Things That Matter

Colombia Legalizes Same-Sex Adoption

The LGBT community in Colombia claimed a huge victory after the constitutional court ruled same-sex adoption legal with a vote of six to two, in spite of the opposition by conservative leaders. This is great news for the 4,850 kids waiting to be adopted in state-run institutions.

“A person’s sexual orientation or gender are not in and of themselves indicative of a lack of moral, physical or mental suitability to adopt,” said Maria Victoria Calle Correa, the president of the court.

The decision comes after same-sex adoption became legal if at least one partner was a biological parent. However, marriage equality  is yet to be legalized.

Colombia now joins Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina and French Guinea in allowing same-sex adoption.

Read more about the decision and the public’s reaction here.

READ: Things Every #Gaytino (Gay+Latino) has Survived

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Women Of Color Are Talking About Being Made To Feel Isolated By Their Family’s Ignorance And It’s Pretty Heartbreaking

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Women Of Color Are Talking About Being Made To Feel Isolated By Their Family’s Ignorance And It’s Pretty Heartbreaking

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Being our most honest selves around family can, no doubt about it, be extremely difficult. Add family dynamics, expectations, and Latino culture into the mix and things get quite a bit murkier. And while, not all families have a hard time accepting their children as they are, there’s no denying that children who are LGBTQ struggle to be accepted more by their family’s than others. According to Equality Florida, “when asked to describe the ‘most difficult problem facing them in their life these days,’ LGBTQ+ Latino youth most often cited three issues related to their LGBTQ+ identity: lack of acceptance by parents and family, fear about being out or open, trouble at school, including bullying.”

A recent post on Reddit asked women of color who are lesbians to share their family experiences.

The responses were not only extremely enlightening but particularly heartbreaking.

Check them out below.

This woman who feels constantly judged.

“Kind of late to this post but yes. I am a Latina Lesbian and we do not talk about sexuality in my family. My family knows but it is never mentioned. I moved out out my families house 5 yrs ago but every time I go visit for the holidays, the elephant in the room is there. The “when are you having children, getting married, boyfriend etc.” All I can say is do not feel pressured. You do not have to give up your happiness or yourself to please your parents. I am constantly judged by my family for my actions, but id rather be myself and be happy. It’s a tough battle but worth it. When I moved out I moved with the excuse of moving for a work promotion. So do you, do what makes you happy.” – eltorres27

And this chica who feel pressured by the expectations of her family.

“Yeah, my mom is an immigrant to this country (the US) and feels it would be disappointing to have the family lineage end with me. Like, she came here to start something new and I’m gonna end it. Truth is, I do want kids but may never have them due to my career goals. And that has nothing to do with my sexuality.” – Baegz_

This woman who finds her parents struggle more with her amazing partner.

“Yeah I’m Egyptian so I super feel you. I’ve been telling my parents for years before I came out that I didn’t want kids. And now I’m married to a trans woman… So things have been strained. I think the end goal is working through your own shame and judgment so that theirs doesn’t affect you as much. Also, I’ve been delving back into my culture (ancient Egypt), and while there’s always pressure to have kids (so that humans survive), they had no issues with being gay. It’s been really amazing connecting to that part of my culture so I don’t feel so isolated.” –curlyhairedlesbo

This chica who resolved her issues with her family by running away.

“Wish I didn’t understand this kind of pain, but I do. My family wanted me to go to uni, find a man (possibly rich), have 3 (possibly) male children, and go from there to being a happy family as a stay at home mom. My solution? Running away with my gf at age 19, settling down, get engaged, and still not have the balls to block my family on social media even when they retweet/share conversion therapy ads. If only I was as brave as some other people out there- my wonderful girlfriend included. I just run away all the time and it hurts. I don’t know what to do or say whenever my relatives confront me, and I haven’t talked to my parents in years. Thank god Angelika is with me. Otherwise? I don’t really know, nor I want to think about it. Hope you get thru this difficult part of your life. I love the life I have now, we have a dog for heavens sake. A dog! Haha. Never felt more at peace at home than now. It will get better. Trust me.” –Maki_san

This woman who finds any self-expression difficult.

“I’m middle eastern and it’s a huge expectation (I’m expected to not move out until im married) and any self-expression that doesn’t fit the norm is considered shameful for me & my family :/ being a POC lesbian is hard.” – stupididiotdumbassb

This woman who dreams of a life with a wife despite her family’s restricting expectations.

“Not a lesbian im newly bi but my family expects me to get an education get married and be a housewife. Anything i try different from the norm gets shit on. But honestly, i lowkey dream of having a wife sounds so pretty and romantic.” –56hej027sn10

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Ahead of Her Time: The Incredible Life of Sylvia Rivera

Things That Matter

Ahead of Her Time: The Incredible Life of Sylvia Rivera

You may not remember her name or face, but you will remember her extraordinary story and the legacy she has left behind for marginalized members of the gay community. Orphaned at three and homeless by ten, Sylvia Rivera likely never anticipated that she would one day become an icon for the LGBTQ community. No, at the age of ten Sylvia was simply trying to survive on the tough and unrelenting streets of New York in the 1960s. This is the story of a life rooted in activism–whether she knew it all along or not–the story of one woman simply trying to live her life authentically. This is the incredible life story of LGBTQ icon Sylvia Rivera.

The Early Years

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Born Ray Rivera Mendosa in the Bronx, New York, on July 2nd, 1951, Sylvia was abandoned by her father at birth; her mother committed suicide when Sylvia was three. This left her grandmother to raise her, despite abuela’s disapproval of her darker skin tone and feminine behavior. 

Going Against the Grain

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Sylvia was forced into the margins of society because of her refusal to conform to gender norms. At the time, the term “transgender” wasn’t commonly known–people choosing to shun conventional gender norms were simply referred to as drag queens, transvestites, transsexuals, or simply “queers.” Still, Sylvia refused to hide and openly wore makeup in the 4th grade, leaving her to be bullied both in school and at home. At the age of ten, Sylvia had had enough and chose to run away from home.

Life on the Streets

@queeringpodcast/Instagram

She made her home on 42nd street, taking on the role of a sex work in order to survive and getting taken in by a family of trans women who taught her how to get by. Life was difficult–to say the least–for a queer gender-nonconforming person of color, especially one still a child. Her time on 42nd street would later influence her activism for the marginalized members of the gay community.

Meeting Marsha

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Then one day something happened that would change Sylvia’s life forever. She was simply trying to drum up some business when she spotted Marsha P. Johnson–a gorgeous older Black trans woman who took Sylvia out for dinner, showed her how to apply her makeup and gave her tips for getting by on the streets. The two quickly became friends and remained so for the rest of their lives.

Riot in the Streets

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On June 28th, 1969, violent confrontations broke out between police and gay rights activists outside of the Stonewall Inn–a gay bar in Greenwich Village. The police had been in the process of raiding when patrons started to fight back, giving rise to an international gay rights movement.

The Beginning of What’s to Come

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Where does Sylvia fit into the Stonewall Riots? It is rumored that she threw the first brick. Just seventeen years old at the time, Sylvia was with Marsha when the riots started and is credited with one of the most famous quotes from the event: “I’m not missing a minute of this. It’s the revolution!” 

What Happens Next

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After Stonewall, Sylvia became part of the emerging gay rights movement–albeit at a time when transgender people were not particularly welcomed. Her role in gay history eventually resulted in her being one of the first people to highlight that the movement itself needed to be more inclusive. 

To Boldly Go

@sylviariveralawproject/Instagram

Despite the adversity Sylvia would repeatedly face, she continued to get involved however she could, using her outsider status to help make a change. She was bold and brave, willing to go to great lengths to ensure her message was received–including being willing to get arrested even though she was a transgender woman of color and would face unimaginable difficulties in prison.

A Daring Escapade

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At one point when New York City Council was debating a gay rights bill, Sylvia tried to climb into a window (in a dress and heels) to have her say. She was subsequently arrested yet still earned the title of “the Rosa Parks of the Modern Transgender Movement” for all of her efforts.

Activism and Adversity

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Sylvia was also an early member of the Gay Activists Alliance (GAA) and the Gay Liberation Front (GLF), however, these groups were largely made up of gay white males who, seeking wider acceptance, started to distance themselves from important transgender issues Sylvia wanted to address.

Being “Other”

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Sylvia began to feel shunned in the gay liberation circles. Her multiple marginalized identities created a sense of Otherness that made the community see her as dangerous.

The Sit-In that Started it All

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In 1970 the GAA was using Weinstein Hall at NYU to host “Dance-a-Fair” fundraisers for services in the gay community. There was much controversy from the NYU administration which eventually led to a sit-in for five days and ended with New York City’s Tactical Police Squad ordering the occupiers out. Sylvia refused and had to be carried out by police.

A STAR is Born

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As a result Sylvia, with the help of Marsha P. Johnson, founded STAR (Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries) and opened a shelter for homeless transgender youth.

A Spark of Hope

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Shortly after forming STAR, Sylvia heard of an uprising being led by the Young Lords–a revolutionary Puerto Rican group–against police brutality. Sylvia, along with other members of STAR, marched alongside the Young Lords in Spanish Harlem. Sylvia was happily surprised by the respect they were shown by the Young Lords and was quick to join them in solidarity, starting a Gay and Lesbian Caucus that worked within the group.

More Challenges

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STAR House, unfortunately, received no help from the gay community, forcing Sylvia to work the streets in order to keep the youth under her wing off of them. Despite her best efforts to provide a home for marginalized transgender youth, Sylvia was evicted from the derelict building that was STAR House.

One Last Hurrah

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Once more Sylvia found herself fighting against gay activists in order to be heard. She forced her audience to listen as she described the abuse her people endured whilst simultaneously chastising the activists for their abandonment. Sadly, this would be the last of her involvement for decades as she slipped away into a quiet life in Tarrytown.

Well-Deserved Recognition

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In 1984, despite past feelings of antipathy from the GAA and the GLF, Sylvia was “rediscovered” and awarded a place of honor in the New York City gay pride march to acknowledge the 25th anniversary of Stonewall. She reported feeling like she’d been taken off the shelf and dusted, but nevertheless, she was seen by those she’d spent her life fighting for.

The End of an Era

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In 1992, Marsha P. Johnson passed away, causing Sylvia’s life to go off the rails. Once again without a roof over her head, Sylvia lived near Greenwich Village on an abandoned pier. Eventually, she quit drinking and rejoined the movement, even trying to restart STAR in 2001. Unfortunately, though, Sylvia died of liver cancer a year later at the age of 50, continuing to advocate even from her deathbed.

Her Legacy Lives On

@sylviariveralawproject/Instagram

Sylvia died much in the way that she lived–fighting for what she believed in. Her memory lives on through the Sylvia Rivera Law Project that “works to guarantee that all people are free to self-determine gender identity and expression, regardless of income or race, and without facing harassment, discrimination or violence.”

A Life to Remember

@sylviariveralawproject/Instagram

Long before Harvey Milk and Caitlyn Jenner made headlines for LGBTQ rights movements and transgender activism, there was Sylvia Rivera, occupying a unique place in LGBTQ history and working tirelessly for justice and civil rights. Her courage will never be forgotten.

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