Gay Latino Alliance Is Formed Summary

  • Last updated on November 11, 2022

Lesbian and gay Latino/as and Chicano/as formed a social and political alliance, creating visibility, identity, and shared space and inspiring the formation of similar organizations throughout the United States.

Summary of Event

In 1975, sensing the need to organize socially and politically, gay Chicanos and Latinos and Chicana and Latina lesbians founded the Gay Latino Alliance (GALA) in the San Francisco Bay Area/San Jose. Bridging political consciousness of lesbian, gay, and Chicano/a liberation with social and cultural expression, GALA became a visible organization in San Francisco’s then Latino-majority Mission District. The organization also became a Latino voice in gay and lesbian political and social life in the city. By placing itself in the racially and sexually diverse Mission District, GALA helped to negotiate conflicts between gay and lesbian whites with those of the broader Latino community in the San Francisco area. [kw]Gay Latino Alliance Is Formed (1975-1983) [kw]Latino Alliance Is Formed, Gay (1975-1983) Gay Latino Alliance Latinas/Latinos[Latinas Latinos];alliance of [c]Organizations and institutions;1975-1983: Gay Latino Alliance Is Formed[1120] [c]Race and ethnicity;1975-1983: Gay Latino Alliance Is Formed[1120] [c]Civil rights;1975-1983: Gay Latino Alliance Is Formed[1120] [c]Government and politics;1975-1983: Gay Latino Alliance Is Formed[1120] [c]Marches, protests, and riots;1975-1983: Gay Latino Alliance Is Formed[1120] Felix, Diane Reyes, Rodrigo

The child of Texan migrant farmworkers, Rodrigo Reyes became one of the most visible figures in the organization from the beginning. Placing a classified ad in the Bay Area Reporter in October, 1975, Reyes piqued the interest of others who were also looking for ways to come together as Latinos and as gays and lesbians. In the city of San Jose, a one-hour drive south from San Francisco, Manuel Hernández Valadéz saw Reyes’s ad and informed his friend, Jesús Barragán, who similarly was becoming politically conscious as a gay Chicano. One of the women who saw the ad was lesbian Chicana Diane Felix. Originally from the central California agrarian region of Stockton, a couple hours drive outside the Bay Area, Felix had been an active participant in the Chicano cultural and political movement of the period but faced homophobia after she announced she was lesbian.

GALA, along with a regional social and political movement, was just emerging. The organization brought together hundreds of participants through successful fund-raising dances with live salsa bands; loud, musical participation in gay freedom day parades; political forums against U.S. intervention in Central America and against the poor living conditions of gays and lesbians in Cuba; and personal accounts of being gay/lesbian and Latino/Latina in both the gay/lesbian and Latino press. The money GALA raised was earmarked for Mission District community organizations, including the Latino newspaper El Tecolote.

Even though GALA tried to carry out cogender organizing, it was unable to create a safe space for most lesbians. Felix, for example, consistently fought to address women’s needs in the organization and to create a women’s social and political space. Felix and other women created a women’s component to GALA, whose members worked in coalition with other lesbians of color in the region and nationally. On one occasion, GALA’s women’s component wanted to host a women-only dance to raise funds to travel to a women’s conference in Puerto Rico. Many of the men in GALA opposed the move and tried to crash the dance.

Significance

As racial Racism;in GLBT movement[GLBT movement] minorities, gay and lesbian Latinos and Latinas often face discriminatory practices within the white GLBT community, such as having to show more than one form of identification to gain entry into a particular club. Influenced by countercultural, civil rights, and protest movements, GALA’s struggles went hand in hand with the fight for racial justice, against police brutality, and for educational access. Some GALA members also organized in multiracial coalitions, such as the coalition with San Francisco’s Third World Gay Caucus in the late 1970’s or with organizations for lesbians and feminists of color. GALA also participated in the historic March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1979. Coalitions from Texas, California, and the East Coast—together with representatives from Latin America—convened days before the march at Howard University in Washington, D.C., to participate in the First National Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference.

Unresolved struggles between women and men, animosities between Chicano and Puerto Rican men, and plain burnout led to GALA’s demise. The start of the first openly gay Latino bar in the Latino district also played a role in shifting attention away from the organization’s politicized social events to the new private commercial space for alcohol consumption and leisure, especially for men. Nevertheless, GALA had a major impact.

In the 1980’s, numerous Latina/Latino organizations took form throughout the United States. Even though GALA had disappeared by 1983, Los Angeles’s Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos Gay and Lesbian Latinos Unidos (GLLU) formed in 1981, and a subcommittee, Lesbianas Unidas Lesbianas Unidas, Los Angeles (LU), formed in 1983, becoming an independent group the following year. In 1984, Denver had Ambiente Latino and Las Mujeres Alegres, while Houston had a Gay Hispanic Caucus. In New York, a group of Latina lesbians created Las Buenas Amigas in November of 1986, emerging out of the African American lesbian organization Soul Sisters, which had welcomed Latinas. Many of these and other organizations, including San Francisco’s Mujerío in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, organized transnationally with LGBT activists in Puerto Rico, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and other countries in Latin America.

GALA was an early example of a movement where women and men of color charted new political territory. They challenged superficial and stereotypical depictions of “exotic” Latinos and “passive” Latinas. They also challenged the homophobia in their own Latino communities, religious intolerance, and, to some degree, their own sexism against women.

The different Latino national groups that were represented in the organization, predominantly Chicano and Puerto Rican, also signaled an effort to appreciate racial and ethnic differences while trying to overcome divisions and animosities. Developing a new language of lesbian and gay liberation in English and in Spanish, GALA reshaped the meaning of what it means to be Latina or Latino and queer. Gay Latino Alliance Latinas/Latinos[Latinas Latinos];alliance of

Further Reading
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Anonymous (Diane Felix). “Understanding the Gay Latino: Part II.” El Tecolote 6, no. 10 (July, 1976): 9.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">De la Garza, Luis Alberto C., and Horacio N. Roque Ramírez. “Queer Community History and the Evidence of Desire: The Archivo Rodrigo Reyes, a Gay and Lesbian Latino Archive.” In The Power of Language: Selected Papers from the 2nd REFORMA National Conference, edited by Lillian Castillo-Speed and the REFORMA Publications Committee. Englewood, Colo.: Libraries Unlimited, 2001.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Leyva, Yolanda. “Breaking the Silence: Putting Latina Lesbian History at the Center.” In The New Lesbian Studies: Into the Twenty-First Century, edited by Bonnie Zimmerman and Toni A. H. McNaron. New York: Feminist Press, 1996.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Reyes, Rodrigo. “Latino Gays: Coming Out and Coming Home.” Nuestro Magazine, April, 1981, 42-45, 64.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

    xlink:type="simple">Roque Ramírez, Horacio N. “’That’s My Place’: Negotiating Gender, Racial, and Sexual Politics in San Francisco’s Gay Latino Alliance, 1975-1983.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 12, no. 2 (April, 2003): 224-258.
  • citation-type="booksimple"

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    ­Viva 16! Written, produced, and directed by Valentín Aguirre and Augie Robles. 21st Century Aztlan Productions, 1994. Video recording.

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1975: Gay American Indians Is Founded

October 12-15, 1979: First National Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference Convenes

1981: This Bridge Called My Back Is Published

September, 1983: First National Lesbians of Color Conference Convenes

1987: Anzaldúa Publishes Borderlands/La Frontera

1987: Compañeras: Latina Lesbians Is Published

1987: VIVA Is Founded to Promote Latina and Latino Artists

October 14-17, 1987: Latin American and Caribbean Lesbian Feminist Network Is Formed

2002: Sylvia Rivera Law Project Is Founded

June 19, 2002: Gays and Lesbians March for Equal Rights in Mexico City

October 4, 2002: Transgender Teen Gwen Araujo Is Murdered in California

April, 2003: Buenos Aires Recognizes Same-Gender Civil Unions

January, 2006: Jiménez Flores Elected to the Mexican Senate

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