As we inch closer to June and Pride, it’s hard not to think of the current state of LGBTQ affairs. A recent NBC report noted that nearly 240 anti-LGBTQ bills have already been filed in 2022, most of them targeting the transgender community. Given this, we wanted to be sure to check in with Sí a la Vida.
To chat with this incredible team is a joy no one should miss out on. They are as insightful as they are passionate and as politically astute as they are loveable. As a team, they paint a portrait of Pride seldom seen in society’s LGBTQ galleries but deserve master status for their comprehensive view of the world as seen through LGBTQ Latinx eyes. It’s truly breathtaking to watch them seamlessly support and build on each other’s ideas. Rather than write about them, we wanted to share a little of their perspectives with you. Here’s what they had to say…
When asked about the reasons behind a nationwide queer backlash, Jeremias, Sí a la Vida’s soft-spoken but fiercely committed gay Program Manager offers: “People are fearful, so they try to make us invisible. They try to take away our growing power by stereotyping us.” Margarita, the team’s soulful Latinx lesbian Mental Health Clinician, agrees: “It is fear, ignorance, and just plain hate. It’s an effort to keep us down.” Yazmin, the team’s extraordinary Health Educator and transgender woman, takes it a step further: “We pay taxes, contribute to society, and should be treated like respected members of the community. People stigmatize us because they haven’t been educated on our issues. The truth is, we are growing; we deserve respect.” Sí a la Vida’s die-hard firebrand PrEP Services Coordinator lays it out: “Efforts to take away our power are a continuation of colonialization. We have to continue organizing against it.”
With so much going on in the world, it might seem difficult to focus on Pride. When asked about Pride’s relevance today, we asked Claudia, Sí a la Vida Program Director, weighed in. Claudia is a transgender Latina. She has a humble soul that can instantly become ferocious if her family or community are under attack. Claudia comments: “The Pride banner is recognized around the world as one of our most visible ways of saying we are here and part of society and the world. We add color to the LGBTQ community with all our intersectionalities as immigrants, people of color, and language differences.” Adding to this global view, Esteban adds: “Pride is a powerful way to bridge our many LGBTQ struggles around the world. It is a way to honor solidarity work for LGBTQ rights.”
Santiago, Sí a la Vida’s gay Youth Advocate who is as wise as he is committed to queer youth, offers additional dimensions: “Pride is important for LGBTQ youth to see us as Latinxs, but also as queer folks who are different in age, body type, and every other category. That said, our visibility doesn’t stop at Pride or during the month of June. Throughout the year, it’s about taking space and being visible. It is its own challenge to take space that is primarily white."
Nevertheless, the realities and risks of COVID continue to impact program activities. "To promote safety first, Sí a la Vida won't hold its annual Miss & Mr. Safe Latinx this year," Claudia adds. "Instead we will have a Pride Celebration for our clients as we did last year. This is a completely different event aiming to celebrate our clients' Pride in a very Latinx way."
"This is where IFR comes in because we have the backbone to take space for ourselves,” notes Santiago. Claudia’s sums it up perfectly: “Pride is one way for us to thrive. It is one way that we bring to live the concept of ¡Si Se Puede!”
When asked about the final message team members would like to share, this is what they had to say:
Esteban: “We have to invest in our community, including our youth so they can come back to support the community as therapists. Abolish the prison industrial complex and start transformative justice work!”
Adrian (Sí a la Vida’s ever-positive gay male Health Educator): “Our beauty lies in our identity, but we need increased investments and support services to support our healthy community.”
Rene (Sí a la Vida’s fun-loving PrEP Navigator): “We need increased awareness and training systemwide about the transgender community.”
Santiago: “Don’t silence us. Join us!”
Yazmin: “It’s time we had a transgender psychiatrist.”
Jeremias: “Don’t be afraid of our diversity; it’s beautiful.”
Claudia: “It’s time for our voices to be heard.”
(The entire Sí a la Vida team could not be present for the interview. We want to acknowledge those team members who could not be present or were not included in this interview. They include: Carlos Acosta-Linares, Vanessa Berry, Alejandra de la Vega, Johana Espinoza, Francisco Gonzalez, Renatto Guerrero, Ruben Martinez, Frank Ortiz, Luiz Perez, Antonio Ramos, and Adilia Torres).