Dual oppression living Latinx and LGBTQ+

Story by Kara D. Rhodes

There are communities people join and there are communities people are born into. In some instances, people are born into two communities that do give strength but attached is oppression. Dual minority has a lot of weight to it but there is courage in numbers. According to the Human Rights Campaign, “Data analysis by the Williams Institute reveals there are approximately 1.4 million LGBT Latinx adults currently living in the United States.” This is a mass of people who are living with, as far as we are aware, dual oppression and this can be a difficult road to navigate.

Maren Simmons, 22, has had challenges of her own. Coming from a strict religious background within the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, she says, “When I’m out in public or on a date I get stared at or even given dirty looks.”

Both of these communities, LGBTQ+ and Latinx, have a history of being shamed publicly for things they cannot control. Simmons advised younger LGBTQ and Latinx folks, “Don’t ever change yourself because someone else thinks it is wrong. I found that opening up to friends and family about how I felt made me feel better.”

The Human Rights Campaign lists the most important issues these folks face: immigration, language and access barriers, economic insecurity, violence and harassment, and HIV and health inequity. According to the HRC, 72 percent of LGBTQ+ Latinx youth have heard their family say something negative about LGBTQ people.

Asset_Story2

Eva Lopez creator of Orgullo Utah.

Eva Lopez, a 22-year-old student at the University of Utah, was missing the representation and diversity among the LGBTQ community so she created a space for it. Orgullo Utah is a queer space led and formed by Latinx folk. Lopez has always been proud of her Mexican heritage but she said she also faced challenges because of it. “The identity of being Mexican has its layers of racial challenges from micro-aggression to policy exclusion. Culturally and ethnically, I am Mexican and very proud it!”

Acknowledging and embracing her intersecting identities eventually brought peace to Lopez. “I came out to myself and was able to work through the challenges of acceptance and celebration. Coming from a conservative, Catholic, Latino background, I struggled immensely finding the peace I desperately craved,” Lopez said. After acceptance, she discovered a state of authenticity and happiness.

Her aspirations don’t stop at Orgullo Utah. There are many things she believes the U could to to support Latinx and LGBTQ folks. Lopez suggests, “We need more trained individuals to help navigate healthy conversations around identity. We also need to make sure that faculty and students are not closeting queer students with dress-codes … and enabling healthy dialogue within classrooms.” There is an LGBTQ Resource Center on campus that Lopez is forever grateful for, but she said there is always room for improvement. Asset_Story2

 

Like Lopez, Cristobal Villegas experiences challenges as a Latinx and LGBTQ person. “My experience as a gay, latinx man is complex and multi-faceted. I grew up LDS (Latter-day Saint) and served a church mission. My family has had a strong tie to machismo and traditional gender roles,” Villegas said.

Villegas’ coming-out story isn’t very positive because of the conservative household he grew up in. “Coming out to a socially conservative household was met with anger and confusion,” he said. Villegas suggests that Utah could better serve their community by recognizing that people like Villegas exist and providing access to better healthcare.   

“It is important to understand oneself as that will lead to more justice for more people. My struggle is connected to everyone else’s, and as such I must be knowledgeable of how I fit in to oppressive systems and institutions and receive oppression from systems and institutions,” says Villegas on advice he’d give to Latinx LGBTQ+ youth.