Windy City Media Group Frontpage News


home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor



Jesus Ramirez-Valles talks about Tal Como Somosrich
by Richard Knight, Jr.

This article shared 5027 times since Thu May 1, 2008
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email

The 24th Annual Chicago Latino Film Festival included the Chicago premiere of Tal Como Somos ( Just As We Are ) , an eye-opening documentary that follows the lives of six Latino gay and bisexual men across the country ( including a Chicago couple ) and a transgender woman.

Jesus Ramirez-Valles, the executive producer of the film, and Judith McCray, the movie's director-producer, are both Chicago residents. Ramirez-Valles, an associate professor of public health at the Univesity of Illinois at Chicago, conducted research on the impact of HIV/AIDS and the stigmatization of Latino GLBT persons within their own community that forms the basis of Tal Como Somos. Windy City Times spoke with Ramirez-Valles about the project.

Windy City Times: What started you on this long journey from research to a movie?

Jesus Ramirez-Valles: I grew up in Mexico and I started working on HIV/AIDS pretty much as soon as I came out of college, which was when I was coming out myself. I started working as a community organizer coordinating mass media for public campaigns and then I came here to the States and started working on HVI/AIDS and GLBT issues. I became a researcher; I'm a professor and my work has been on things like substance abuse, high-risk behavior—among gay Latino men in particular—and this latest study became a book. I collected life stories from Latino gay men in San Francisco and in Chicago, and I was planning the manuscript for academic uses but I had a bit of a crisis and thought, 'Who cares about this stuff? Who's going to read this stuff?' I was in the midst of that, and then during a flight to a conference with a colleague of mine that changed. She was asking me about the book and then suggested I try to adapt it into a play and then we both said, 'No, it should be a film.'

I have the film background from working in mass communication in Mexico so it seemed a natural. So the idea clicked—that was in 2004. Then I started looking into ways to pull the idea together. I knew I could sell it as a tool for educators and for a larger audience and I applied to the NIH for funding and looked for a production company and chose Judy McCray's production company and we got the grant, and here we are.

WCT: I'm assuming you've experienced the prejudice that some of the individuals in the film have experienced, is that correct?

JRV: Yes. I can see many pieces of my life in the film. I hope the larger audience can also find a little bit of themselves in the individuals like I do.

WCT: That resonates with all gay people, that prejudice—I don't care what your ethnicity is or beliefs.

JRV: Yes, that is true. I'm also an immigrant like many of the people in the film and I have this connection with them. It was like seeing parts of my life over.

WCT: Does being an immigrant add another level about your anxiety? Being in an adopted country, part of a minority and being gay?

JRV: I think it can play different ways—it depends on your status. Many Latino gay men have come to this country because they want to get away from the stigma they experience in their home country. They're not running away from their country; they're running away from their families and their homes. So here they find comfort in the anonymity. You can be pretty much who you want to be here. People are looking not only for a safe place in gender terms but in financial terms. Transgendered people, especially, have a lower status and are tremendously marginalized and have few options for jobs, which leads to sex work and substance abuse and it just gets pretty tough. The farther you get from the gender norms the higher the price you pay. But, yes, it's probably another issue for undocumented immigrants.

WCT: Why is prejudice for LGBT people so prevalent in the Latino community? Is it because of the stereotypical 'macho' culture? Have some of those stereotypes become outmoded?

JRV: I think it's pervasive in all societies. I have lived as a gay man here in the States pretty much, but I've visited Mexico many times and you go to Vallarta and you think you are in Key West—it's very open there, and in Mexico City you can register as a gay couple. As a society at large, there have been changes but the stigma is certainly still there. I think [ that is ] because Latino culture is so collectively oriented—we are oriented to peers, to our family, to our extended families, we are very close to them—and the United States seems to have more of a culture of individualism. I think that, for us, it's part of the struggle because, I mean, how do you run away? It's very difficult to run away from your family and your friends because they are the closest part of your life but often that's where the stigma is coming from. Also, we are culturally Catholics—more than by denomination—we don't have to go to church to be Catholics in Mexico. You're pretty much born and raised that way so these become cultural issues with our families and our friends. [ Laughs ]

WCT: Beyond the screening at the festival, what happens next for the film?

JRV: We are looking into some other festivals around the country and some television screenings but I can't be more specific about them right now. There will also be this educational version with a discussion guide for schools.

WCT: This all sounds great. Does it feel wonderful to see the project over the finish line?

JRV: It does, but I'm not looking forward to the future because I'm going to be depressed now that this wonderful experience is over. [ Laughs ] It's been very rewarding and hopefully another project will come out of this.

WCT: Well, it sounds like if it doesn't, you're going to create one.

JRV: [ Laughs ] No doubt!

Visit or phone 312-409-1757 for more information about the film festival.

This article shared 5027 times since Thu May 1, 2008
facebook twitter google +1 reddit email


Gay News

SHOWBIZ Gaga/Bennett, 'House of Gucci,' Leslie Jordan, Murray Hill, Lil Nas X
Videos below - MTV announced that the special MTV Unplugged: Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga will air on the music network Thursday, Dec. 16, according to The performance, which was filmed in New York earlier this year, features ...

Gay News

THEATER 'It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!' through Dec. 31
American Blues Theater marks its return to live, in-person theater with its 20th annual production of It's a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!, from Frank Capra's film. The production will run through Friday, Dec. 31, at ...

Gay News

Trans-focused documentary part of South Side Film Festival
The documentary Mama Gloria—which features Chicago transgender icon Gloria Allen—was part of the South Side Film Festival line-up on Nov. 28. Born in 1945, Allen grew up amid the celebrated Black "sissy" balls on Chicago's South ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Netflix, Kal Penn, Dennis Rodman, 'The Voice,' 'Euphoria'
Video below - Terra Field—one of the Netflix employees who organized the walkout around Dave Chappelle's comedy special The Closer—has resigned from the streamer, Deadline reported. Field, along with B. Pagels-Minor, organized an ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ '9-1-1,' Billie Jean King, Lena Waithe, singer Mary Lambert, White Party
Actor Rockmond Dunbar left the Fox show 9-1-1 after four seasons over a vaccine mandate, Deadline noted. His gay character, Michael Grant, was abruptly written off in the Nov. 15 episode, leaving fans of the first-responder ...

Gay News

Activist projects names of trans dead on Netflix HQ
--From a press release - LOS GATOS — On the Trans Day of Remembrance, the names of trans people who died this year were projected onto Netflix's Silicon Valley headquarters. The words of light were visible from Winchester Boulevard, over the ...

Gay News

VIEWS Google and Chicago's segregated LGBTQ+ community
I was a little baby queer when I moved to Chicago last year. I come from a traditional, cookie-cutter Connecticut town where Vineyard Vines and Sunday school were the standards. So, for a LatinX queer person—who ...

Gay News

MOVIES 'Dante and Beatrice in Florence' Nov. 28-Dec. 5
Porchlight Music Theatre is partnering with Hershey Felder Presents: Live from Florence and its second season of productions. The launch of this new season from Hershey Felder is the new musical film Dante and Beatrice in ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Theater items, Lady Gaga, 'Justice League Queer,' Tom of Finland
Eighteen months after he died of COVID, the life of playwright Terrence McNally was celebrated in a packed house Nov. 1 at the Schoenfeld Theatre, Gay City News noted. Tributes poured in from theater artists, while ...

Gay News

AIDS Foundation Chicago awards grants to Black- and Latinx-led organizations
AIDS Foundation Chicago (AFC) has awarded eight grants—totaling $72,000—to BIPOC-led organizations working to address the HIV/AIDS crisis in Black and Latinx neighborhoods across Chicago. The grants came from AFC's Learning ...

Gay News

Actor Kal Penn discusses coming out, acting journey, systemic racism during tour
Following the publishing of actor Kal Penn's memoir You Can't Be Serious, he stopped in Chicago on Nov. 6 to discuss his Hollywood and White House careers—and the news of his coming out. Co-founder of Vice ...

Gay News

Billy Masters
"Of course I have. I'm an actor, for f**k's sake!"—Tom Hardy, when asked if he's had sex with men. Good to know. Sherri Shepherd is having a busy fall. She kicked off October by returning to ...

Gay News

SHOWBIZ Gay men's chorus, upcoming films, 'Tiger King,' Mariah Carey
Video below - The New York City Gay Men's Chorus announced its return to the rehearsal room, per a press release. On Nov. 1, 51 members gathered at P.S. 11 in Chelsea, Manhattan, to sing for the first time ...

Gay News

MOVIES 'Manual Cinema's Christmas Carol' Nov. 26-Jan. 3
Chicago's interdisciplinary performance collective Manual Cinema is ready to virtually broadcast Manual Cinema's Christmas Carol, its inventive mixed-media adaptation of the most famous holiday tale of all time. Tickets, on ...

Gay News

Actress Kristen Stewart announces engagement
Actress Kristen Stewart announced she and actress/screenwriter Dylan Meyer are engaged in an interview with Howard Stern, noted. "We're marrying, we're totally gonna do it," Stewart said. "I wanted to be proposed to, so I ...


Copyright © 2021 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.






About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Advanced Search     
Windy City Queercast      Queercast Archives     
Press  Releases      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast      Blogs     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Privacy Policy     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.