Al Dia: Latino LGBT Community Faces Challenges

Published: February 7, 2012

Caught between two identities. That’s how Elicia Gonzales described one of the largest issues facing the Latino lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Gonzales works as an executive director for Galaei, a non-profit organization in Philadelphia that raises awareness about the issues the Latino LGBT population face. The organization primarily focuses on health related issues such as HIV/AIDS.

“We’re outsiders to both communities,” Gonzales said. “When you feel displaced, it automatically sets you up against challenges.”

Gonzales stressed the importance of finding a place to consider home.

Gloria Casarez, the director of LGBT affairs in Philadelphia, said the LGBT community is a diverse group of people made up of different communities, Latino being just one of them.

Casarez said, “As much as we can, we encourage people to own their space in the Latino community, in the LGBT community and in their families.”

Galaei said she attempts to be a bridge between communities. Though the primary focus is health related, it is also a place where people in similar situations can come together. Founded in 1989 by David Acosta, it was one of the first organizations of its kind.

Acosta grew up in the Latino community and got involved in Latino activism at a young age. His involvement allowed him connections to leaders in the community when he began to raise awareness about LGBT issues.

Acosta said, “One of the things that I really tried to do back then was to draw the connections so that people would see the issues that made us more similar than different.”

Gonzales said people were slow to recognize the LGBT community among Latinos.

“Sometimes there’s not even language to identify,” Gonzales said about explaining LGBT issues in the Latino community.

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