece makes the case that the ongoing “War on Women” is not just a war on women, and that, as the Latina Institute has long recognized, the rights of trans men and gender-nonconforming people are also at stake in the struggle for reproductive justice.  Rankin calls on activists and advocates tackling “women’s issues” to incorporate more gender-inclusive frameworks and language.  I am grateful to Rankin, the New York Abortion Access Fund, the Latina Institute, and many others in paving the way for gender inclusivity in reproductive justice.

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Post Written by Valentina Forte-Hernandez

Note: In this blogpost Latin@ with an @ is used to be inclusive of all gender identities.

Take a moment to think of some of your favorite celebrities. Do you have a few in mind? Good, now take some time to think of your favorite queer, Latin@ celebrities. I’m not talking about inspirational activists, independent artists I’m talking about super stars. I’m talking about the people you see on billboards, in commercials, on the cover of magazines. It’s tough, right? The queer community and the Latino/a community are both individually underrepresented in popular culture. Queer and Latin@ representation is virtually non-existent in mainstream media. So what does it matter? Why do we need Latin@s represented in our media? LGBTQ Latin@ youth are suffering. They are being bullied, harassed and killed. Many of them have no adults in their lives they feel they can turn to, and almost all of them believe they must leave their current communities to live happy successful lives. Some people say that it is more difficult for LGBTQ Latin@s to come to terms with and be open about their sexuality because of the unique cultural values many Latino/a communities have. This idea ignores our societies’ responsibility to represent and support Latin@s, it blames Latino/a communities for their values and tells Latin@ youth that they must choose between being Latino/a and being queer. We should bring Latin@s into the spotlight to show our communities that we’re here, our identities are complex and valid. We deserve love and respect. We should be teaching Latino/a communities how to incorporate LGBTQ Latin@s into Latino/a culture, not telling them that their cultural values must be ignored.

Photo By Victoria Ramos

Photo By Victoria Ramos

The two main cultural values that are cited as being exclusive to LGBTQ Latin@s are religion and the importance of family. Religion has been used to oppress queer folks of all racial and ethnic identities. Using religion to deny the identities of queer Latin@s is making the assumption that being religious and being queer are mutually exclusive. A study of LGBTQ Latin@s called The Social Justice Sexuality Project shows that 60% of Latin@s look to their faith to provide meaning and purpose in their life, disproving that it is impossible to be both queer and religious. Religion is not a one size fits all suit, nobody practices their religion the exact same way as anyone else. The majority of Latino/as believe in Catholicism and though the Old Testament says that male homosexuality is a sin, there are quite a few sins that are punishable by death that have been ignored in the modern day including lying about one’s virginity, being a stubborn or and rebellious son and failing to pen a bull that is known to be dangerous and many more. Is it more important to follow every rule in the bible literally, or to follow the overall belief that God loves all of His children and we honor and love our neighbors and family? It is important to be respectful of religion and not to dismiss it as wrong or ignorant. Religion is an essential part of many peoples’ lives, however it should be recognized that religion is something that is learned and practiced while sexual identity is something we are born and live with. No one needs to abandon their religion to accept LGBTQ people, one just needs to realize that the importance of loving one another is a more valuable aspect of being religious than following the rules exactly as they were written thousands of years ago.

To say that valuing family excludes accepting LGBTQ Latin@s assumes that only “traditional” families are of value. Family love should be unconditional, and generally in Latino/a communities it is. The Social Justice Sexuality Project indicates that 52.9% of LGBTQ Latin@s feel supported by their families and another 29% feel somewhat supported. Another study of LQBTQ Latin@ youth indicates that 60% of Latin@ youth feels their family supports LGBTQ identities. Regardless of acceptance, less than half of LGBTQ Latin@ youth feel like they have an adult to turn to if they are sad or worried. If queer Latin@s were more present in the mainstream the general public would have more awareness about the needs of these young people and adults would be better prepared to help Latin@ youth confront issues that are specific to them. Family is extremely valuable in the Latino/a community and the love is there but the knowledge around LGBTQ Latin@s needs to expand.

Photo By Victoria Ramos

Photo By Victoria Ramos

LGBTQ Latin@s need their place in mainstream culture not only to improve their living conditions in their current communities, but also to expand the general knowledge of LGBTQ Latin@ issues. LGBTQ Latin@s are rarely the focus of LGBTQ and reproductive health advocacy, and almost never the focus of the general public. While LGBTQ Latin@s are fighting many of the same battles as other LGBTQ people, without focus or representation many issues specific to queer Latin@s go ignored. For instance immigration status has a huge effect on many Latin@s ability to access their reproductive rights and though immigration status may not seem to affect the entire queer community it must be addressed to serve the needs of a community as a whole. It is much more challenging for LGBTQ people to access all their healthcare needs than it is for heterosexual cisgender people. For LGBTQ immigrants, addressing all of their medical needs can be impossible. Currently, there is no way for a same-sex undocumented couple to be recognized at all. These are issues specific to queer Latin@ that cannot be ignored. Immigration reform is not something that can wait, it cannot be put to the side while other LGBTQ issues are dealt with in the spotlight.

The lack of queer Latin@s acknowledged by popular culture creates the illusion that these people do not exist. It denies Latin@ youth the role models they need and deserve. Having queer or Latina representation is not enough,  queer and Latina folks must be represented and acknowledged by the mainstream media. Both Latino/a communities and the general public need to gain greater awareness and acceptance of LGBTQ Latin@s. If we had more (or any) positive queer Latin@s represented in popular culture maybe people would stop trying to make Latin@s have to pick and choose which parts of their identity to accept. Maybe the minority of parents of Latin@ youth who are unsupportive would have someone to look to and help them come to terms with their child’s identity and maybe Latin@s would be targeted less often by people who are afraid of difference. To say Latin@s need to be represented by mainstream media is not entirely accurate. We don’t need a queer Latin@ star to validate our identities but we deserve our place in popular culture. We don’t need a famous Latin@ to prove that we exist because we’re certainly here and we’re not going anywhere. The mainstream needs Latin@ representation because we’re not getting any less queer or any less Latina and everybody needs to get used to it. With or without a celebrity advocating for us we are entitled to our identities. We are here and there will be more of us. We’re also fabulous and anyone turning a blind eye to us is seriously missing out.

The Social Justice Sexuality Project

http://www.slideshare.net/socialjusticesexuality/lgbt-latinos-in-the-social-justice-sexuality-project-vs-us-latinaos

Latino Youth Report

http://www.hrc.org/files/assets/resources/LatinoYouthReport-FINAL.pdf

Images were found on Vanessa Ramos’ WordPress, Follow Her Here:http://varphoto.wordpress.com/author/luxvideri/

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This past election cycle, we saw the power a government-issued ID can give an individual.   In states where voter ID laws were being enforced, individuals who did not have government IDs could not exercise their right to vote.  Several communities were impacted: transgender people, Latinos, African Americans, students, the elderly, people with disabilities – in short, many, many people. These ID laws harken to Jim Crow-era poll taxes and “literacy tests,”  and at the same time increased the impact of fear tactics used to intimidate voters from going to the polls, exacerbating the historic and current inequities that many communities of color face. (more…)

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