During Latinx Heritage Month, which runs from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15, members of the Latinx LGBTQ+ community in North Carolina and the Triangle are working to increase support, education and advocacy for each other.
Of the more than 11.3 million LGBTQ+ adults that live in the United States, about 20 percent, or 2.3 million, also identify as Latinx, according to a report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
Local Latinx pride
Naomi Dix, a Black and Hispanic drag artist, has been a member of the Durham-based House of Coxx since 2014. When Dix first began watching and participating in drag, she struggled to find representation in drag artists of color.
“I didn’t see a lot of representation because unfortunately, there wasn’t representation in general when it came to being queer,” Dix said. “But the representation that was there was the most accepted type of representation at the time, which was other white drag performers.”
Dix joined the House of Coxx after seeing Vivica C. Coxx, the House’s drag mother and a Black drag artist, perform at the Pinhook. Dix said Coxx inspired her to do drag and use her platform to support her Latinx community.
She said drag is the foundation for advocacy work within the LGBTQ+ community and many drag artists are using their platforms to advocate for and support their local communities.
Dix works with Black and Latinx members of the HIV and AIDS community in the area. She said she also strives to create and facilitate a consent-focused environment at her shows and pays those involved in the production of her shows fairly.
“Because I have a larger outreach, then I have the responsibility to continue whatever that education is that is a part of my community,” she said.
Dix noted that she was recently involved with Pride: Durham, N.C. 2022, on Sept. 24. The House of Coxx had a float in the parade and held performances for Pride over the weekend.
Latinx LGBTQ community and mental health
LILA Latinx LGBTQI INC., a nonprofit organization launched in 2017 that responds to the needs of the Latinx LGBTQ+ community in North Carolina, was also a part of Durham Pride.
LILA's founders felt that there was a lack of organizations dedicated to providing for the specific needs of people in the Latinx LGBTQ+ community impacted by intersectional issues like homophobia, transphobia and gender discrimination, according to their website.
Oscar Garcia, a community leader who works with LILA and a member of the Latinx LGBTQ+ community, attended Pride.
He said the LGBTQ+ community's mental health has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.
He explained this is especially true within the Latinx community because religious backgrounds or cultural issues may prevent some people from being open with family members about their identity.
According to the report by the Williams Institute, 30 percent of Latinx LGBTQ+ adults have been diagnosed with depression in the U.S. Comparatively, 16 percent of Latinx adults who do not identify as LGBTQ+ were diagnosed with depression in 2021.
More than 40 percent of Latinx LGBTQ+ individuals have experienced physical assaults or threats and nearly 70 percent have experienced verbal assault or abuse, the report found. Less than 45 percent of Latinx LGBTQ+ individuals feel connected to the larger Latinx community.
Garcia said that LILA works with Latinx members of the LGBTQ+ community to provide care and safe spaces to learn about themselves and their identities.
“We try to empower people to get to know themselves,” Garcia said.
Making people feel safe
Tania Jimenez, the executive director of Asheboro Latinxs Services and a transgender Mexican woman, said it can be difficult for Latinx LGBTQ+ community members to find a safe space and access health services. She said the LGBTQ+ resources provided through Asheboro Latinx Services provide a place for community members to gather safely and access healthcare.
“I’m happy that we have a place for the Latinx LGBT community to gather together where we can feel safe,” she said.
Asheboro Latinx Services provides care for the Latinx LGBTQ+ community in rural areas where Jimenez said some Latinx LGBTQ+ community members often do not feel safe.
Another organization that specifically works with Latinx LGBTQ+ community members in the Triangle is El Centro Hispano. El Centro has a department for addressing the needs of the Latinx LGBTQ+ community through support groups, legal advice and identity-affirming care, according to its website.
The organization currently offers programs to support lesbian and bisexual Latina women, a group to support trans people and provide support for hormone treatment, as well as educational resources for gay and bisexual Latino men to learn about safe sex and testing.
The center also has the Nuestra Voz Community Advisory Committee which guides El Centro's outreach to and representation of Latinx LGBTQ+ community. According to El Centro's website, the committee is made up of members from each identity group, along with allies and group specialists
“A part of my advocacy work is letting people know that, at the end of the day, whether or not you think what you might think of us, at the end of the day, we have feelings just like everyone else, we are humans just like everyone else,” Dix said.
Information about specific Hispanic Heritage Month events can be accessed on the Carrboro Parks and Recreation website.
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