LULAC Hosts ‘Nothing About Us, Without Us’ this Spring as the Organization Celebrates 15 Years of LGBTQ Advocacy
Posted on 04/06/2021 @ 06:15 AM
By Jesse Garcia, Chair
National LULAC LGBTQ Affairs Committee
This spring I celebrate 15 years of being a LULAC member, and LULAC is throwing me a big Quinceañera in April. You’re invited. Instead of a big plate of mole con arroz and una copa de champán, you can expect to hear policy discussions on social justice. And sorry, you can’t take the centerpiece home. This celebration will be virtual.
In all seriousness, LULAC will host an LGBTQ Policy Summit for its members and guests— “Nothing About Us, Without Us”—on Saturday, April 24, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (EST). The event will spotlight issues important to both LGBTQ and Latinx communities. We are on the verge of seeing our immigrant families obtain a pathway to citizenship and seeing our LGBTQ community leave its second-class status behind. It won’t be easy. We’ll have to educate a lot of family members, allies, and federal elected officials on the need for Immigration Reform and the Equality Act to pass both houses of Congress — intact.
We will also have meaningful discussions led by movement leaders on issues surrounding LGBTQ Youth, LGBTQ Elders, the Transgender Community, HIV/AIDS, and the Black Social Justice Movement. Check out speaker line up here.
This summit is something I have always dreamed about. A space where Queer Brown people can gather, create community, learn from each other, and uplift one another. This dream started in 2006 when I cofounded the very first LULAC LGBTQ council in Dallas, Texas.
That game-changing council was born from the ashes of an electoral defeat. After Texas voters passed an anti-marriage amendment in November of 2005, the LGBTQ community was in mourning. We had worked hard to defeat that hateful law. When LGBTQ activists did a post-mortem on the election, they noticed something promising. While Anglo and Black voters overwhelmingly voted to ban same-sex marriage in Texas, Latinx voters broke even. Nearly fifty percent of our gente voted to support our cause! There was an opportunity to build bridges with an ally that will soon become the largest segment of the Texas population.
Weeks before that election, I had sought assistance from National LULAC to help defeat this same-sex marriage ban. After a meaningful discussion with the National LULAC President, I was invited to form a council to start a dialogue with LULAC members about LGBTQ equality. I parked that idea in the back of my head and went back to focus on the fall election.
Being in the LGBTQ movement, very few Latinx folks have the time and energy to be thoroughly involved in the cause — and rarely do we hold leadership positions. But after that Texas election, I had to start having conversations in the Latinx community about LGBTQ equality. I wondered, if I start a LULAC LGBTQ Council, where would I find other LGBTQ Latinx individuals willing to make the commitment? Enter the Spring of 2006, when Latinx folks around the country began participating in MegaMarchas started by Dreamers on MySpace.
Dallas was home to one of the largest marches that year. We were told to show up on Palm Sunday in downtown Dallas with white shirts and American flags. When I arrived that morning, everyone was dressed in white and carrying Old Glory. But there was one little spot in the crowd that didn’t follow the rules. A contingent of out and proud Gaytinos showed up with Pride Flags. I had finally found future members of the Dallas Rainbow Council.
We started the Dallas Rainbow Council that summer and LULAC welcomed us with open arms. Since 2006, LULAC has also chartered LGBTQ-focused councils in San Antonio, Corpus Christi, the Rio Grande Valley, Washington, DC and San Juan, Puerto Rico.
LULAC has a long history of supporting LGBTQ equality. Several initiatives have been voted into LULAC’s legislative platform thanks to overwhelming support from its membership at National Conventions: Supporting the Equality Act (2019), Lifting Transgender Military Ban (2019), Relief for Transgender Asylum Seekers (2019), Opposing Conversion Therapy (2018), Affirming and Protecting Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming People’s Rights (2017), Support for Marriage Equality (2012), Support for Employee Non Discrimination Act (2009), and Repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell (2008).
LULAC went a step further in 2018. Our National LULAC President created the first-ever National LULAC LGBTQ Affairs Committee and appointed me as its Chair.
For a third year in row, this committee has continued to make LULAC a more inclusive place. Helping me lead this effort is Vice Chair Maria Salazar (San Antonio, Texas), along with committee members Alexa Rodriguez (Baltimore, Maryland), Terry Borja (Arlington, Virginia), Nancy Cañas (District Heights, Maryland), Elias Cantu, Jr. (San Benito, Texas), Joél-Léhi Organista (Salt Lake City, Utah), Leti Gomez (Washington, DC), Nancy Vera (Corpus Christi, Texas), Javier Rodriguez (Washington DC), Renato De Los Santos (Dallas, Texas), Wilfred Labiosa (San Juan, Puerto Rico), Jacie Lozano (San Antonio, Texas), Joel Ramos (Cataño, Puerto Rico), and Jonathan Dromgoole (Arlington, Virginia).
Thanks to LULAC, LGBTQ Latinx activists have a place to organize and call home. For years, LGBTQ Latinx individuals have struggled to keep our organizing spaces open. There were several attempts in the 1980s and 1990s to form national LGBTQ Latinx organizations. They succeeded in producing some amazing advocates, but those organizations weren’t able to sustain themselves. With its enduring 92-year history of advocacy, LULAC can provide a foundation to help foster the growth of future Latinx leaders in the LGBTQ movement — leaders developed with ideals centered on intersectionality.
Thank you LULAC for opening your heart to your LGBTQ family. Don’t forget to register for the summit.
Jesse Garcia cofounded The Dallas Rainbow Council #4871 in 2006 and LULAC Lambda #11125 in 2014. He currently serves as Chair of the National LULAC LGBTQ Affairs Committee and as LULAC District of Columbia State Director. He is also a LULAC Youth Council sponsor at E.L. Haynes Public Charter School in Washington DC and hosts his own LGBTQ Latinx podcast www.jessegarciashow.com.