Shortly after I accepted the role of guest editor for the LGBTQ+ feature section of this Visibility Issue, Bamby Salcedo—founder of the TransLatin@ Coalition—told me, “Always remember—not everyone gets to be in the rooms you are in. Don’t waste it.”
Bamby is right. In the LGBTQ+ community, we don’t always get that face time, that platform. And if you are a Latino member of this community, most likely you feel like you are still trying to be seen, and that you are an “other” twice over.
“Representation and inclusion matter.” We hear this over and over again, enough so that I think many people not seeking this representation tend to tune it out. For LGBTQ+ POC, however, the stakes are too high: we have no choice but to fight to be heard and to help effect change wherever we are. For us, trying to remain visible is something we work at every single day.
I remember a few years back when, in several meetings, I tried to make a case for leaning into LGBTQ+/POC storylines for shows like Empire and Glee. In those meetings, I heard about shows with special themed episodes featuring heroes of our community like Ricky Martin or Mariah Carey—episodes that they did not intend to pay extra attention to when marketing to our communities. It was always an uphill battle, and many times I was either the only gay POC in the room or one of two, out of forty-plus other executives. But how things have changed . . . somewhat.
People are listening. Pop culture has placed greater importance on our stories than ever, with shows like FX’s Pose and HBO Max’s Veneno shining a bright light on the trans POC community and exhibiting a layer of depth that television has never bothered to showcase before. Allies are being found, and they are being proactive. We are gaining access to the table and being listened to.
But to truly have a voice, we must ensure that we have a seat at the table in every kind of industry. While our allies are certainly important in realizing change, it simply isn’t enough unless we are there alongside them in those high-level meetings. We understand the nuances of our community and can infuse our inclusion like no other.
Inclusion for our community is no longer just the right thing to do, or the politically correct thing to do—there is now an acknowledgement that our community can bring big business as well as a return on investment (sometimes referred to as “pink money”). We are very brand-loyal, influential, and have huge spending power—just like the Hispanic community as a whole. If you are both Hispanic and LGBTQ+, well then you do the math.
For proof, one need only look at Hulu’s Love, Victor, which gave us the coming-of-age and coming-out story that we all wanted to see as we were growing up. The series was the most-watched drama on the platform during its premiere week, and also had the most-binged first week of any original drama series on Hulu in 2020. Our community is influential: we can make or break a show.
Organizations across America are taking note of these realities. The mere fact that this magazine—a Latino-owned, non-LGBTQ+ publication—has given the community a space is a big step forward. We see leaders in our community climbing the ranks in the nonprofit sector, helping to educate and provide support for communities all across the country. Whether you look at Los Angeles’s Latino Equality Alliance group or New York’s Harlem United, it’s clear that members of our community are looking out for both each other and their cities as a whole.
This is exactly what needs to happen in all areas of the workplace. Maybe we can do more to look out for all the people in our community who aren’t at the table, like Bamby pointed out. Maybe there’s something else we can do to honor those before us who fought just as hard to be heard. Or maybe we have the ability to improve things for everyone in our community, including the forty-nine beautiful souls we lost in the Orlando Pulse shooting (which occurred on the club’s “Latino night”).
Whatever we do, there will always be a need for us to take up space. Remaining visible is our duty. We carry that weight on our shoulders, and we know our lives depend on it. If you are an ally, then be a true ally and pull up a chair in your next meeting—virtual or otherwise—and offer someone a seat. Do it juntos, do it con, and do it with pride.