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BOOKS Queer Brown Voices: Personal Narratives of Latina/o LGBT Activism
by Melissa Wasserman
2015-09-09

This article shared 3683 times since Wed Sep 9, 2015
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Ed. by Uriel Quesada, Letitia Gomez and Salvador Vidal-Ortiz, $75; Univ. of Texas Press; 238 pages

Everyone has a voice. Most start out quiet and get louder over time. Although some voices are at maximum volume and the words are spoken clearly, they are not always understood. Queer Brown Voices: Personal Narratives of Latina/o LGBT Activism projects these LGBT Latina/o voices, documenting the life leading up to activism—upbringing and inspiration—and vast efforts to fight the discrimination experienced within the last three decades of the 20th century.

The book consists of six chapters based on first-person essays written by contributors, while the other eight chapters are based on oral-history interviews, with a number of them recorded in Spanish and conducted and edited between June 2011 and June 2012.

Queer Brown Voices advocates knowledge and history about Latina/o activism in fighting against cycles of racism, sexism and homophobia on the local, state and national levels. In addressing those issues, each chapter shares a personal story of an LGBT Latina/o activist. The personal stories generate from across the United States and share relatable and not-so relatable pieces of life. While the narratives vary, each offer a unique perspective and reflect the subject's life path starting with family and childhood, moving onto experience and self-discovery, acknowledging identity and its intersectionality and finally taking action to find and create spaces to freely express and protect being LGBT and Latina/o for the community at large. Ultimately, each narrative exemplifies what is is like to come into one's own take on the role of activist.

One chapter even comes from a local point of view. Mona Noriega shares her experience of being LGBT and Latina here in Chicago.

Noriega is a Chicago native. In 2011, Mayor Rahm Emmanuel appointed her as chair and commissioner of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, a position she still currently holds, and she serves as a member of the LGBTQ Immigrant Rights Coalition and the Chicago Task Force on LGBT Aging.

Her activism began in the '70s, when she got involved in the feminist movement at Chicago's Northeastern Illinois University. The list also includes being involved with Latina Lesbians en Nuestro Ambiente ( LLENA ), helping to open the Midwest office of Lambda Legal, co-founding Amigas Latinas and being the founding co-chair and senior bid consultant responsible for bringing the 2006 Gay Games to Chicago.

"I think it captures a point in time and I think it nicely shares individual stories that have some commonality in terms of [being] based in a time and an identity," said Noriega of the book. "I think that the absence of Latinos in the development of our movement is pretty apparent and so this addresses some of those gaps."

In her essay, Noriega details the importance of providing a safe space to discuss issues, especially her experience of gatherings among members of Amigas Latinas. She also reflects on the influence of her abuela and the challenges she has faced as a Latina lesbian mother of two.

"It's really about our personal growth as activists and how we were influenced and how we influenced the larger movement," Noriega said. "This book is really about documenting that we did influence a larger movement, we were part of a larger movement. I thought it really expanded my understanding of how others experienced organizing in other parts of the country."

Noriega explained to Windy City Times that her initial motivation to organize in creating space came from witnessing an abundance of abuse targeted toward gay families. Having small children and seeing other lesbian mothers she went in with the idea, she said, "create the world that you want to live in."

"We continue to see violence directed toward people of color and misunderstanding and violence directed against youth, trans people, we continue to see that brown children or people coming across the border are not treated right, so how could I not act?" said Noriega.

"I hope that readers will find either themselves and to honor their own contributions to the larger organizing spaces that they choose to be in and for others to recognize that sometimes history does not capture the totality of how a movement develops and to be critically thinking about what's missing from the narrative," Noriega said.


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