Where Latinx Heritage Month and LGBTQ+ History Month intersect, we’re celebrating the activists and artists who have created space for us to thrive
Latinx history is LGBTQ+ history, and no time reminds us better than the overlapping of Latinx Heritage Month with LGBTQ+ History Month. Queer Latinx activists have been at the forefront of the LGBTQ+ rights movement for as long as we’ve been fighting for equality for all, from Sylvia Rivera‘s iconic involvement in the Stonewall riots to the first-generation DREAMERS chanting that “Immigrant rights are LGBTQ+ rights.” This year, we’re honoring the activists who broke down barriers as well as those who are leading us into the next wave of social change.
Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa
A scholar of feminism, cultural theory, and queer theory, Gloria E. Anzaldúa often discussed the frustration that arises from cultural and societal marginalization. Gloria grew up near the Texas-Mexico border where she watched her parents face discrimination as migrant workers, which led her to explore the social justice issues at the intersection of queer and immigration issues.
Must Read: “The Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color,” which Gloria co-edited, and “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza,” a semi-autobiographical work.
The mother of the transgender Latinx community in Queens, New York, Lorena Borjas fought to protect the rights of immigrant and transgender communities after emigrating from her native Veracruz, Mexico. She largely focused on providing safe spaces and services to transgender victims of human trafficking while advocating for the safety of transgender sex workers.
Lorena was also a Board Member of The Trans Latin@ Coalition. Shortly after her passing in March 2020, Lambda Legal represented the non-profit in the case Whitman-Walker Clinic v. HHS.
“Needed a lawyer? Doctor? Housing? A job? She was there. Lorena was that person who, if you got arrested, you called her at three in the morning and she would answer. First thing in the morning she would be in court with a lawyer to get you out of jail.” -friend and fellow activist Cecilla Gentilli on Lorena’s work
Gil Cuadros was a writer who explored the impact of HIV & AIDS on the gay Chicano community, leaving behind a testimonial that highlighted his intersecting identities: his sexuality, Latinx heritage, and AIDS diagnosis. After the loss of his partner to AIDS in 1987, Gil received his own diagnosis that propelled him to begin writing his influential work.
Must Read: Cuadros’s groundbreaking collection of poems and short stories, “City of God”
José Julio Sarria
José Julio Sarria was the first openly gay candidate for public office in the United States. In 1961, he ran for the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and though he did not win the seat, José garnered enough votes to prove that queer voters held political power in the city. He was also an influential drag queen at the iconic Black Cat Bar.
“United we stand, divided they catch us one-by-one.” -José Julio Sarria
“President Obama, release all LGBTQ immigrants from detention and stop all deportations!” called activist Jennicet Gutiérrez during former President Obama’s Pride address in 2015. While some folks decried the so-called “outburst,” Jennicet took the opportunity to support transgender women detained for their immigration status on a public stage. She is also a co-founder of La Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, which pursues collective liberation for LGBTQ+ Latinas.
“The violence my trans sisters face in detention centers is one of torture and abuse. The torture and abuse come from ICE officials and other detainees in these detention centers. I have spoken with my trans immigrant sisters who were recently released from detention centers. … Often seeking asylum to escape threats of violence because of their gender identity and sexuality, this is how they’re greeted in this country.” -Jennicet Gutiérrez
An Afro-Brazilian singer-songwriter, Liniker’s music is an anthem for other queer and transgender people who have felt they’ve been impacted by a hostile social environment. In her music, Linkier promotes social change and represents Black trans culture while speaking up against the violence her community experiences in Brazil.
“It’s my body. I am free to do what I want with it. If I have this entireness, how come you want to stick your nose in it? Who do you think you are to lay down the rules I am supposed to follow? To each their own, to each body its history.” -Liniker
Must Listen: “Indigo Borboleta Anil,” Linker’s latest full length solo album
Mariah Lopez has taken the fight for transgender, Latinx equality to the courts time and time again, using her activism to work towards safe housing for LGBTQ+ folks, the reinvestigation into the death of transgender activist Marsha P. Johnson, and more protections for her community. She is also the executive director of STARR, Strategic Trans Alliance for Radical Reform.
“She made a difference for young people who came after her.” -Ronald E. Richter, the former deputy commissioner of New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services when Mariah sued the agency
A gay, Mexican-born artist, Julio Salgado’s art focuses on the stories of undocumented and queer people impacted by the DREAM Act, including telling his own narrative of what it means to experience the intersections of his identity amidst anti-immigrant hate. One of his most influential series, “I Am Undocu-Queer!” gave “undocumented queers more of a presence in the discussion of migrant rights.”
Must See: find Julio’s art on his Instagram, juliosalgado83
Check out more of our blogs here, including recent pieces on National Coming Out Day, Banned Books Week, and Suicide Prevention Month.