By Juan Carlos Vega, Guest Blogger
Reporting from the 2010 National Coalition for LGBT Health Meeting
Cool– I didn’t have to makeup a title for this blog! The title of my first breakout session on the second day of conferences had the heading ready for me. Ms. Veronica Bayetti Flores from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health began moderating the session by stating that many working in public health sometimes forget that there are intersections among the populations we tend to engage separately. The reality that a Latina immigrant lesbian belongs to more than one community seems invisible to many.
As Mr. Ben De Guzman from the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (NQAPIA) spoke of LGBT Asian American & Pacific Islander realities and collaboration, I allowed my mind to visualize a similar group in Puerto Rico focused on health. Similarly, Mr. Jasper Hendricks from the National Black Justice Coalition shared his concerns regarding the LGBT Black community. According to Mr. Hendricks, LGBT youth roughly made 8% of the U.S. population; of which it is estimated that 40% are homeless; and of which 60% are African American.
AAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!! Why aren’t we talking about these populations at the national level and exploring culturally competent approaches to serve these communities? The inter-sectionalities between class and racial privilege demand deeper conversations within the queer movement.
There were only 11 people present at this session, of which (based on my first humble impression), most of them were queer of color. This session should be a PLENARY so that all that need to hear this information are present, and so that everyone that needs to be engaged is brought into the conversation. The commonalities regarding the intersections and connections that Mr. Guzman spoke of are similar in Latino/a communities regarding immigration issues, desegregation of data by ethnicity, and the difficulty to reach populations that are not always visible (i.e. Latina immigrant lesbian). Two of the Coalition’s Board members were present at the session. I don’t doubt their commitment to this issue for the Coalition’s meeting next year.
I do not expect mainstream groups to work within communities of color. Our communities have to push through to be heard and obtain equal participation during the decision-making process. The tobacco control movement has done a pretty good job at engaging and uniting all groups of color, even got government and foundation funding to work on commonalities, targeting specific ethnic groups, and exploring those inter-sectionalities successfully. The LGBT movement needs to learn some of these lessons and be more inclusive. We need to explore concepts of race and ethnicity, the history of colonialism and civil rights, aspects of culture, geography, language, and different ways people relate to one another or build relationships that are key to live healthy lives.