Pride month will be celebrated in June, but we should honor those that have fought for the rights of the LGBTQ+ communities all year long. Take the time to remember those who used their intersectionality to champion inclusion for both the Hispanic and LGBTQ+ communities. Here are five trailblazers you should know:
Coined as the “Rosa Parks of the modern transgender movement,” Sylvia Rivera was an American gay liberation and transgender rights activist who advocated for LGBTQ+ rights in New York during the 1970s until her death in 2002. Working with her friend, mentor and prominent figure in the Stonewall Riots, Marsha P. Johnson, Rivera co-founded the STAR group, an organization dedicated to helping homeless LGBTQ+ youth and trans women. As someone who suffered from systematic poverty and racism herself, she used her voice for unity, sharing her stories of pain and struggle to show her community they are not alone. She amplified the voices of the most vulnerable members of the gay community: drag queens, homeless youth, gay inmates in prison and jail and transgender people. Though she is best known for her dedication in furthering trans-inclusive legislation in New York and beyond, Rivera also used her identity to advocate for issues surrounding race and poverty and their intersectionality among transgender identities.
A human rights leader and HIV/AIDS activist, Dennis deLeon was one of the most prominent figures during the AIDS crisis for the Hispanic community. After briefly returning to private practice, deLeon was selected as president of the Latino Commission on AIDS in September 1994, a nonprofit organization with a mission to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Latino communities. During his time, the Latino Commission on AIDS grew tremendously, partnering with 380 organizations to foster their mission. They brought a national Spanish-language clearinghouse for AIDS information into being, worked with Spanish-speaking churches to build a network of AIDS prevention programs and provided structures for the mobilization of gay Latinos, immigrants, women and inmates living with AIDS. deLeon was also responsible for translating critical HIV information into Spanish, serving as the human rights commissioner in 1986, and for being one of the first public officials to disclose his own HIV diagnoses publicly.
Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa
Gloria Evangelina Anzaldúa was a writer, professor and scholar of Chicana feminism, cultural theory and queer theory. She has authored several books on her expertise, but is best known for her co-editing on the anthology, This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, and, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza, which was written based on her life growing up on the Mexico-Texas border and incorporated her lifelong experiences of social and cultural marginalization into her work. Her numerous essays were considered the foundational texts in the burgeoning field of Latinx philosophy, and greatly contributed to topics on feminism and cultural Chicana and queer theory. Along with academically contributing her perspectives on being Hispanic and LGBTQ+ to the world, Anzaldúa is known for bringing Hispanic and non-Hispanic people of the LGBTQ+ community together by using storytelling to speak on her intersectional identities.
Everyone knows Ricky Martin for his outstanding range of music and his contributions to the music world, but when he isn’t performing, Martin is working to further drive inclusion for the LGBTQ+ community. In 2010, Martin came out publicly and was the first mainstream Latin artist to do so. Since then, he’s been working with organizations like GLAAD and the Human Rights Campaign to advocate on behalf of inclusive legislation and representation of the LGBTQ+ community. He has become one of the most well-known activists in the Hispanic and Latinx communities, giving speeches in favor of the LGBTQ+ community on talks shows and among the United Nations. In 2022, Martin co-founded the Hispanic Federation’s Advance Change Together (ACT) initiative, which dispersed $1 million to 20 Latinx LGBTQ+ nonprofits across the country.
Jennicet Gutiérrez is an activist for transgender and immigrant rights. A transgender woman and an immigrant herself, Gutiérrez first garnered national attention in 2015 when she interrupted President Obama at a White House event to speak on behalf of LGBTQ+ immigrants in detention centers. She went on to become a founding member of the La Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, an organization that works at national and local levels to achieve the collective liberation of LGBT Latinas though community organizing, advocacy and education. Gutiérrez is also known for attending rallies and informative talks to educate others on the importance of safety and equity for transgender immigrants of color in detention centers.