Growing up Latina, I was taught the importance of family from an early age. Our families are at the center of everything we do; they are there for us during the most significant moments of our lives and the most painful ones. As Latinos, we are taught to support all of our family members unconditionally, no matter the circumstance. It’s part of who we are.
Our relationships with the ones we love and our Latino identities are two of the biggest reasons why we should care about equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people in America. When we see our Latino hermanos y hermanas harassed and held back simply for being who they are; when we can’t come together to celebrate a wedding for our gay friends; and when we know they don’t have the same opportunities we take for granted, it affects us personally.
I’ve spent my life championing both labor and civil rights causes and getting to know diverse perspectives; I’ve come to see that the struggles gay people face are intertwined with my own struggles. On a practical level, the gay community was key in my work with the farm workers’ movement, from organizing to striking. The farm workers, in turn, have shown their support by marching in gay pride marches and carrying pride flags to display their support. On a deeper level, this work has shown me that when we talk about workers’ rights, women’s rights, and civil rights, we are having the same conversation about human rights – and the universal struggle to be understood and treated as equals.
I was raised during The Great Depression. Times were tough for everyone. My parents invited countless people to stay in our home when they had nowhere else to go: relatives, friends, and friends of friends who needed our support. We would never say no to helping someone in need. There is no question that this was a strength within my individual family. I know I’m not alone in my experience. I see this tradition at work throughout the Latino community all the time, and I’m proud of it.
Today, we’re going through a different kind of struggle. Although the world is slowly changing, many gay and transgender youth still suffer deeply in discovering their identities on their own terms, let alone being accepted by the rest of the community. Despite the negative stereotypes that anti-gay activists push forward, Latinos stand united in their support: an October poll by NBC shows that a firm 60% of Latinos support marriage for same-sex couples. Another survey by Latino Decisions found that 64% of Hispanic voters believed comprehensive immigration reform should include the same rights for same-sex couples as for opposite-sex couples. In every sense, Latinos support ending discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people, and the numbers continue to rise.
This progress has reinforced my decision to join the Familia es Familia Campaign and film a PSA in support of same-sex couples’ freedom to marry. With so much to achieve, we need to keep pushing forward, embracing our Latino values not just behind the doors of our individual homes, but in every segment of public life. Let’s each do our part by being open about who we are, by accepting one another without shame or judgment, and by sharing our stories in every way possible. Whether it’s our hijos or hijas, hermanos or hermanas, or tíos and tías, we believe in the same freedoms for everybody, no matter who you are or whom you love.
Siempre en la Lucha!
Dolores Huerta is a labor and civil rights activist, and co-founder of the United Farm Workers. She is the founder of the Dolores Huerta Foundation, a grassroots network which links communities for social justice.