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Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope

Encouraging reflection on all of the contributions Hispanic people have made in the past & will continue to make in the future

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East Los Angeles Library presents Mariachi Arcoiris during Hispanic Heritage Month. On National Coming Out Day, the first LGBT mariachi in the world performs and discusses the sensitive topic that can be very taboo in the Hispanic community. (Photo Credit: Mayra B. Vasquez / Los Angeles County )

EL PUEBLO DE LOS ANGELES – The theme for this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.” It encourages reflection on all of the contributions Hispanic people and their community have made in the past and will continue to make in the future. It is also a reminder that all communities are stronger together.

For the LGBTQ+ Latinx community this year it is incredibly poignant that the theme is so brilliantly illustrated in the form of progress and elevated presence of dynamic young and incredible older people who are making their mark in the truth of the spirit of that theme.

Earlier this year, California Governor Gavin Newsom selected Alex Padilla as the first Latino United States Senator to represent California, the nation’s most populous state, which also has the largest Latino population in the nation to fill the seat that was held by the departing Vice-President Kamala Harris.

Padilla has a strong track record as an elected official championing LGBTQ equality. He publicly campaigned against Proposition 8 which called for a state constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. As a former state senator, he strongly supported the School Success and Opportunities Act, which protects transgender students and allows them to fully participate in school, and he earned a 100% Equality rating from Equality California in regard to his voting record when he served as a state senator.

For the past three years,  Ricardo Lara, the son of Mexican immigrants has served as the 8th Insurance Commissioner and the first LGBT person elected statewide in the state of California.

An important and critical voice for the Latinx Trans community is the head of Trans [email protected] Coalition (TLC) Bamby Salcedo. “My life has been very complicated and it didn’t really get started until I was 30 years old,” Salcedo said, with a mixture of pride and wonder in her voice in an interview with the Blade. And for the transgender latin community in the United States, that has resulted in something of a miracle. Or as Bamby puts it, “Yo soy un milagro.”

The City of Long Beach’s Mayor Robert Garcia, the first openly gay person elected mayor of Long Beach, advocates for more affordable housing, right the wrongs of income inequality, and protect his most vulnerable citizens – the homeless, immigrants, those who are undocumented, and the LGBTQ community.

Tony Thurmond, who was sworn in as the 28th California State Superintendent of Public Instruction on January 7, 2019, found inspiration from his mother, an immigrant from Panama who came to San Jose, California, to be a teacher. A former member of the California State Assembly, representing District 15, the Superintendent is also a former educator.

The environment and LGBTQ rights have been at the forefront of Rick Zbur’s career. Many in the LGBTQ community may be unaware that the outgoing Equality California Executive Director has another not-so-secret passion: he’s a longtime environmentalist. In fact, he is the immediate past board chair for the California League of Conservation Voters and as an attorney has championed both LGBTQ equality and the environment.

The 37th Mayor of the City of San Diego, former Democratic State Assemblyman Todd Gloria, made history across a spectrum of significant firsts as in addition to being the first openly gay person to lead the city. Gloria, “the son of a hotel maid and a gardener” is also the first person of color in the Mayor’s chair. Gloria is a third-generation San Diegan of Filipino, Native American, Puerto Rican, and Dutch descent. 

Rounding up the list of community leaders is longtime LGBTQ ally Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León who announced that he was joining the mayor’s race this past month. Born in Los Angeles of Guatemalan and Mexican descent, raised by a loving, hard-working single mother, de León, 51, got an education and spent 12 years in Sacramento, rising to become the President Pro Tem of the California Senate before being elected to the LA City Council. 

“Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope,” goes beyond the older generations as the young people take their places as dynamic members of the community. As a part of that comes the influence of social media and the young people working in those cultural spaces.

One of those groups of young people are part of the Los Angeles based “The Q Agenda,” a talk show that covers topics such as entertainment, lifestyle, politics, fashion and music from the LGBTQ perspective and is the first show of it’s kind catering to the LatinX community.

The cast of the Q Agenda (Photo Credit: Carlos Marin)

The show which airs weekly on LATV, is hosted by a passionate community of Latinx LGBTQ+ personalities and influencers including, actress and trans activist Juliana Joel, comedian Lianna Carrera, celebrity makeup artist and entrepreneur Victor Ramos and actor, host and reality TV personality Enrique Sapene.

The cast of the show starts off with Spaene, an award winning actor, host, journalist and producer. He has worked as a reporter on Univision News, Livin Large NBC, Jimmy Kimmel Live ABC, The Insider CBS and Telemundo News. Plus, as an actor he was a series regular on Hacienda Heights for ION and recurred on the Amazon Prime series “Borderline” to name a few. His telenovelas “Pecadora”, “El Alma Herida”, “Eva la Trailera” and  “Tomame o Dejame” have been viewed globally.

Next up is Juliana Joel, a Latinx actress, activist and current co-host on LATV’s The Q Agenda of the trans experience. Juliana has worked with various organizations as well as spoken at events and on panels such as; Models of Pride (the world’s largest conference for LGBT youth and allies), the Los Angeles LGBT Center, TransLatina Coalition,  GLAAD, LA Pride, JQ, TransCanWork, the annual Trans Equality Brunch at the West Hollywood Council and the National Association of Latino Independent Producers.

An androgynous Afro-Latin male, Victor Ramos hopes to bring awareness and represent the Afro-LatinX community and serve as a point of reference in media to which the community can relate. He is a Lifestyle Influencer and TV host. He has amassed a cult following on social media through his style, creative makeup looks and candid openness to share everything on his mind.

Finally, hailing from Chicago originally, Lianna Carrera, is a Latinx and queer stand-up comedian, television host, and actor who hails from a deaf family background. She has been a frequent contributor media outlets and has been seen on Buzzfeed, The Advocate, Huffington Post Comedy and Glamour Magazine.

Politics and entertainment have always played a central role in the landscape of Los Angeles, but in celebration of “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope,” the Blade is proud to highlight just a few of the incredible people who literally make a difference daily for their own community and the world at large.

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Secretary Buttigieg’s son back home after spending Halloween in hospital

“After 3 weeks in and out of hospitals, 125 miles in an ambulance, and a terrifying week on a ventilator, Gus is home”

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U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, husband Chasten and son Gus (Photo Credit: Chasten Buttigieg)

WASHINGTON – U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg’s husband, Chasten Buttigieg, shared that their son Joseph Augustus, referred to as Gus, is home from the hospital after spending weeks in and out of the hospital. 

“After 3 weeks in and out of hospitals, 125 miles in an ambulance, and a terrifying week on a ventilator, Gus is home, smiling, and doing great!” Chasten Buttigieg tweeted. “We’re so relieved, thankful, and excited for him and Penelope to take DC by storm! Thank you so much for all of the love and prayers.”

He also thanked “the countless medical professionals who helped Gus (and his dads and sister) along the way. We are so grateful for your tenderness and care.”

The Buttigieg’s revealed last week that Gus had to spend Halloween in the hospital after falling ill. 

“As you can see, we’re spending this Halloween in the hospital,” Chasten wrote on Twitter at the time. “Gus has been having a rough go of it but we’re headed in the right direction. We’re so thankful for all of the love and support shown to our family these last few months.”

The couple has still not revealed why their son was hospitalized. 

In September, the couple revealed that they welcomed two babies, Joseph August and Penelope Rose, to their family.

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Secretary Buttigieg spends Halloween in hospital with ill son

The couple did not reveal why their son was hospitalized

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Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg & husband Chasten via Twitter

WASHINGTON — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his husband Chasten Buttigieg spent Halloween in the hospital after their son Joseph August, referred to as Gus, fell ill. 

“As you can see, we’re spending this Halloween in the hospital,” Chasten wrote on Twitter. “Gus has been having a rough go of it but we’re headed in the right direction. We’re so thankful for all of the love and support shown to our family these last few months.”

The couple did not reveal why their son was hospitalized.

The Buttigieg’s revealed in September that they welcomed two babies, Joseph August and Penelope Rose, to their family.

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Notables

I Am a Queer Filmmaker: Can I tell you my story?

I think the best way to eradicate the anti-LGBTQ hatred that persists around the world is to show the breadth of queer people’s humanity

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James Patrick Nelson (Courtesy of the author)

By James Patrick Nelson | BROOKLYN – Our community has made enormous progress in recent years. We are living in a time of unprecedented queer visibility, which empowers us to keep moving forward, and to heal the scars that linger from our recent past.

“Be Will instead of Jack.”

Screenshot of Eric McCormack (Will) and Sean Hayes (Jack) in “Will and Grace”

When I was 14-years-old, “Will and Grace” was a cultural phenomenon — the first queer-led show to attract a world-wide audience. The night I came out to my father, he told me, “Be Will instead of Jack”. At the time, I dismissed this as a harmless laugh-line.

But looking back, it reveals how limited representation fuels internalized homophobia. Apart from being openly femme-shaming, the comment made it sound like there were only two “types” of gay people — flaming or passing.

High school photo of me, shortly after coming out.

And I knew I didn’t fit into either category. I knew my identity was more nuanced and complex than the archetypes on TV. But at that age, having never seen myself reflected on screen, I bought into the idea that there were only a handful of ways to be gay. And so, I spent a lot of my youth struggling to fit in, always feeling like I needed to change something about my body or my voice or my fashion, if I wanted to be part of the club.

But then 2020 offered me a lot of introspection, and I realized I don’t have to fit into a mold. All of the fabulous nuances of my identity are all part of my queerness. And I don’t have to change myself to be part of a community. When I make art and tell stories, I get to build communities, founded on love and authenticity.

Will and Jack are not the only options. There are countless ways to be gay!

Representation Matters

The question remains, how do queer people learn to cherish the remarkable nuances of our identities if we rarely see nuanced, authentic portraits of ourselves on screen?

Cover Image of the Advocate article linked below

Of course, there’s a big difference between nuance and authenticity. Scores of actors have been nominated for Oscars for giving nuanced performances of queer characters. In 2018, the majority of actors who won an Oscar were playing a queer character.

But in these widely distributed films… the actors have always been straight.

No one is saying that an actor has to be exactly like his character in every way, or that talent is a secondary concern. The debate is about access and equality! While queer characters appear with increasing frequency, queer actors are so rarely given the spotlight, despite the authenticity they would bring.

Wikipedia chart listing leading actresses who’ve been nominated for Oscars for queer roles.

When queer stories are populated with straight actors, and geared toward the perceived sensibilities of a straight audience, they often perpetuate unconscious stereotypes.

Queer characters in leading roles are usually in turmoil about their sexuality. And if they have a love interest, they’re always hetero-presenting and meet an unattainable standard of beauty.

Straight people get how painful it is to live in a culture that tells us we have to look a certain way to be loved. Imagine that compounded with the idea that you have to pass as straight to be worthy of love in the first place.

After all, “Be Will instead of Jack” could also be interpreted as “Be more like the one who’s played by a straight actor.”

This pervasive heterosexism means the rest of us never see a healthy or affirming reflection of ourselves. So what’s to be done?

We have to tell our own stories

In recent years, American television has generally done a better job than American cinema at showcasing LGBTQ+ people in leading roles.

For Years to Come” creative references.

Some of my favorites are “Work in Progress” on Showtime, “Please Like Me” on Hulu, and “Feel Good” on Netflix, all examples of LGBTQ+ artists creating and starring in semi-autobiographical stories — a huge inspiration.

I’ve been a working professional actor my entire life, I’ve been screenwriting for about six years, and I’ve recently started producing my own work. I spent 2020 writing and developing a number of film/TV projects, all focused on queer protagonists and majority-queer ensembles.

Recent queer-centric work for stage and film (Clockwise: Waking Up, Speak What We Feel, For Years to Come, Immortal Longings, and Without Touch).

I realized recently that both of the produced feature films I’ve written were sparked by perspectives rooted in my queer-identity. But in both cases, I let the queerness get buried, and the films suffered as a result. From now on, I’m determined to lean into my queerness as a catalyst for my work.

Queer filmmakers don’t have to wait to be picked. We don’t need anyone’s permission. We need to start telling our own stories — here’s one of mine.

When my mother was dying, I found out my father was a porn director.


For Years to Come” poster art. Photo by Evan Smith.

In 2010, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer. She received in-home hospice care, and I went home to be with her. I knew it was the last time I’d ever see her, so we had a lot of candid conversations. I sat on the bed and asked her about her childhood, her dreams, her regrets, the men she dated before my father — everything!

She freely admitted she spent a lot of her life complaining about the small stuff, like she had all the time in the world. But as I sat with her on the bed, she was more peaceful than I’d ever seen her. She didn’t want to waste any more time. She was thankful for the sunshine and the breeze and the smiles on our faces.

So of course, I adopted this same spirit of frankness with my father. He and I were driving to Costco one day, and I was asking him questions — and he casually mentioned that back in the day, he was a highly paid writer-director of porn!

My head spun around. This was the last thing I expected from the humble man who I remembered painting the fence, watering the lawn, and driving me to school. I was flabbergasted by these two new realities — My mother is dying, and my father’s a porn director!

For Years to Come” visual references. See citations above.

When a parent dies, your narrative about them changes. If you idolized them, they become vulnerable. If you were angry at them, their faults become easy to forgive. Either way, they become a very different person. In this case, my narrative about both my parents got turned upside down at the same time!

After years of development — and a pandemic, which heightened my urgency to make art about grief and healing — I’m finally telling my story in an episodic dramedy called “For Years to Come,” the story of a young gay man who falls in love with his dead mother’s hospice nurse, while struggling to reconcile with his elderly father, who’s secretly a porn director.

Left: Director/Editor Micah Stuart; Center: Me with Co-Producer Jay DeYonker; Right: DP Dennis Zanatta

The Queerness is Not the Conflict

Now, you might be wondering, “What does any of that have to do with being gay?” And the answer is… nothing, really. And that’s exactly the point. What I want to see are stories in which queer people are central characters, but their queerness is not the central conflict.

For Years to Come” poster art. Original photo by Taylor Noel.

Cis-het audiences can relate to stories about losing a parent or finding love. If they can go beyond passive sympathy (watching queer people struggle with “queer problems”), and lean into active empathy (seeing themselves in a queer protagonist)… that feels like genuine progress toward equality.

Meanwhile, queer audiences are hungry for these kind of stories! We want to see ourselves reflected without a filter and without an apology. We’re tired of sitting on the margins. We are the stars of our own lives, and our lives are about more than just the struggles of coming out. We are richly complex, multi-faceted human beings, with endlessly diverse and distinct experiences, and we deserve to be seen, for all that we are.

I think the best way to eradicate the anti-LGBTQ hatred that persists around the world is to show the breadth of queer people’s humanity, in full-throated, heartfelt stories about all that makes us unique, and all we have in common.

For Years to Come” is a vibrant and irreverent story about people redefining themselves and opening their hearts to each other. My creative team and I go into production this winter, and we’re beyond excited to share our story with you! Visit this link to learn more.

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James Patrick Nelson is a Queer writer-actor-poet-filmmaker loving life in NYC.

www.james-patrick-nelson.com

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The preceding article was previously published by Prism & Pen– Amplifying LGBTQ voices through the art of storytelling and is republished by permission.

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