Attendees drift through the door of the Make the Road Nevada office on Bonanza Road and start personalizing their space. A Mexican themed pride flag is on the wall, the iconic eagle eating a rattlesnake perched on top a prickly pear cactus, a spectrum of color on either side. It’s pinned between a painted tapestry of the Virgin Mary and a sign that says “I’m a Puerto Rican voter. I matter.”
Selena is playing in the background and pupusas from Esmeralda’s Cafe are served with all the fixings.
Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement was founded in 2014 by trans and queer immigrants, undocumented people and allies. It is the only national organization that addresses and advocates for queer Latino issues. It held a leadership and recruitment meeting in Las Vegas Saturday, hosted by Make the Road Nevada, to invite trans and queer Latinx people into a place of their own.
Las Vegas is diverse. It’s about 31 percent Latino, 12 percent black, and 6 percent Asian. It has one of the largest populations of undocumented immigrants — about 35 percent of immigrants in Las Vegas are undocumented versus 25 percent nationally.
There are 904,000 LGBT immigrants in the United States, 29 percent are undocumented, of which 71 percent are Hispanic, according to a 2013 study by The Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA Law.
Latino identity can be interwoven with an immigrant identity that comes with its own needs and issues; being a queer Latino is another layer altogether.
Frankie Perez, one of the organizers of the gathering, describes his frustration in trying to get local LGBT organizations to focus on queer Latino issues and getting nowhere. He said, at times, he even received backlash for criticizing the LGBT movement for its lack of support for people of color.
“I finally get that those spaces were never meant for us,” Perez said.
Erika Castro, who attended the gathering, felt one of the queer Latino communities greatest needs was a space of their own to discuss and work to assure their issues are not lost within the greater LGBT community.
In Philadelphia a new pride flag was redesigned to include black and brown stripes in order to represent people of color as part of the More Color More Pride campaign. The flag was designed in response to reports that people of color were facing discrimination in Philadelphia’s LGBT scene.
“When it comes to our issues, they’re silent,” Perez said.