Wesley United Methodist Church of Cicero's Queer Youth Exploring Spirituality ( Q-YES ) group hosted a community strategy session, "Latin@ LGBTQA United For Action" March 28 at Wesley United Methodist Church in Cicero.
This was the third Latin@ community strategy session of its kind. ALMA Chicago hosted the first session in July 2014 and United Latin@ Pride and Lambda Legal hosted the second session in October 2014.
The event featured a diverse panel of community members who highlighted specific topics pertinent to the Latin@ LGBTQ community: Maria Calderon ( older adults ), Reyna Ortiz and Mani Rivera ( trans community ), lesbian couple Ana P. Diaz and Ana J. Diaz ( parenting issues ), Roge Ramos ( the deaf community ) and Jackie Gonzalez, program director of El Rescate, ( LGBTQ Latin@ youth experiencing homelessness ). Queli Tellez moderated.
Wesley United Methodist Church Pastor Cathy Caliendo provided words of welcome to the approximately 30 people in attendance.
Sofia Sarabia, Wesley United Methodist Church youth mentor, gave a brief overview of the previous sessions while Alicia Vega, Wesley United Methodist volunteer youth coordinator and adult ally to Q-YES, explained that Q-YES is a youth development leadership program and introduced Tellez.
The panelists were asked to consider where they go when they need support and/or resources as well as what the community can do for them.
All of the panelists noted that there is a lack of resources for LGBTQA Latin@'s in the Chicagoland area. Calderon, Gonzalez and the Diaz's noted that Amigas Latinas was a great resource in the past, however, that's not the case anymore. Rivera sang El Rescate's praises but said that there is really nowhere for young LGBTQA Latin@ people to hang out. The Diaz's noted that it's hard to find other families like theirs ( Spanish speaking lesbian moms ). Ramos explained that within the deaf LGBTQA community there is an organization called Windy City Rainbow Alliance of the Deaf, however, he said it would be nice to have resources that are Latin@ focused.
As for what the community can do for them, Ortiz said she would like to see more education surrounding trans issues and for the community to get to know trans people. Gonzalez noted that she would like to see a Latin@ Center on Halsted emerge. Rivera explained that there is a need for trans inclusive housing within the Latin@ community.
Following the Q&A session, attendees divided into two groups to discuss the issues that were raised during the panel discussion. They were tasked with coming up with action items to address those issues.
Those action items included having an open conversation with people who aren't in their community, making sure that people know about the organizations that do exists, holding themselves and organizations accountable, reviving Amigas Latinas, creating gender specific Latin@ LGBTQA organizations and continuing these panel discussions.
Community leaders Robert Castillo, Mel Ferrand and Norma Seledon volunteered to organize and host the next community strategy session. Location TBD.