While it might be easy to assume that LGBTQ+ issues are a modern cause, there have been people long before us doing the work.
If it weren’t for decades of protest, policy reform, and research, the strides that we have made in LGBTQ+ rights would not have been possible. As white washed as the queer community is portrayed, there are so many people of color who have and continue to fight for our rights.
Here are some of the queer and trans Latinx activists who have worked to carve a space for us in society.
José Julio Sarria
This legendary San Francisco drag queen was the first openly gay person to seek political office in America in 1961 as supervisor. While the New Mexican native didn’t win or run for office again, he was an adamant supporter of Harvey Milk, and paved the way for him to take office in 1977. Sarria founded three necessary organizations, including the Tavern Guild, a business association for gay bar owners and the Society for Individual Rights, one of the first gay rights groups. The self proclaimed Empress Jose I, The Widow of Norton laid the groundwork for the Imperial Court System, what is now an international charitable group that raises money through drag shows.
A true pioneer of the LGBT+ civil rights movement, Sylvia Rivera was a veteran of the 1969 Stonewall uprising. The Puerto Rican and Venezuelan native New Yorker worked tirelessly to create safe spaces for her people. She and fellow activist Marsha P. Johnson formed STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) and opened a shelter for homeless trans youth.Some have called her the Rosa Parks of the trans movement for continuously rallying, protesting and getting arrested in the name of forcing trans issues to the forefront of the gay movement.
Pedro Julio Serrano
In 1989, Serrano became the first openly gay and HIV+ person to run for elective office in the history of Puerto Rico. He became the Director of Policy and Media for the Human Rights Foundation in Puerto Rico and served as the Director of Communications for the National Organization for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Latinos in the U.S. (LLEGO). When he moved to New York in 2005, he also worked as a Program Coordinator for Voices for Equality at Freedom to Marry and then Director of Public and Media Relations for the National Gay Task Force. Today he’s a Senior Advisor for San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz and works for reform of the Puerto Rico Police Department.
Victoria Cruz is a queer trans woman and former activist who stood beside both Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson in the fight for queer and trans lives in New York City. The native Puerto Rican turned Nuyorican was in the first gay Pride March in 1970 and at the Stonewall Inn at the time of the raids and riots. She was a volunteer turned administrative assistant then senior domestic-violence counselor for the Anti-Violence Project. She was honored in 2012 for the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder for her service to the victims of New York City.
This world renowned Chicana author, cultural theorist, and feminist philosopher paved the way for anyone who lived outside of the norm to find a home in her work. As an academic and an activist, Anzaldúa was enrolled in the PhD program in comparative literature at University of Texas but was also involved in nationalist movements such as the farmworkers movement and Chicano youth associations like the Mexican American Youth Organization. She went on to publish award winning writings such as This Bridge Called My Back: Writings for Radical Women of Color, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, and Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras: Creativeand Critical Perspectives by Feminists of Color. She won awards such as the Lambda Literary Award, National Endowment for the Arts Fiction Award, the Columbus Foundation American Book Award, and more.