Western States Center: Creating a space we all can share

By Amy Lam, Contributing Columnist

In acknowledging and recognizing everyone in our communities, this year’s National Coming Out Day will not just be a coming out day for LBGTQ people, but also for their supporters.

On October 11th, more than 30 community and organizational leaders of color in Oregon signed a letter of support to “Come Out for Our Families.” In part, the letter states that “LGBT families of color are part of the fabric of our community and members of our own families.

Unfortunately, some of our LGBT family members do not feel our community’s full support. So, in honor of National Coming Out Day, we are coming out as friends, family and public allies of LGBT families of color.

The campaign is spearheaded by Standing Together, a project of Basic Rights Oregon, and aims to raise the visibility, experiences and public support for LGBTQ families of color. The letter will be published this month in Portland’s major ethnic newspapers – the Asian Reporter, the Portland Observer, the Scanner and El Hispanic News.

Carmen Rubio, the executive director of the community organization Latino Network, was one of the signers. “You have to be visible and take a proactive position in saying,’I support the LGBTQ members of my community,’” said Carmen.

Since 2009, Carmen has worked with the Latino Network to become more inclusive, and that included participating in the Uniting Communities project at the Western States Center, which works to help racial justice and immigrant rights groups support the LGBTQ individuals in their communities.

“Because we are a progressive community organization, we take it for granted that we are inclusive, and that we are already allies. But it’s very different to walk the walk, rather than just talking about how we welcome everyone. ” Carmen felt that this proactive support is a good first step.

“The Western States Center’s program showed us that we needed to be intentional about being inclusive so we started taking action on making sure that we are there for all members of our community,” said Carmen. “We shouldn’t just start a ‘gay rights program,’ because this work needs to be intrinsic in our mission and the values. Uniting Communities showed us how much we did not know, and it felt good to be thoughtful about our next steps to learn the needs of our community.”

One of Latino Network’s board members is an openly gay Latino. ”It had a huge impact on me when I learned that he shared his story in our Latino leadership academy. These folks are essentially strangers to him, and I really respected his bravery and willingness to share his personal story to help build awareness within our community about the experiences of LGTBQ Latinos,” said Carmen. “For him, as the son of Latino immigrants, and a gay man, I’ve started to realize what a fine balance he is trying to find to retain both parts of his identity. There was this whole other dimension in his life that I don’t think we fully appreciate at Latino Network all the time.”

The letter of support, at right, on National Coming Out Day is much more than words on a page — it’s about creating spaces so that everyone in our communities will feel comfortable come out and be their whole selves.

Letter: Come Out for Our Families!

We believe all our families have so much in common: we struggle to access healthy food, quality education, affordable healthcare, and housing. Our families also face discrimination that prevents us from thriving in our workplaces and our neighborhoods. As families of color, we experience unique challenges as we work to keep our homes, our jobs, and our health.

These struggles affect Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) families of color in very unique ways. LGBT families of color are part of the fabric of our community and members of our own families. Unfortunately, some of our LGBT family members do not feel our community’s full support. So, in honor of National Coming Out Day on October 11, 2011 we are coming out as friends, family and public allies of LGBT families of color.

We believe our communities are strongest when all families Р extended families, multi-generational families, single-parent families and LGBT families Р have the resources, respect and love they need to thrive.

We believe it’s time to come out in support of all our families. Join us!

Read the list of signees at www.basicrights.org/ourfamilies.

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