More than 40 Boyle Heights residents gathered earlier this month to share some of their unique issues associated with belonging to the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender community in the Latino culture.
The larger-than-expected crowd shared personal stories of how they coped with having family members, or close friends, “come out.”
Event coordinator, ‘Queen’ Victoria Ortega, helped organize the event held at Legacy L.A., a nonprofit youth development organization near the Ramona Gardens neighborhood. She said the event was designed to create awareness about the issues the LGBT community deals with on a daily basis.
Ortega shared her own personal story of growing up in the Wyvernwood Garden Apartments with a traditional Mexican father, as a boy who, as he grew older, realized he was a girl.
Ortega, who identifies as transgender, has cultivated a career in activism for the LGBT community, largely because of the struggles she experienced as a child.
“For me, my love in life has been to be able to articulate the plight of Latina transgender women in areas like Boyle Heights where you never hear anything about it,” said Ortega.
The event was co-sponsored by the Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Pasadena chapter, represented by Spanish Lead, Elvira Diaz-Sanchez.
Diaz-Sanchez stressed the importance of bringing Spanish language support groups to places like Boyle Heights where issues surrounding LGBT people are often left unspoken.
“This is not about cities; it’s more about the language and the culture,” she said.
“Sometimes it’s really hard to get the families to come forward. It’s a different culture and religion plays a big part of it,” said Diaz-Sanchez.
This meeting featured the chance for attendees to share personal experiences with the group, where all were encouraged to give feedback.
Olga Perez, who has lived in Ramona Gardens for more than 40-years, said the meeting was very helpful because it made her realize that others in her community were dealing with issues similar to her own.
“This is the first time I’ve ever told anyone that one of my nephews was gay. Only me and my daughter knew and we only spoke to each other about it,” said Perez.
These support meetings are designed to help educate LGBT family members and friends.
Ortega’s sister, Beatriz Ortega, experienced her brother’s transition first-hand, and the stress it created in their family.
“The thing I was more concerned about was how it was affecting my father. I knew he didn’t want to accept it,” said Beatriz Ortega. She said it was not an easy transition for the family, but she supported Queen Victoria through it all.
“At first, I was worried about what everyone would say, but that didn’t last long. I’m so proud of her. I like that she stands for what she believes in,” said Beatriz Ortega.
Diaz-Sanchez says she would like to bring more of these types of meetings to the Spanish-speaking community, and hopes to build and consolidate a large community base.
“We want to encourage the community to come to our meetings, but it’s really hard. Many in the community feel it’s just too private,” said Diaz-Sanchez.