Editors' note: Jorge Sanchez is Project Coordinator of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University.
"Rosa" sat upright in her chair as she introduced herself to others at a small gathering in Salinas, California, last fall. She and other Latino community members - including men and women who work in the fields that surround the rural, coastal community - came together to help us develop scripts for a radionovela series, Spanish-language radio soap opera, to help Latino families talk about LGBT issues.
When Rosa introduced herself as a "God-fearing woman who listens to Christian radio," I immediately recalled the voices of many parents our research team with the Family Acceptance Project has interviewed over the course of our groundbreaking study of LGBT youth and their families that we launched nearly a decade ago.
Through FAP's research and work with hundreds of families with LGBT children, we have helped countless parents understand that negative reactions, such as preventing their child from learning about their LGBT identity or welcoming their LGBT friends and partners into the family, have a critical impact on their child's health and mental health as young adults. In fact, accepting their child's LGBT friends and partners is one of the most important ways that parents and caregivers can help protect their LGBT children against risk and can promote their health and well-being as young adults.
I was heartened by what Rosa shared. During the discussion, she listened as other group members talked about the importance of family acceptance and the discrimination that LGBT Latinos too often experience in families, schools, and communities. Like so many diverse families we have worked with, Rosa could balance her religious beliefs with the need to love and support LGBT family members. She understood the importance of familia and the need to protect one's family from hurt and discrimination while maintaining her deep religious values. For her, the three-part radionovela - called "Bienvenidos a Casa" and airing through March 31 on Radio Bilingüe stations - is vital to strengthening families.
I found myself moved and deeply gratified by bringing FAP's research and family intervention work full circle in our collaboration with Proyecto Poderoso and Radio Bilingüe to develop the radionovela. I used FAP's core research on the health and mental health impact of family acceptance to develop the radionovela scripts, while I documented and incorporated the voices and experiences of community members into the storylines we developed with Proyecto Poderoso and Radio Bilingüe.
As an anthropologist who has worked on many community programs and research projects over the span of my career, I earn my living by bearing witness to people's lives and ideas. Bearing witness is what I recently had the privilege to do in directing the field work to help develop this series.
As a native Spanish-speaker, it is especially moving not only to witness, but also to contribute to important social changes that are improving the lives of our Latino families and communities.