Many Voices, One Language

Joe Crea, New York Blade Online, Sep. 10

With the abrupt closure two weeks ago of the National Latino Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Organization in the face of a $700,000 deficit, many suggest that the group’s closure will create a vacuum for the gay and lesbian Latino population.

Speaking on behalf of LLEGÓ’s collapse, Rodger McFarlane, the executive director of the Gill Foundation, which gave LLEGÓ $90,000 this year and a total of $400,000 over the past 10 years, expressed his sadness that the LLEGÓ, a group that billed itself as “the only national nonprofit organization devoted to representing” the needs of gay and lesbian Latinos, is gone.

“My heart is broken because we were utterly committed to the work of LLEGÓ,” McFarlane said. “No other organization can speak credibly for Latino queers. This is a tragedy. I’ve spoken to a number of other funders, and we all remain committed to their mission. When the dust settles, we will talk about how we can carry on that mission.”

Nell Enriquez, a former program specialist for LLEGÓ who left in March 2003, said there is an imperative need to create another national organization, similar to LLEGÓ, to provide a voice for gay Latinos. She, along with others concerned about the void, have expressed a strong interest in spearheading a new national group.

Local groups work on HIV & health

In the meantime, however, many large, metropolitan cities with substantial Hispanic populations, including New York City, boast a large number of grassroots-based groups that have been carrying out the LLEGÓ mission for years. These grass-roots organizations are dedicated to providing a voice to gay and lesbian Latinos.

Many of the New York-based groups focus on the health challenges facing the Latino community. The chief among them is HIV and AIDS, which has wrecked havoc in immigrant communities.

The Latino Commission on AIDS is a national and regional nonprofit organization dedicated to improving and expanding research, health promotion and treatment to the Latino community through educational means.

Affiliated with the group is Mano a Mano, a network of organizations and activists based in New York that work to increase the well-being, visibility and political power of the Latino gay community.

Spearheaded by Latino activist Andres Duque, Mano a Mano’s director, the group addresses many of the issues that affect New York’s many gay Hispanics, such as AIDS prevention, as well as general health care, housing, immigration, language access, same-sex violence, homophobia, coming out, visibility and cultural awareness. Mano a Mano also supports the development of Latino organizations in New York through technical and developmental means.

Another organizations dealing with health issues surrounding gay and lesbian Latinos is the Hispanic AIDS Forum. The group bills itself as New York City’s premier Latino-run HIV/AIDS organization offering treatment, education and innovative prevention services to the Latino population.

The group was founded in 1985 by Latino health and human service professionals and community leaders responding to the breakout of AIDS in the mid-eighties. Today, the group—according to their Web site—develops language-specific HIV prevention and support services for the Latino community.

The group also hosts workshops and symposiums to educate the community on trends and treatments in HIV/AIDS awareness. The group also has a specific program dedicated to Latino men who have sex with other men. The “Entre Hombres” [Among Men] program provides forums to help address the complex cultural and psychosocial issues facing men who have sex with men.

Alianza Dominicana, Inc., a non-profit community development organization that partners with youth, families and public and private institutions to revitalize, “economically distressed neighborhoods,” also promotes health issues for gay Latinos, according to Natasha Guadalupe, the group’s program supervisor.

Guadalupe’s group works to provide direct HIV support for those who already have HIV/AIDS and has a prevention program geared toward gays and lesbians. Additionally, Alianza hosts a youth group called “Uptown Pride.”

Providing community in an big town

Other organizations seek to provide emotional and community support to gay and lesbian Latinos.

The Latino Gay Men of New York is a non-profit, community based organization for gay Latino males in the New York Metropolitan area. The group organizes monthly social and cultural meetings and promotes community organizing and advocacy work for the Latino community. The group holds monthly meetings on the first Friday of each month at the Center, at 208 W. 13th St.

Another community-based group is the Latinos & Latinas de Ambiente/New York. The group, founded in October 1993, has been providing the Latino community with information on coming out and various social events around the New York City area.

Other groups focus on specific, targeted Latinos populations, such as Dominicans, Mexicans and Caribbeans.

The Gay & Lesbian Dominican Empowerment Organization provides support and visibility for the gay Dominican population. Founded in 2001, the group’s Web site says it aims to provide a “safe space and essential human services to empower, educate and support” gay and lesbian Dominicans. The group also works to combat homophobia through educational and social means. They meet on the second Tuesday of the month from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Latino Commission on AIDS, 24 W. 25th St., ninth Floor (between Broadway and Sixth Avenue).

The Las Buenas Amigas is a Latina Lesbian social and educational organization devoted to providing a safe space for Latina lesbians. The group was created on Nov. 10, 1986, by a group of Latina lesbians concerned about the lack of unity amongst them in New York City. According to their mission statement, some of the original members belonged to Soul Sister, an Afro-American Lesbian Organization that welcomed Latinas.

Caribbean Pride, part of the Audre Lorde Project, is an annual event dedicated to organizing a contingent in the Manhattan Pride Parade behind a Soca music truck, the standard music of English-speaking Caribbean’s. Co-Founder Colin Robinson said the group was formed by English-speaking immigrant LGBT groups in 1998. Its original vision was to be a pan-Caribbean, multi-lingo, multi-racial US born and immigrant organization. However, it no longer operates as a traditional organization and solely participates in the New York Gay Pride Parade.

And the new Latino Ministry at the Metropolitan Community Church of New York City focuses on the religious needs of the gay and lesbian Latino community.

The ministry offers several events such as “Noches de Oracion y Vasilon” [Evening of Prayer and Party], Papo’s Movie Night and “La Palabra a la Playa” [The World at the Beach]. The group offers spiritual support in the form of prayer circles which are bilingual and Christian based.

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