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Being LGBTQ+ and Latinx: What Pride Means To Us!

THE ORIGINS OF LGBTQ+ PRIDE

When we think of Pride, we often picture queer individuals filling the sidewalks during a massive parade, filled with floats, music, and rainbow flags. What many who are outside of the LGBTQ+ community don’t know is that what is observed in a day of celebration of one’s identity started in a much less joyous way. In the 1960s, the queer community was constantly harassed by police due to ‘same-sex solicitation’, even when private and consensual, being illegal. This meant you could literally be arrested for holding hands or kissing someone of the same sex in public.

Police would raid bars and nightclubs that were meant to be safe spaces for those in the LGBTQ+ community and went as far as making it illegal to serve alcohol to queer individuals, causing countless bars and clubs to go out of business. Transgender people were especially targeted and arrested under ‘cross-dressing’ and ‘disguise’ laws. In 1969, the Stonewall Inn in New York City was owned by the mafia, who bribed police to turn a blind eye to their queer clientele using the bar as a safe space while overcharging them and threatening to expose those who were closeted. June 28th, 1969, when police raided the Stonewall Inn and arrested 13 people, the queer community had enough and decided to strike back. A crowd of hundreds of angry patrons and neighborhood residents turned into thousands. The Stonewall Uprising led to the formation of the Gay Liberation Front, the first group to publicly advocate for gay rights, spearheaded by gay rights activists Marsha P. Johnson, Zazu Nova and Jackie Hormona. 

THE FIRST PRIDE PARADE

It was a year later, on the anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising, that the first Pride parade was held in NYC, at first named Christopher Street Liberation Day, referencing the street that the Stonewall Inn was located. Groups like the Gay Liberation Front led the charge and simultaneous marches took place in Chicago and Los Angeles. The following year, major cities across the country held their own Pride parades demanding justice and equality for the queer community that was being harassed by police. Marches and parades rose across the country in major cities like As progress was made over the next 50 years, Pride parades became less of a protest and more of commemoration and celebration of LGBTQ+ culture, identity, and self-expression. In 2016, President Barack Obama officially made the Stonewall Inn into a National Monument, the first monument to recognize queer history. Though celebrations today are filled with music, parties, and parades, it’s important to recognize that the origins of Pride were a protest for peace and equality and asking for an end to harassment against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals who just wanted to live their lives and express themselves without shame or judgment.

STILL WORK TO BE DONE

While progress has been made and major milestones like same-sex marriage being legalized, there is still work to be done worldwide. According to humandignitytrust.org, over 70 countries still criminalize same-sex sexual activity, with punishments including heavy fines, imprisonment, and even the death penalty in up to 11 countries. 

BEING LGBTQ+ AND LATINE

Within the Latinx and Hispanic communities, there is still a massive amount of homophobia and estrangement due to the vast majority of Latin American countries following Catholicism and Christianity. According to the Pew Research Center, a study conducted in 2014 shows that 69% of Latin America practice Catholicism. This often forces queer Latine youth to remain in the closet for years, feeling they will be judged, estranged, or even harmed by those around them that may not accept them. While some, especially those raised in the US, are becoming more progressive, there is still a huge stigma on the LGBTQ+ community. Young LGBTQ+ people are bullied when they come out, people are harassed, assaulted, and even killed in homophobic attacks that often go ignored and unresolved.

In honor of Pride Month, we interviewed five LGBTQ+ Latine individuals who share what Pride means to them, the cultural struggles they’ve encountered since coming out, and how their first Pride celebration affected them.

KAREN RODRIGUEZ is a fitness expert and Ph. D student from New York City.

“Pride means embracing all the parts of me that I’ve repressed for so long. As a bisexual person, I found myself doubting my queerness so often. But at Pride, I am unapologetically myself. As the daughter of Dominican immigrants, I’ve been hesitant to officially come out to my parents. While they fully support my lesbian sister, I fear that they’ll have a tougher time accepting me as bisexual since I’ve only introduced them to opposite-sex partners. I fear that they’ll be confused by my identity. My first Pride was in 2017. I went to show my sister, who was 13 at the time, that there is an entire community that supports her. Little did I know that the experience would open up parts of myself that I’ve been denying for years. I’ll never forget the love and lack of judgment that I felt that day.”

DIEGO GUEVARA, is a New York City-based actor and performer known for his role as Benny in the Netflix series Dash & Lily.

“To me, pride is about facing my internalized fears and not just accepting, but radically loving who I am…fully. Growing up Catholic in a Latine household made me feel that everything I am was wrong. EVERYTHING. It is something that is in the religious teachings, in the machista television culture, and in what we even eat. It is so intrinsically woven into what I saw as our “culture” that I believed it. My parents are the absolute best, and we have had our struggles with my journey, but they continue to try, and that gives me peace. Attending my first Pride was like what you see in the movies when something comes over someone and they just let loose. I came out a little later than most. I was 22 and releasing those shackles after 22 years was almost scary, it was so thrilling. People were so unapologetically themselves. They loved each other and their community. The Pride parade, to me, is a celebration of people who have learned to love themselves because they had to survive. These people found each other and now it’s just an explosion of love. We still have work to do!!!!!! BUT, I think we’re headed down the right path.

BETZABETH CASTRO is a Puerto Rican and Honduran-American actress who has worked extensively with Collective Consciousness Theatre and will star as Maria in Fairfield Center Stage’s production of The Sound of Music later this month.

“Pride to me means the fight is still going strong. It means we were not silenced and continue to refuse to be silenced. It is a celebration of who we are and at least for a little while the world cannot ignore us. We exist. We love who we are no matter what. I’ve experienced some struggle due to not only the homophobic streak in Latinx culture but also because my family is super Pentecostal Christian. Being any kind of not straight is a sin to them. I’m lucky that they were at least the kind of Christians where they still love those “not following the path of God” but still, it wasn’t great.  For years I thought there was something wrong with me and that I was letting the sins of the world get to me. I just couldn’t allow myself to accept that I was bisexual. I actually haven’t been to a Pride event yet and I really want to! I moved out of my parents’ house at the end of 2019 and I was excited to be able to go to my first Pride event in 2020 but then COVID-19 happened. Hopefully, I’ll be able to go this year. I’m also a little nervous about going to Pride just because I am in a straight-passing relationship. I don’t know how people react to that or if people even care. But regardless I’m looking forward to it.”

EMMETT PRECIADO is a trans actor of Spanish, Mexican and European descent, most known for his role as Rowan in the Freeform series Good Trouble and guest starring role as Rio Guttierez in ABC’s The Good Doctor.

“Pride means being true to myself and not worrying about what others think of me. I am so incredibly proud of the person I have become and it’s in part because I let my authentic self finally come out. I am proud of my journey and the struggles it took to get to where I am today. And I am very open about my journey and my transition because I want to give hope to trans youth. It was hard at first for my parents to understand what I was feeling and why I was choosing to transition. I think there was a lot of fear of what our neighbors, church friends, and other family members would think. But eventually, my parents became supportive. I was really worried about my dad’s side of the family. They’re all Latino. But to my surprise, they welcomed me with open arms and accepted my identity immediately. I will always be grateful for that. My first Pride was like a sanctuary full of queer people. I felt so safe and accepted. Like I could just be myself and no one would judge me. And I didn’t feel alone anymore… I was just so happy to know that there were LOTS of people just like me in this big world.

SOFIA ESCALANTE is a non-binary Salvadorian-American writer and poet who is also a member of the Latin Babbler team!

“For me, Pride has always been celebrated and brought a lot of awareness especially because I grew up in San Francisco being an inclusive and growing city. Yet when I think of Pride from my perspective now I think of an individual being free, loving, and simply being your true self. It’s about taking pride in who you are because the greatest gift is valuing you exist. There have been some cultural struggles with older generation members with family.

I have not been to my first pride yet but I plan to attend one in San Francisco this month which also intertwines with my birthday.”

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