Editors' note:Catherine M. Pino is a member of the NCLR Board of Directors, The Arcus Foundation, and the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce. She is also a co-founder and principal of D&P Creative Strategies, a company founded in 2004 with her partner Ingrid. Catherine's aim is to advance corporate, philanthropic, and legislative efforts that mirror her deep commitment to social justice and civil rights issues. For more information on NCLR, visit their website.
If you haven't heard by now, the 2010 U.S. Census revealed that the United States Hispanic population now numbers 50 million and accounts for more than half of the nation's growth. Latinos make up one of the fastest growing segments of our population and will undoubtedly play a significant role in shaping the future of the United States. Indeed, nearly 500,000 Latinos will turn 18 every year for the next 10 years. The 2010 Census also revealed that Latinos are living in every region of the country and in every type of community one might think of - from large urban centers to small rural towns.
LGBT Latinos, like me, are hopeful for what these numbers could mean to the broader LGBT struggle for equality. As a member of the Board of Directors for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the nation's largest Hispanic civil rights organization, I am passionate about exploring how my two communities can find commonality and work to promote a better life for more people. Unfortunately, the dialogue between these two communities has, at times, been adversarial. Despite the realities of the past, I still believe Latinos and LGBT people can come together and forge an alliance that will benefit both groups.
Before delving into how the two communities can mutually benefit each other, it is worth noting that life for LGBT Latinos can be especially difficult. Perhaps the most disturbing trend is the uptick in violence against LGBT people of color in recent years. Earlier this month, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs published a report that showed that in 2010 queer people of color were disproportionately susceptible to being attacked for their sexual orientation. In fact, 70 percent of the victims of anti-LGBT and HIV-affected murders were people of color. This sobering fact is compounded by the recent news of the more than 18 murders of LGBT Puerto Ricans in the last year and a half. It is plain to see that the Latino community has a vested interest in undoing anti-LGBT policies, which have a direct connection to the sort of violence inflicted upon queer people of color.
The figures are just as grim when it comes to health disparities. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, Latinos accounted for 17 percent of new HIV infections in 2006 and 21 percent of new AIDS diagnoses in 2009. The same study found that the prevalence of HIV/AIDS is high among gay and bisexual Latino men. According to the report, a study of five major cities in America showed that 17 percent of Latino gay and bisexual men were infected with HIV. Perhaps most alarming is the rate at which our young LGBT Latinos are contracting the virus. Newly infected Hispanic gay and bisexual men between the ages of 13 and 29 account for 43 percent of new infections compared to just 25 percent of their White counterparts. These findings are compounded by other data, which suggest that Latinos are more likely to be uninsured than Whites and less likely to receive treatment.
Of course, the immigration debate that has been raging in this country for years is another issue that has made life more challenging for the Hispanic community. Immigration, however, is also an intersection between the two communities that has the potential to build lasting bridges. I was especially heartened to read about this happening last month at the Netroots Nation conference in Minneapolis. The country's most prominent LGBT bloggers and reporters came together to hear the stories and experiences of DREAM students, all of whom happened to be gay. They heard stories about how those LGBT Latinos who are also undocumented have to, in effect, come out twice. Going public with their immigration status is often a more harrowing event. This meeting was an important first step in establishing relationships with a segment of the population that has often been forgotten and overlooked. I'm looking forward to watching how the conversations started in Minneapolis continue to take place online.
For its part, NCLR is working to foster those conversations. It will continue to build on its history of LGBT outreach, which dates back to the 1980s when the organization was the very first Latino organization to take on the HIV/AIDS issue. That work played a key role in launching what is now known as the Institute for Hispanic Health. To help us continue this tradition of outreach, NCLR has recently partnered with the Gill Foundation, which will support the organization's efforts to establish and foster stronger ties between the Latino community and the LGBT community. The beginning of this new partnership will be showcased this coming Sunday when the Gill Foundation and NCLR will host a reception for LGBT allies at its Annual Conference.
In the coming months, NCLR will also make more announcements about its work with the Gill Foundation and the LGBT community. I will be sure to keep abreast of those developments.
I am proud to serve NCLR and the millions of Latinos it represents all over the country. I look forward to helping this fine organization build better relationships with the LGBT community and to find ways to enhance the important work that is being done all in the name of equality.
imgs courtesy of NCLR