Histories of LGBT activism in the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s often reduce the role that Latinas/os played, resulting in misinformation, or ignore them entirely, erasing them from history. Queer Brown Voices is the first book published to counter this trend by documenting the efforts of some of these LGBT Latinx activists through authentic testimonies of their own lived experiences. For this event, three of the anthology’s co-editors, Letitia Gomez, Mona Noriega, and Salvador Vidal-Ortiz, will be joining us to discuss their work.
Born and raised in San Antonio, Texas, Letitia Gomez volunteered with the 1977 farm worker march from Austin to Washington, while a student at the University of Texas at Austin. After graduating, she moved to Houston, where she began organizing with the Gay Chicano Caucus. In San Antonio, while working on her Master’s in Urban Studies at Trinity University, Leti helped plan a first Latina Lesbian retreat and participated in organizing the Gay and Lesbian Tejano Network before moving to DC to begin an internship with the federal government. She arrived just in time for the 1987 National March for Lesbian and Gay Rights. In the 1990’s, she was a president of ENLACE, a support organization for lesbian and gay Latina/os in the D.C. metro area, and one of the founding co-chairs of LLEGÓ, the first national Latina/o LGBT organization. She participated in organizing the 1991 National Lesbian Conference, held in Atlanta, and served on DC’s Civilian Complaint Review Board and Latino Civil Rights Taskforce. She served on advisory boards for the Lesbian Services Program of DC’s Whitman-Walker Clinic, the Rainbow History Project, and the D.C. Latino/a LGBT History Project. She served on the boards of D.C. Council on Women and AIDs, National Lesbian and Gay Health Foundation, AIDs Action, the Whitman Walker Clinic, Many Voices, and La Trenza Leadership. She also served as a member and later secretary of the D.C. Democratic State Committee.
Mona Noriega, since 20111 has served as the Chairman and Commissioner of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations. The Commission works to address prejudice and discrimination, supports victims of hate crimes, and enforces the City of Chicago’s anti-discrimination laws. In 1993, Noriega helped open the Midwest office of Lambda Legal Defense, which advances the civil rights of LGBT individuals, and then returned to serve as Midwest Regional Director in 2001. In 1995 Mona co-founded Amigas Latinas, an organization committed to the empowerment and education of Latina lesbian, bisexual and questioning women. In 1999 Noriega was founding co-chair and senior bid consultant to bring the Gay Games to Chicago. Most recently Noriega organized the 2014 Hate Crime Summit hosted at UIC, recognized by Latinos Progresando 2015 Award, Center on Halsted’s 2014 Human First Award, Out For Work’s 2013 OUTstanding Individual, and was recognized by State’s Attorney Alvarez with the 2012 Community Service Award. Currently Noriega is a member of the LGBTQ Coalition for Immigrant Rights, Hate Crimes Coalition, serves on the board of Mujeres Latinas en Acción, and annually serves as an Honorary Co-Chair of Chicago Build the Peace Committee.
Salvador Vidal-Ortiz (Ph.D.), is associate professor of sociology at American University, where he also teaches for the Women’s, Gender & Sexuality Studies program. His scholarship focuses on social issues of impact to LGBT people in the U.S. and abroad, with a recent Fulbright to conduct research among LGBT Colombians who have been internally displaced. He conducts qualitative research within and beyond his discipline, with research areas that include Race and Ethnicity, Migration, Transgender Studies, Gender and Sexuality in Santería (an Afro-Cuban religious-cultural practice), Queer Theory, Autoethnography/Personal Narratives, Body/Embodiment, Policy, and Cultural Studies on HIV/AIDS. As a scholar-activist for 25 years, he has contributed to NGOs including the National Latino/a Lesbian and Gay Organization (LLEGÓ), The Funding Exchange, and the Puerto Rico AIDS Foundation. Dr. Salvador Vidal-Ortiz teaches for sociology and women’s, gender and sexuality studies at American University in Washington, DC. As a scholar-activist for 25 years, he has contributed to NGOs including the National Latino/a Lesbian and Gay Organization (LLEGÓ), The Funding Exchange, and the Puerto Rico AIDS Foundation.