A newly formed group is working to advocate for the intersection of local, LGBTQ+ and Latinx voices across Central Florida.
QLatinx, first and foremost, wants to provide a space for its members to heal. The group seeks to empower LGBTQ+ Latinx people and their allies who have been so deeply impacted by the Pulse hate crime to mobilize and support one another as they continue to cope with the aftermath of the shooting. The group has already made national headlines recently being featured in The New Yorker.
“We are a community organization. Very grassroots. Built by queer and trans Latinx folks after the Pulse massacre that said we need to be together,” says QLatinx co-founder/organizer and Huff Post contributor Christopher Cuevas.
Some haven’t felt comfortable or welcome in other spaces because either the organization or services have mostly focused on the LGBTQ+ part of their identity or the Latinx part of their identity. Not both.
“[Members have said] I can’t go to these other places for a variety of reasons. Because of a language barrier. Because I just don’t feel like I’m represented there. I don’t have the ability to access the services so I don’t want to go there. Or I’m not ready to seek out those services,” says Cuevas.
The erasure of this intersection by both the local, LGBTQ+ and Latino/a communities has been an on-going struggle for many folks. Especially younger, gay and trans Latinx locals who feel like their voices and lived experiences have been and continue to be swept to the side.
QLatinx’s mission is to uplift the voices of everyday LGBTQ+ Latinx people and create a centralized, gathering place of support for queer and trans people of color in Central Florida – many who lost such a space after the Pulse shooting.
The intersectionality of the Pulse massacre is difficult to deny. The majority of those targeted by this horrendous act of violence were LGBTQ+ people of color. Mostly Latinx. It was Noche Latina. Latin Night. That night, and for many Saturday nights prior, Pulse had thrived as a sanctuary for a queer Latinidad.
The devastating violence that unfolded on June 12 targeted a safer space two-fold. Not just a safer space for LGBTQ+ OR Latinx. LGBTQ+ AND Latinx. LGBTQ+ AND people of color.
“Historically, the Latinx community has always existed in silos and pockets all over Greater Orlando and Central Florida. You have people in Apopka and people in Kissimmee and in Ocoee and Sanford and people in the immediate vicinity of downtown Orlando,” Cuevas says. “So we want to create a hub…a central space where people [from across Central Florida] can come together. Because there’s never been a space that uplifts and centers queer and trans people of color.” With the loss of Pulse, this need is so much more urgent.
A weekly meet up on Thursday nights at the Proyecto Somos Orlando offices is already a go. The group also has plans to organize community workshops on gender justice and intersectionality in the future. QLatinx is additionally advocating for increased cultural competency in services and outreach being provided in the aftermath of Pulse.
Housing, transportation, legal services, health care, counseling and immigration documentation are just some of the areas that LGBTQ+, Latinx folks affected by the Pulse shooting need culturally competent support on. The issues vary because the Latinx community is extremely diverse, but some victims, survivors and loved ones have especially faced barriers getting help because of their undocumented status
One member who identifies as queer and undocumented –wishing to remain anonymous –says they and many others aren’t sure what services are safe for them. “Unless there is an anti-discrimination policy that includes immigration status, you won’t believe those services are for you.”
“There’s a difference between listening to stories of queer and trans Latinx folks…who are politicians and doctors and lawyers. Those are very important and inspirational stories to hear,” Cuevas says.“But equally so, there are stories of folks who live in the everyday that may not have those kinds of jobs, that work at amusements parks or may work in restaurants, and that’s their life, and no one listens to their narratives or experiences, because they are not in ‘quote unquote’ positions of power.”
Within 48 hours of the Pulse massacre, members of what is now QLatinx started to gather. At the time, there was no name, just a need to be there for one another. Several were survivors who were there that night at Pulse. Some had lost friends that night. The group evolved organically as friends sought comfort with one another – with people like them that they could trust who truly empathized with how deeply the Pulse massacre rocked their core.
This was an attack on not only their LGBTQ+ identity and lived experiences, but also on their Latinx livelihood, their queer Latindad.
Many members of QLatinx fall in the gap of having aged out of services provided by Zebra Coalition and don’t relate to organizations like The Center and the MBA for various reasons.
Noche Latina at Pulse was their meeting space. The dance floor their “board room.” A safer space to gather and celebrate and dance in solidarity. A place where LGBTQ+ Latinx locals navigated not only the challenges of a world that is cisgenderist and heterosexist and classist, but also racist and hostile to people who don’t have light skin or speak English as their first language.
In the 21st century of an increasingly commodified LGBTQ+ culture, where many organizations follow the organizational structure of a corporation, QLatinx embodies a more democratic, consensus-building approach. The group makes decisions together. QLatinx and its members are not only focused on support services and healing but also collaboration. Lifting up and centering their voices as transparently and as inclusively as possible.
Moving forward, the group has plans to organize workshops that educate the local community on the intersections of gender, racial and economic justice.
“We also want to educate and empower local, queer and trans people of color about their history. In the past year, there was a film. that was released about Stonewall that completely erased the work of the leading trans women of color who started the Stonewall Riots and what became the [contemporary] LGBTQ+ rights movement,” said Cuevas.
“We don’t want that to happen. Those who tell their history, those who write it, those who capture it:They are the ones who make the history. So we want to do that. We want to tell the stories that empower people in our community. We want to make sure that the right narratives, the right stories are being captured so that future queer and trans people of color can look back and say ‘this is a community that exists, and I feel very proud that I am queer, Latinx or trans and a black woman’. Uplifting [these narratives] matters so much.”
Cuevas said the group may be interested to march in the Come Out With Pride parade in October depending on the costs involved to participate.
QLatinx also plans to collaborate with local artist, 9/11 survivor and UCF professor Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz on an installation memorializing the Pulse hate crime. The art piece will be on display at the National Museum of Mexican Art in Chicago starting next month as a part of the museum’s annual Día de los Muertos exhibit.
The weekly QLatinx meet ups take place on Thursdays from 6:30-9 PM at the Proyecto Somos Orlando offices (6900 Orange Blossom Trail, 2nd Floor, Orlando, FL 32809).
About the Name
The name “QLatinx” intentionally occupies the intersection of LGBTQ+ and Latinx identity. “Q” stands for queer – a reclaimed slur that many activists use as an umbrella term to describe the spectrum of gender identities, orientations and lived experiences within the LGBTQ+ community. Latinx is a more gender-inclusive or gender-expansive term of describing people who identify with the Latino/a community but feel the Spanish language’s traditionally gendered “Latino” or “Latina” is not inclusive of those who don’t identify with the cis-heteronormative gender binary.