Report Highlights Needs of Aging LGBT Latinos

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Photo: ep_jhu, Creative Commons

Working toward a peaceful retirement is a dream for many Americans. However, a diverse set of challenges often make growing older especially difficult for a number of groups who consistently face adversity and marginalization. A study released by the National Hispanic Council on Aging (NHCOA) and Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders (SAGE), In Their Own Words: a Needs Assessment of Hispanic LGBT Older Adults, examines how the elderly LGBT Hispanic population is coping with growing older in communities where they often face multiple levels of discrimination due to their dual identities.

While NCLR has documented the tremendous progress that has been made over the past decade in the Hispanic community with regard to the acceptance and support of LGBT people, there is limited research available on elderly people who identify as both Hispanic and LGBT. NHCOA and SAGE both advocate for the elderly in their respective communities and combined their efforts to more effectively highlight the community’s needs.

The report finds that while LGBT Latinos of all ages share similar struggles or challenges, aging LGBT Latinos are especially challenged by high levels of economic insecurity as a result of employment discrimination. Anti-LGBT bias can prevent them from maintaining stable employment throughout their lives. From the limited research that exists on same-sex Hispanic couples, for example, more than 70 percent of individuals report having full-time employment, which is certainly encouraging, but less than 25 percent reported having completed education beyond high school.

AgingLGBT_blogpic_4The report also shed light on an often overlooked issue that the elderly Hispanic LGBT population faces—social isolation. Participants in the focus groups highlighted a number of issues ranging from cultural intolerance to religion to ageism that can leave elderly LGBT Hispanics feeling left in the shadows. One participant noted that being LGBT within the Hispanic community was a “secret understanding” and that “if you don’t say it, people will accept you.” Another participant shared his experience of being isolated even within the LGBT community because “you have the factor of being invisible … because not only do you have ageism, you have the LGBT community, where being old is not looked upon well, especially with men.” Many participants noted the importance of family in overcoming social isolation, but added that they need more resources to educate their families and communities about sexual and gender identity.

Ultimately, in order to meet the needs of the elderly LGBT Hispanic population, more research needs to be done to better understand the unique challenges that they face and to develop more effective strategies that will prepare them for growing older in a stable environment. This report certainly lays the groundwork for developing a more accurate picture of the needs of a rather voiceless population. But building upon this work with outreach to this community will be the key to reversing alarming trends and to ensuring that they live out their later years happier and healthier.

In Colorado, the Fight for Marriage Equality Also Includes Fighting for Immigration Reform

Guest blog post by Dave Montez, Executive Director, One Colorado and Julien Ross, Executive Director, Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition

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An October immigration reform rally also included LGBT allies.

If the past few months have shown us anything, it’s that advocates for equality have the momentum on their side in every corner of the country. And with groups like One Colorado and the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition working day in and day out to ensure all of our families have the dignity and protections they need, the fight to secure the freedom to marry and comprehensive immigration reform is in full swing.

Most recently, state LGBT advocacy group One Colorado has been watching the two marriage equality cases in Utah and Oklahoma that are making their way to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Colorado. We’ve also traveled all across the state to hear from LGBT Coloradans and their allies. During every single visit of this statewide tour, the message was crystal clear: thousands of families across Colorado are counting on us to make certain we are victorious in our efforts.

We know there are multiple paths available to overturn our state’s constitutional ban on marriage equality, which could happen either through the courts or by a vote of the people. Our goal is to achieve the freedom to marry for all Coloradans as quickly as possible, but we also want to make sure that our victory endures.

Each pathway requires different strategies. However, there is one element they all share: the need for a robust public education campaign that reaches Coloradans in their own communities. Victories in other states have proven that our families’ stories of love and commitment connect with people in a powerful way. We also know that in the Latino community, we’ve been taught to treat others the way we want to be treated, and we don’t turn our backs on family.

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Undocumented queer youth outside the Supreme Court last year.

In many ways, Latino families are at the center of this important discussion. According to a 2012 report co-authored by the Movement Advancement Project, Family Equality Council, and Center for American Progress, Latino gay and lesbian couples are more likely to be raising children than white gay and lesbian couples. For these families who are trying to take care of each other, there is no question that marriage is a Latino issue.

Importantly, recent studies and polls have shown strong Latino support for marriage equality, including a national survey in 2013 by the Public Religion Research Institute, which found that a majority – 55 percent – of Hispanics favor allowing gay and lesbian Americans to marry.

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NCLR President and CEO Janet Murguía calls for marriage equality outside the Supreme Court.

This growth in support for LGBT people and issues is coming not just from Latino families, but also from community leaders and national organizations like the National Council of La Raza and LULAC – both of which have come out in strong support for the freedom to marry.

There’s also no doubt that media coverage of our families and our stories has made a big difference. We know that media in English and Spanish can provide an important way to reach people, and that’s why here in Colorado, we will continue to lift up these stories and demonstrate why marriage matters to all of our families – gay and straight alike.

Immigration FamiliesThe freedom to marry is not the only issue that impacts Latino families. As part of our work, we must commit ourselves to fighting for every member of our community. Now is the time to push harder than ever to ensure that the millions of immigrants in our country, including an estimated 267,000 undocumented individuals who identify as LGBT, are fully integrated into our society – so that they can see their identities as a blessing and an opportunity for personal and community growth. Their experiences are a testament to the fact that immigration is an LGBT issue, and their stories must be told.

These efforts to educate the public and make the case for opportunity need to happen now. Because when the freedom to marry and comprehensive immigration reform are a reality, we need to have built as much support as possible for our families. Creating that climate across our state is critical to winning and sustaining our victories. A welcoming environment is also an important factor in helping our families integrate into their communities.

Our organizations are as committed as ever to ensuring that all families in Colorado are treated with dignity and respect. One way or another, we know that full equality is coming to Colorado; it’s not a question of “if,” only a matter of when and how.

La Union Hace La Fuerza at Creating Change: Wrap-up

Today, the Creating Change conference kicked off in Houston with day-long institutes on a variety of issues, including one dedicated to LGBT Latinos, La Union Hace La Fuerza. We’ve put together highlights of the 2nd annual event for you!

It’s About Family

By Octavio Espinal, Associate Director, Office of the President, NCLR

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My partner Eric (right) and I at the 2012 NCLR ALMA Awards

Familia es familia.  Family is family.

These words have never been truer than they are right now.  I am in a loving, committed relationship, and having the support of my entire family has strengthened mine and Eric’s affection for each other.  It has brought us all closer together.  But my family does not extend their unconditional love and support because I’m gay.  Whether straight, gay, bisexual, or transgender, I have their support because they recognize that family matters above all else.

Family support is a cultural value that I’m proud to say is a hallmark of the Latino community.  For my family and countless others, it doesn’t make sense, nor is it acceptable, for them to deny one of their own simply because of who they love.  Rather, they have opened their arms and their homes to Eric precisely because he is who I love, not in spite of it.

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