Labels. These are meant to categorize anything from foods to people. As humans, we like to label ourselves Latino, Black, African American, Transgender, Gay, Straight, Blond, etc. Some come with baggage but others would argue they don't come with baggage but with opportunities.
But what is it like to live and work in a community that isn't what we thought it would be? Launched in April 2014, Louis "Louie" Ortiz created "The Gran Varònes" project which "shines a light on what being “out” and “proud” means to us, our families, and our communities." The photos have been highlighted using social media platforms like Facebook, Instgram and videos. You can watch the video interviews on Vimeo.
Some quotes from the participants include the following:
- "I would love to be more in touch with the Latino gay community as much as I am with the black community because I feel that's where the strongest connection is."
- "People need to believe in themselves. A lot of gay Latinos hold themselves back from pursuing a dream or becoming something because they don't want to be judged. And I am not about that."
- "To some degree, i feel a disconnect as gay latino amongst other gay latinos. i don't always feel I have a place amongst them."
After reading most of the comments made by the participants, it really does make me angry but happy. Identity is something we all struggle. Just because we're Latino (or anything else) doesn't necessarily mean we have to have all Latino friends. It also doesn't mean we have to eat rice and beans...although I do love rice and beans. We let society attempt to stick us in a box on one path but when we go off track, somethings wrong with us. That's why I'm glad to see The Gran Varònes project highlight these Philly leaders. And no a leader doesn't mean they have to be a CEO of a company; just being highlighted and telling their own story makes them a leader in their own right.