Hispanic Executive hosted The Visibility Issue LIVE on July 15 in celebration of its latest issue, and the virtual event did not disappoint.
The inaugural Visibility Issue spotlights two underrepresented groups: Latino members of the LGBTQ+ and inmigrantes communities. At the event, which was sponsored by Visible, the following speakers shared their experiences and insights in a panel discussion moderated by Visibility Issue Guest Editor and WarnerMedia’s Marketing Director of Equity and Inclusion Roman Navarrette: Latinx filmmaker Armando Ibañez, Barry’s CEO Joey Gonzalez, GLAAD’s Director of Spanish Language and Latinx Media Representation Monica Trasandes, and CC3 Entertainment Founder Carmen Carrera.
Here are some of the key takeaways from their conversation:
Widening the View of Trans People
Media representation of the trans community was very siloed when Carrera, who is also a model and activist, was growing up. As a child, she only saw trans people either being feared or being mocked. The LGBTQ+ community in general was “othered,” and this misrepresentation prompted her to set out to discover what this community had to offer in real life and prove the world wrong, she said.
“We are not what is on TV,” she said. “We are so much more than that. We have more to offer. So I think resiliency comes to mind when I think about pushing for visibility. I was met with a lot of adversity within the industry because people didn’t really have an idea of where a trans person could exist. So how could they offer me a job as model or a spokesperson or as an actress if they didn’t even really understand how we fit into society, or why it’s so important to be visible, or why it’s so important to tell our stories?”
To that end, a big part of Carrera’s journey has been working to convince people of the importance of trans visibility and sharing her personal journey in order to spark that human connection.
“People [need to] understand that we have loving relationships, we have drive, we have this need and desire to tell our story,” she said. “That’s really my journey. I was like, ‘I’m going to prove everyone wrong because I know for a fact that we have so much love to offer and we have so much creativity to contribute to the arts.’”
Improved Media Representation
The number one reason why people change their minds about LGBTQ+ people is because they know someone who is LGBTQ+, Trasandes said. The second reason is because they encountered a member of that community through the media.
That is exactly why GLAAD advocates for visibility for the LGBTQ+ community and for true, accurate storytelling about that community in the media. For years, Trasandes said, the media showcased incorrect stereotypes about LGBTQ+ individuals. Fortunately, she’s now seeing trends go in the right direction.
“I see attitudes changing, thankfully. I see media attitudes changing from, ‘Not sure. This is a controversial issue.’ It’s not an issue: we’re people, and we’re here,” the director said. “And we’re a huge part of the Latino community. So it’s super important, and I’m proud to do the work I do.”
You’re Allowed to Dream
Ibañez grew up in a poor, segregated part of Acapulco in his native Mexico. Once, when he attended a music festival populated by soap opera celebrities, he noticed with disappointment that they were all white.
“I was like, ‘Wait, they’re portraying poor people in the soap operas and they don’t look like me. I don’t look like them,’” he said. “That’s when I started realizing that the film industry, the entertainment industry, was only for white people. And that’s when I started accepting that I wasn’t beautiful somehow, that I wasn’t allowed to dream big. That I wasn’t allowed to have goals—because living in poverty, usually the only thing you have in mind is that you need to learn how to survive every day. You’re not allowed to dream.”
Unfortunately, coming to the US didn’t immediately change Ibañez’s mindset. The struggle to simply survive was very difficult, and his own circle kept reiterating the message that their lives were just about working and surviving. At the time, he was also “living in the closet,” which made everything even more difficult.
“I spent many years living like that, but I just couldn’t accept it,” he said. “I wasn’t happy.”
Everything changed when Ibañez saw undocumented protestors advocating for change on television. This prompted him to join their ranks, attend community college, and, at the age of thirty-five, start making films.
“It’s important to bring visibility to the undocumented queer community because media is telling us the opposite,” he said. “It’s telling us that we shouldn’t be here, that we shouldn’t exist, that we don’t belong here. So with every project that I get involved in, I want to tell my people, ‘We deserve everything. We deserve to be alive, and we deserve to exist in this country.’”