opportunity to introduce myself and explain why I decided to join
the Family Pride team.
My political consciousness began at a very early age thanks to my
parents’ teachings. They were both involved in the Chicano
movement of the 1970s, aimed at ending discrimination against
people of Mexican descent in the Southwest. I was taught to be
proud of who I was, to never abandon my culture and to never forget
the struggle that our people have faced and continue to endure.
This acknowledgement of persecution has enabled me to take action
against injustice in various instances in my life.
My first exposure to LGBT issues came during the 1992 Senate
Democratic primary in Texas. I was in the fifth grade. Jose Angel
Gutierrez, a leader of La Raza Unida Party, a long-defunct
all Chicano political party that my parents were a part of in the
seventies, was running for the Democratic nomination for the U.S.
I went with my dad to a forum where Jose Angel was going to speak.
Gutierrez was seen as being too radical (both within the
Mexican-American community and outside of it) and many were
unwilling to support him.
Several people in the audience were members of the American GI
Forum, a Mexican-American civil rights organization from the
previous generation that butted heads with many in the Chicano
movement, and they were ready to take him on. The GI Forum is
mostly comprised of military veterans that fought against
discrimination against Mexicans within the ranks and later in the
population in general. They wanted to know where Jose Angel stood
on a controversial issue at the time: Clinton’s “don’t ask
don’t tell” policy.
When confronted, Jose Angel spoke passionately about how he had
fought discrimination his whole life and this was no different. An
entire group of people was being shut out of an institution, the
way Mexicans had been kept out of political office and jobs for so
long. He was adamant that you can’t split hairs when it comes to
persecution and went further, saying that not being vocal in
another group’s struggle makes you guilty of persecuting that
The speech really resonated with me and instilled in me a principle
that has led me to work on everything from workers’ rights issues
and the fight to end violence against women, to immigrants’
rights and now the LGBT movement.
I’m leaps and bounds away from supporting “don’t ask, don’t
tell” but it was that exchange that first exposed me to the LGBT
struggle. I believe that working together and realizing the
parallels within each of our struggles is a necessary component to
overcoming the challenges that face each of our communities.
We can, and should, all be allies in one struggle or another.