Three weeks ago, I attended the 25th annual Creating Change Conference as part of a delegation from the University of Pennsylvania’s LGBT center.
The conference is organized by the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force and is one of the largest gatherings of LGBTQ* activists in the United States, with an attendance of over 3,000.
I was fortunate enough to be a part of their first ever Latino Institute — a full day of workshops focusing specifically on the intersection between a Latin@ and queer identity. Lead organizers of the institute included Francisco Dueñas, Proyecto Igualdad Coordinator for Lambda Legal, Marco Castro-Bojorquez, Community Educator for Lambda Legal, and David Pérez, Director of Development for LULAC and President of the Latino GLBT History Project.
One of the biggest lessons of the day was the diversity within our community, and the resulting variety of challenges we face.
One of the workshops offered was Media Training, co-lead by Brian Pacheco and Monica Trasandes, Spanish-Language Media Strategist and Director of Spanish-Language Media at Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), respectively. The workshop focused both on the importance of utilizing the media to disseminate your message and strategies to do so. Pacheco talked about the need of the LGBTQ* community to tell their stories, to both diminish stereotypes and change the culture of ignorance and prejudice.
Alexa Castanon, a member of Coalición Tanslatin@, an organization which aims to “organize and advocate for the needs of trans Latin@s who are immigrants and reside in the US,” helped facilitate one of the workshops centered on the transgender Latin@ community. Among the take-aways from the group workshop were the high rates of hate crimes perpetrated against the transgender community, and the stunning lack of legal protection from discrimination. She brought up the few steps the community has made, and the amount of work left to be done, including in the areas of housing and work opportunities. However, she said that she was happy to be working with “hard-working people willing to do the work necessary for change to occur.
Pacheco also brought up the disproportionate discrimination — and outright violence — faced by the transgender community, including the fact that 40% of the hate crime murders reported by the 2011 Hate Violence Report were transgender women. Although he cites a recent Pew Hispanic Center study that found that “59 percent of U.S. Latinos say homosexuality should be accepted by society,” as evidence of a changing culture and growing acceptance, he also talks about the need to continue their efforts. “As with all communities, there is still a lot of work to do to achieve full equality,” he writes via email.
The Latino Institute aims to be a permanent fixture of the conference.