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Archive for the ‘LGBT’ Category

Coming Out to Abuelita

Coming out as gay to family members is always hard, but it’s especially difficult when your grandparents are conservative and religious. One young man tells his story of coming out to his family and living in silence and denial when his abuela isn’t exactly receptive to the news.

Colombia Advances LGBT Rights: Will It Continue?

Originally published at Latin America News Dispatch

The past few weeks have been incredibly important for Colombia’s LGBT community. Last month, the country’s first openly gay candidate for political office was elected mayor in the southern city of Toro. Then, last Wednesday, the Supreme Court ruled that adoption agencies can not discriminate against LGBT couples.

These events come during a time of increasing rights for the LGBT community in Latin America. In late October, for example, Chile celebrated a new civil union law for same-sex couples, while the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held hearings on anti-LGBT discrimination throughout the Americas. However, despite recent victories, Colombian politicians, academics and LGBT activists are quick to point out that LGBT rights remain a low priority for politicians, many of whom see the issue as politically dangerous.

The Oct. 25 election of openly gay doctor Julián Bedoya as mayor of Toro, in Colombia’s conservative southern state of Valle de Cauca, says a lot about the state of LGBT representation in the country’s political system. Winning as a candidate for the ideologically conservative Democratic Center party of former President Álvaro Uribe, Bedoya’s campaign centered around uplifting poverty and lowering the unemployment rate, and made no mention of LGBT rights.

In an interview with Latin America News Dispatch, Bedoya said that he did not win by supporting the LGBT community, and does not want to put one community over another.

“I was not elected as a gay candidate that belongs to the LGBTI [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex] community,” Bedoya said. “I do not represent interests of the LGBTI community. I represent the interests of the Toro community and interests of the Democratic Center party.”

Bedoya said that he is open to supporting the LGBT community, but that his first commitment is to his job as mayor of Toro. “Just because there is a gay person it doesn’t mean that person has to be showing his feathers all around… there is work to be done.”

Bedoya said that the Colombian political sphere is not diverse on the perspective of LGBT representation in politics. This same sentiment is echoed by Dr. Javier Corrales, a political scientist at Amherst College whose research has found that LGBT legal rights have improved in Latin America and the Caribbean, but that political representation remains low.

The report finds that Colombia has the most LGBT political representation on a national level in Latin America and the Caribbean, with most of the seats belonging to women. Gina Parody, for instance, is minister of education, and both Claudia López and Angélica Lozano Correa are congresswomen.

Since 1993, Colombia has also advanced pro-LGBT rights despite low LGBT political representation overall.

Earlier this year, transgender people won the right to change their name and gender identity on official documents. Before the country’s interior and justice ministers signed the executive order, transgender Colombians were legally required to justify their gender identity to mental health professionals.

Most recently, last Wednesday’s historic 6-2 high court ruling now allows same-sex couples to adopt children in Colombia, making it illegal for adoption agencies to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. Prior to the court’s decision, same-sex couples could only adopt if one of the partners was the biological parent of the child.

Corrales, the political scientist, said that the ruling was a big victory for the LGBT community.

“This ruling is remarkable because it eventually says that the issue of whether the adopting parents are homosexual or not is not relevant,” he told Latin America News Dispatch in an interview. “It is also huge because we still don’t have same-sex marriage by law”.

Coming out as gay, however, is still seen as unsafe for politicians seeking votes. While LGBT rights have been advanced in the legal sphere, society has been slower to move.

LGBT activist Angelo Araujo from Cali takes this as a signal that much work still has to be done to advance LGBT rights in Colombia.

“In bigger cities it is politically easier to claim your identity as gay or lesbian and are better prepared for that political platform,” he said. “But if we are talking about local, municipal or department elections, there is still lots of work to be done.”

These historic events have nevertheless raised hopes that same-sex marriage will soon be legalized in Colombia.

“This has been a tough fight. But this fight has been achieved by people empowering themselves on these topics,” Araujo said. “When the LGBT community is fighting for their rights, those rights are reflected in other non-LGBT communities and that is important.”

Featured image: Screenshot of a Bedoya campaign ad.

MALA MALA: More Than a ‘Trans Fairy Tale’

While activists like Laverne Cox and Janet Mock have increased the visibility of transgender people in the United States, there’s still a lot that most Americans don’t know about transgender communities outside of the mainland. Mala Mala, a documentary profiling Puerto Rican transgender activists and drag queens, features a diversity of voices often overlooked in the American media. The documentary premiered on the film festival circuit last year, and was released in theaters this summer.

Dan Sickles and Antonio Santini, directors and producers of Mala Mala, joined Latino USA‘s Daisy Rosario to talk about the making of the film, the challenges faced by the LGBT community in Puerto Rico, and the development of their own artistic identity.

Photo via Strand Releasing

Beauty in Transition

Asher Diaz grew up in a large Puerto Rican family in Cleveland, Ohio. He spent a good twenty-some years trying to understand what it meant to be a beautiful woman, learning from his tías, tíos and the grandparents that raised him. Then, at age 24, Asher came out to his family as transgender, and began his gender transition from female to male. For our sabiduría, or words of wisdom, Asher tells us how his role models and beauty rituals changed, and the endearing moments he shared with his family along the way.

Photos via Asher Diaz

Breaking: Queergyztan Declares Independence

For our fiction edition, Latino USA producer Camilo Vargas takes a shot at news parody by reporting on the foundation of a gay state:

Representatives from gay districts of the world’s capitals have announced the foundation of the gay nation of Queergyztan after a brunch near UN Headquarters in New York. The announcement comes after a sweeping wave of anti-gay legislation in Central Africa, Australia and several US states.  The queer founders initially vetted buying islands from troubled economies like Puerto Rico, Spain or Greece. But Western powers decided the new gay nation will be located at the heart of the Persian Gulf, where permitted homosexual activity was first documented in ancient Assyrian-Mesopotamian territories. The new rainbow shaped nation will form a tri-national border with Kuwait, Iraq and Iran. Newscaster Satireus Temple-Arcton reports the historic declaration and the responses from world leaders. Latino USA producer Camilo Vargas gets reactions from the streets of New York.


Frank Garcia Hejl

Our “newscaster” is Frank Garcia Hejl, a writer and actor in the New York sketch group Onassis. He is also a member of the UCB weekend team Bucky. His favorite film of all time is a tie between Ghostbusters and Gremlins. Seriously. He is a graduate of the University of North Texas with a degree in Sociology and English.






C4_CamiloVargasHeadShotCamilo Vargas went from his native Colombia to the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. He joined Latino USA after a fellowship with Univision Noticias and Univision’s Investigative Unit. Before coming to the US, Camilo was a researcher in conflict studies and US-Latin America relations for the Colombian government and the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota.




Photo by Ilia Yefimovich/Getty Images



Sabiduría: Luchadores

For a few words of wisdom this week, we turn to the luchadores, the masked wrestlers of Mexico. Jasmine Garsd brings us the words of one fighter who’s been combating opponents in the ring, and homophobia in society. This luchador is part of Los Exóticos, a group of fighters in drag based in Mexico City.

Jasmine Garsd was born in Argentina and hosts NPR’s Alt.Latino podcast. As a journalist she’s worked on the NPR programs Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation and Tell Me More. She has covered a wide variety of topics for radio including immigration issues.

NYC Election Milestone

Latinos have made their power felt in the New York City mayor’s race in a way not seen before, with celebrities like John Leguizamo and Junot Diaz endorsing candidate Bill DeBlasio. And in Brooklyn, the first Mexican-American ever will be on the city council. Politician Carlos Menchaca visits the Latino USA studios and talks about being not only the first Mexican-American councilmember, but also the first openly gay legislator to represent Brooklyn.

Photo courtesy


Carlos Menchaca is a product of public schools and public housing, He is a native of El Paso, Texas raised by a single mother who immigrated from Mexico,  In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Carlos worked day and night, bringing together local leaders, community groups, and everyday New Yorkers to coordinate response efforts and hold New York City, State, and Federal officials accountable.

As New York City Council member, Carlos will represent residents of the 38th Council District, which encompasses Sunset Park, Red Hook, Greenwood Heights, Borough Park, Windsor Terrace and Bay Ridge Towers.



Legalizing Love

On June 26th the US Supreme Court ruled the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional, paving the way for federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allowing Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender immigrant couples to apply for the same immigration benefits as straight couples. Pablo Garcia Gamez and Santiago Ortiz, a married couple from Queens, New York, discuss how the DOMA ruling has already changed their lives. Then, Latino USA host Maria Hinojosa speaks with Rachel Tiven, Executive Director of Immigration Equality, about the impact of the ruling.

Image courtesy of Immigration Equality/Judy G. Rolfe


To listen to more of Pablo and Santiago’s story, click HERE for the extended interview:


Santiago Ortiz and Pablo Garcia  Gamez
Santiago Ortiz and Pablo García Gamez have been together for 23 years. They married in Connecticut in 2011 and live in Elmhurst, Queens, New York. Santiago (left) was born in Manhattan’s Lower East Side to parents who migrated from Puerto Rico. Pablo (right) is a native of Venezuela, Caracas and has been living undocumented for over 20 years. He will now be able to apply for a green card as Santiago’s spouse. Once his immigration status is in order, he plans to begin teaching college Spanish.

Rachel Tiven is the Executive Director of Immigration Equality, a legal advocacy organization representing LGBTQ immigrants. Rachel received her law degree from Columbia Law School and her bachelor’s degree from Harvard.



The Gang of Eight’s immigration plan cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee this month. The bill is expected to hit the floor in June for a vote. María Hinojosa speaks to Ted Hesson, immigration editor at Fusion, and Julia Preston, New York Times national immigration correspondent.

Among the amendments approved this month is one that limits the use of solitary confinement inside detention centers, an issue we’ve followed closely and reported on.
Click HERE for a list of amendments.


Image courtesy of Commons/

TanyaJulia Preston was a member of The New York Times staff that won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize for reporting on internationalaffairs for its series that profiled the corrosive effects of drug corruption in Mexico. Ms. Preston came to The Times in July 1995 after working at the Washington Post for nine years as a foreign correspondent. She is a 1997 recipient of the Maria Moors Cabot Prize for distinguished coverage of Latin America and a 1994 winner of the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Humanitarian Journalism.

Lisa CarterTed Hesson is the immigration editor for Fusion, a joint venture of ABC News and Univision. Before joining the team in 2012, he served as online editor for Long Island Wins, a non-profit organization focusing on local and national immigration issues. Ted has written for a variety of magazines, newspapers, and online publications, including The Journal News, Time Out New York, and the Philadelphia City Paper. He earned his master’s degree at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism and his bachelor’s degree at Boston College. He resides in Washington, D.C.






You crazy? Latinos and Mental Health

Growing up can be an emotional rollercoaster. Where do Latino youth caught up between culture and universal challenges to emotional well-being go for support? We hear from three young Latinos and how they cope with anxiety, depression, peer pressure and relationships. We also speak to Dr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola, a professor and founding director of the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities.

Image courtesy of Nicole Plata.
Andrew Stelzer, Pauline Bartolone, and Jon Kalish contributed to this report.

Click here to download this week’s show.

View our panel featuring these guests and more resources.

sergioDr. Sergio Aguilar-Gaxiola is a Professor of Clinical Internal Medicine, the Founding Director of the UC Davis Center for Reducing Health Disparities (CRHD), the Director of the Community Engagement Program of the UC Davis Clinical Translational Science Center (CTSC), and Co-Director of the National Institute of Aging (NIA) funded Latino Aging Research and Resource Center (LARRC).

claudiaClaudia Mendez is a 22 years old student at San Francisco State University. She was born and raised in the Mission District of San Francisco, CA, and was placed in foster care at the age of 16 because of family abuse. After realizing that there were many gaps in the foster care system, Claudia decided that she wanted to be an advocate for her community and help change different systems to better the lives of other young people. She is proudly a San Francisco State University Guardian Scholar pursuing a Bachelors degree in Comparative World Literature and plans to attend law school to become a dependency lawyer. She is also a member of Honoring Emancipated Youth and trainer at Transitional Youth Initiative. Besides school, some of Claudia’s hobbies are photography, soccer with friends and family, and scrapbooking.

nikkoNikko Reynoso is a Chicano trans* activist committed to social justice, gender equity, and anti-racist advocacy. From East Side San Jose, he speaks on issues relating to the intersections of identity, including sexuality, race, gender, and class. He is also a 3rd year UC Davis student studying Women and Gender studies, Chicana/o studies and Sociology.

nicoleNicole Plata is the Youth Initiatives Coordinator for the Mental Health Association of San Francisco. She is a passionate and uncompromising advocate for Transitional Aged Youth (TAY) in the mental health system. Her passion is rooted in her own experience with trauma and is inspired by the investment of her mentors and her faith in God.
She is a native of East Side San Jose, and identifies as a Mixed-Race Latina of Panamanian and Puerto Rican descent. Having overcome a variety of challenges in her youth, from abuse and community violence to involvement in the criminal justice system and a traumatic brain surgery, Nicole offers a well-informed perspective to those she works with. She seeks to use her perspective and experience to advocate and inform services for the diverse youth of California. She does this through her work for the Mental Health Association of San Francisco and her involvement on various Transition Age Youth advocacy groups within San Francisco County and statewide. In her free time, Nicole is an artist and muralist who loves to awaken her roots through salsa dancing.

Immigrants and Solitary Confinement

On any given day, some 300 people in U.S immigration detention centers are placed in special “segregation.” Researchers say the practice of solitary confinement can be especially detrimental to immigrant detainees’ mental health. Catherine Rentz, with the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University, looks at how widespread the practice is, why detainees are put in solitary, and how long they stay.

Click here to download this week’s show. Image courtesy of Catherine Rentz, The Investigative Reporting Workshop.  

CRentz-150x150Catherine Rentz is a reporter and documentary filmmaker in residence at the Investigative Reporting Workshop at American University in Washington D.C. She’s produced several documentaries for PBS FRONTLINE about the airline industry, environmental resources, retirement finances, U.S. intelligence apparatus and immigration.


Chilean pop singer Alex Anwandter has become an icon of gay rights in Chile. He talks about his music, his lyrics and the inspiration behind his latest video.

Click here to download this week’s show. Photos courtesy of Nacho Rojas.

Check out the video for Cómo Puedes Vivir Contigo Mismo here:

Alex Anwandter is a Chilean singer, musician and producer. He was a vocalist for the band Teleradio Donoso until 2010. He recently released his solo record, Rebeldes on Nacional Records.

Adios, Chavelita

Singer Chavela Vargas was beloved throughout the continent for her rough yet tender voice singing songs of love gained and lost. She died August 5. Reporter Daniel Hernandez attended her very public wake in her adopted home, Mexico City.

Click here to download this week’s show. Photo courtesy of flickr.

Daniel Hernandez is a freelance journalist based in Mexico City and a news assistant in the Los Angeles Times bureau in Mexico. He’s been a staff writer at the L.A. Times and LA Weekly. A native of San Diego, Calif., Daniel is author of the 2011 book “Down & Delirious in Mexico City.”

Covering the 2012 International AIDS Conference

Since 2009, Latinos have accounted for 20 percent of new HIV infections in the US. Jasmine Garsd reports on the International AIDS conference held in Washington, DC. Conference attendees discussed a range of issues relating to Latinos, such as the need for education, the stigma attached to GLBT people in the Latino community and how immigration laws may hinder undocumented immigrants from seeking diagnosis or treatment.

Click here to download this week’s show.

Jasmine Garsd was born in Argentina and hosts NPR’s Alt.Latino podcast. As a journalist she’s worked on the NPR programs Morning Edition, Talk of the Nation and Tell Me More. She has covered a wide variety of topics for radio including immigration issues.

Noticiando: Familia es Familia

Ingrid Duran co-founded a newly launched campaign called “Familia es Familia,” aimed at fostering a greater acceptance of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people within the Latino Community. Host Maria Hinojosa talks with her and with Anthony Romero of American Civil Liberties Union.

Click here to download this week’s show.

Ingrid M. Duran is Co-Founder & Principal of D&P Creative Strategies, a company that she and partner Catherine founded in 2004 to increase the role of corporate, legislative and philanthropic efforts in addressing the concerns of Latinos, women, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) communities. Prior to starting D&P, Ingrid was President & CEO of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, where she expanded on an already extensive professional network that included members of Congress, elected officials and Fortune 500 executives.

Anthony D. Romero is the Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union, the nation’s premier defender of liberty and individual freedom. He took the helm of the organization just four days before the September 11, 2001 attacks. Romero also led the ACLU in establishing the John Adams Project, a joint effort with the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers to assist the under-resourced military defense lawyers in the Guantánamo military commissions. Born in New York City to parents who hailed from Puerto Rico, Romero was the first in his family to graduate from high school. He is a graduate of Stanford University Law School and Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public Policy and International Affairs. He is a member of the New York Bar Association and has sat on numerous nonprofit boards.


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