Thoughts on Creating Change's Wildly Successful First-Ever Latino Institute

The organizers of Unión=Fuerza—the first-ever Latino daylong institute at the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force's conference Creating Change—humbly expected that perhaps 50 out of the 100 that had pre-registered for the Institute would show up. But on the morning of January 24, we were all stunned to see that the Institute conference area was packed; and then our jaws all dropped upon learning  that over 150 participants were joining us!

Equally remarkable was seeing the vast majority of the participants in the fully packed room raising their hands when asked if it was their first time at  Creating Change, showing the great need for an LGBT Latino space.

The fully bilingual Institute (interpreters were available for monolingual English and Spanish-speakers) was live tweeted and hosted dialogues and action-oriented sessions around immigration and transgender advocacy, family acceptance, and marriage equality, among others. In addition, GLAAD’s Director of Spanish-Language Media and I led a training in Spanish to empower and equip participants to tell their stories in the media as a way to create acceptance and inclusion for LGBT people.

The energy and passion were palpable in a room full of participants from a variety of backgrounds, cities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico, interests and ages, all excited to make a difference through the Latino Institute. As Maryland-based youth Ivan Aguilar wrote prior to the conference:

Many of us, including myself, are from communities where accessing quality education, jobs and health services is an incredible obstacle. And although I, like so many other LGBT Latinos, have enormous amounts of love and support from our families and friends, many still face rejection because of our sexual orientation or gender identity. 

This is why the Latino Institute is important to me. There are many advocates like myself around the country — in urban and rural areas — doing all we can with limited resources to create a better life for LGBT Latinos/as and our families, and this Institute will help take our work to the next level.

Notably, CNN en Español covered the Latino Institute and the segment--which featured Los Angeles-based mom and ally Rosa Manríquez--aired on Nuestro Mundo. In addition, Daniel Hernandez, the openly gay Latino who helped save Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ life in January 2011, made an appearance at the Institute and remarked on the importance of having a space for LGBT Latinos. Hernandez has a book coming out soon titled They Call Me a Hero: A Memoir of My Youth.

As a proud community partner of the Unión=Fuerza Latino Institute, GLAAD is honored to continue to work with its organizers beyond the conference to ensure its success. For a list of community partners or to sign up as a community partner,click here.

To learn more about the project, visit the fully bilingual official Unión=Fuerza Latino Institute website. To receive the latest updates on the Latino Institute, connect on Facebook and Twitter.