Coming Out: Living Authentically as LGBTQ+ Latine Americans

Human Rights Campaign Foundation, October 2023 | 35 Minute Read.

No matter who we are or whom we love, we all deserve the right to live out our lives genuinely, completely and honestly.

Coming Out is a Personal Choice

Our race, ethnicity, language, religion, cultural dress, sexual orientation or gender identity should never be barriers to us living our full lives. For lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people, coming out as our true selves is often a significant part of reclaiming this right and living authentically.

Coming out is a personal choice, and the lifelong coming out experience is different for everyone. For those of us who identify as LGBTQ+ and as Latine Americans, the coming out process can be even more complex to navigate. Often, it requires a unique approach that can cut across multiple languages, cultures, nationalities, religious identities and family generations.

This resource is designed for those who may be embarking on their own coming out journey at the intersections of LGBTQ+ and Latine identities. We hope that it can provide you with ideas and advice during this process. This resource and its accompanying Spanish language translation can also be shared among your close family and friends, some of whom may still be learning how they can best support you during your journey.

Before coming out, it is important to create a safe space for yourself and evaluate your unique circumstances. Look for supportive people you can turn to during times of need, especially if you believe you may face disapproval or rejection from your family, friends or community. Depending on your individual situation, pick a place and time to come out that makes you feel the most comfortable and safe.

In too many places, LGBTQ+ people who live openly can face discrimination and even violence. If you fear this mistreatment, it is important to remember that there is nothing wrong with you.

The problem is not you, but rather the prejudice and discrimination that many of us learn from our society and cultures.

Stay patient, persistent and positive. Throughout your journey, seek out resources and support from those who affirm your identity.

Remember, you are not alone:

Across the United States and Latin America, the strong community of LGBTQ+ Latines, family members and allies supports you and loves you exactly as you are.

Both in United States and abroad, countless LGBTQ+ Latines live proudly and openly, with myriad contributions in social justice, government, sports, the arts and entertainment.

We hope that the stories of courage shared in this resource can inspire you and provide strength and perseverance should you face roadblocks during your journey. Refer to our special section on LGBTQ+ Latine History and Culture to learn more about our community’s proud heritage.

Coming Out for Latine Americans

Although Latine Americans come from various cultural and ethnic backgrounds, those of us who come out as LGBTQ+ often share similar experiences and challenges.

Some who were raised in religious communities must reconcile themselves with traditions and teachings that may condemn or reject LGBTQ+ identities. Others, especially immigrants or those raised in immigrant families, must grapple with multicultural identities and experiences. Language and cultural differences with loved ones can make it difficult to convey LGBTQ+ identities or access resources. Meanwhile, a lack of LGBTQ+ Latine representation in media, entertainment and politics perpetuates invisibility.

Many LGBTQ+ people report that after coming out, they are better able to communicate with their family and friends, leading to stronger relationships and greater mutual understanding.

Although there is no singular LGBTQ+ Latine experience, the following sections discuss common issues that arise during the coming out process for those in our community.

During those days, I learned so much about my mother and the true meaning of unconditional love. ‘Boy, girl, it doesn’t matter at the end of the day. I birthed you and I’m going to love you, no matter what,’ she affirmed. Thousands of thoughts and emotions would flood my mind in those days. We often forget that just how we have a journey to self-acceptance, our friends and family also have a journey to take. Theirs is also one that can often be filled with many fears and worries. Through this journey, Mami and I have been able to develop a deeper love and understanding for one another. Today, my mother is a fierce advocate for the LGBTQ+ community, not despite her faith pero because of it.

Transgender advocate Joanna Maria Cifredo, recounting her own story of familial acceptance after transitioning

Family Acceptance

Coming out to family is difficult for many LGBTQ+ people, but it can pose additional challenges for those with Latine heritage.

Approximately one in three Latine Americans is an immigrant1, and many Latine youth grow up feeling indebted to parents or other family members who have made sacrifices to ensure later generations can have brighter futures and greater access to opportunities. Meanwhile, the Latine concept of familismo, which involves dedication, commitment and strong loyalty to family, can put further pressure on Latines to fulfill the hopes and dreams their families have for them — which may seem to exclude LGBTQ+ identities.

The initial coming out announcement can be uncomfortable and even scary for all parties involved. Before bringing this news to relatives more widely, you may consider identifying a trusted family member to help you navigate these difficult conversations. Though many non-Latine LGBTQ+ people first come out to only one or two family members at a time, the closeness of many typical Latine families can make sensitive news more difficult to contain.

Though LGBTQ+ acceptance and legal recognition have seen encouraging developments throughout Central and South America, LGBTQ+ people still face stigma, discrimination and even violence in many countries and cultures. Regardless of your own personal circumstances, it’s important to know that your LGBTQ+ identity should not be a cause of shame or pain. Pain comes from the prejudices around you, not from who you are or whom you love.


I shudder to think of where my sons might be today if I hadn’t realized that I had to change…to let go of the internalized homophobia that I was prisoner of for almost three decades because of my Mexican-American, Catholic upbringing. By learning to accept my sons, I eventually came to accept myself. Despite all that is wrong in this country and in this world, I am absolutely happy and am ready to stand up to any so-called religious task force.

Roland Gutierrez, Tejano, veteran, activist, singer, Nichiren Buddhist and proud gay father of 24-year-old LGBTQ+ triplet sons

Reactions Family Members May Have

Some family members may embrace the news immediately, while others may require time to work through concerns or fears they have regarding the unfamiliar or unknown.

Unfortunately, the absence of comprehensive education and exposure to LGBTQ+ people may lead some family members to mistakenly believe that being LGBTQ+ is a choice, preference or temporary phase. This process can be especially challenging for immigrant parents who were raised in places where information about LGBTQ+ identities was less widely available. It can be further exacerbated by language barriers that make it challenging to directly translate LGBTQ+ terminology and make it impossible to find equivalent words to describe LGBTQ+ identities and experiences.

Finally, another common reaction that family members may have is fear. They may be afraid that you will suffer and be mistreated as a result of your LGBTQ+ identity. In these instances, remind your family members that supporting you and providing a safe haven is the greatest gift they can give in the face of prejudice and challenges.

When evaluating if, when or how to come out to your family members, consider the full range of reactions that could arise from your LGBTQ+ identify being disclosed, especially if you are financially dependent on any of them. Your safety and security always come first.

Supporting Family Members in their Process

Recognize that just as you are on a coming out journey, your family members are taking their own journey as well.

“When I came out as a transgender woman, my father felt I was going against his religion, machismo and family legacy, so he disowned me for five years. Eventually, my older sisters told my father that they would no longer attend Christmas gatherings if I wasn’t invited. They used the idea of familismo to unite the family again, reminding my dad that family means nobody should get left behind.”
— Laya Monarez, DC trans artist and LGBTQ+ activist

You can help loved ones through this process by directing them to resources available to educate parents and other family members about LGBTQ+ identities, including sources that help with overcoming myths and misconceptions.

Some LGBTQ+ Latine organizations have found that making a connection to familismo is an effective way to build acceptance among family members. “Being honest with your family is an important step in getting all parts of your life to fit together, but it’s also very important to give them time to process the information,” says Nila Marrone, a Bolivian American professor and LGBTQ+ ally.

Many LGBTQ+ Latine Americans, whether first generation or beyond, find it necessary to explain to family members that their LGBTQ+ identity does not mean that the sacrifices made by previous generations were wasted. Rather, it’s important to thoroughly explain how living authentically can help you reach the “American dream” — and it is intertwined with your happiness and success as an individual. Help them understand how living openly will help you reach your own personal and professional goals.

During this sensitive time, stay strong and acknowledge their feelings. But also remember to honor and assert your own feelings. Over time, it is quite common for individuals to move from feelings of disappointment and confusion, to simple tolerance, to understanding and finally to acceptance.

Many Latine parents move beyond acceptance to fully embrace and celebrate their LGBTQ+ children, both in public and private.

When I was 24, I was set up with my partner of 20 years. Through his encouragement, I came out to my parents seven months later, which was a complete catastrophe. By the way that my father wailed you would have thought that someone had died. And, perhaps from his perspective, that was the case. Still, I was shocked at how the majority of non-immediate family — including the Mexican-American, devout Roman Catholic relatives — were accepting and welcoming.

I easily went over five years without stepping foot in my parents’ home. I will be the first to admit that I was not the best partner, son or brother throughout all of this. Unfortunately, there is not a manual that comes with handling family drama post coming out.

My mom passed away many years later, and she and I never had the opportunity to clear the air about me being gay. My partner did come to my mom’s funeral, and to the shock of everyone, my father hugged him at the cemetery. After all these years, we now regularly visit my father and check in with him.

Rene Garcia, Houston, Texas

LGBTQ+ Latine Immigrants

There are more than 1 million LGBTQ+ immigrants in the U.S., including 289,700 who are LGBTQ+ Latine undocumented immigrants.3

Of them, approximately 81,000 are LGBTQ+ DREAMers, including 39,000 who have participated in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, created by the Obama administration to allow DREAMers to stay in the United States to complete their studies, work and continue contributing to American society.4 Approximately nine in 10 DACA recipients were born in Latin America, and the program has provided both greater economic security and educational opportunities.

All LGBTQ+ immigrants seek the opportunity to better their lives in the United States, to be safe from discrimination and to be free to live their full lives as LGBTQ+ people.

Many LGBTQ+ Latine immigrants come from countries that may be less accepting or even intolerant of LGBTQ+ people. In some countries, LGBTQ+ people are still criminalized for their identities. In too many places, LGBTQ+ people are censored, jailed, tortured and even put to death. Other immigrants come from places where LGBTQ+ people lack relationship recognition or face other forms of government-sanctioned discrimination.

In other cases, immigrant Latines may come from countries with more progressive laws than they are currently experiencing in the United States.

Across the country, several states have passed laws and developed policies targeting immigrants, including limiting healthcare access and identification documents, forced labor in immigration detention centers and banning immigrants from obtaining professional licenses such as disbarring undocumented lawyers. During these difficult times, remember that no one can make you any less American, Latine, LGBTQ+ or any other identity you may hold. More importantly, no one can ever make you any less deserving of love and respect. We support you and love you, and there are millions of Latine Americans and our allies who will continue fighting with you in these trying times.

For LGBTQ+ Latine immigrants in the United States:

It may be possible to obtain political asylum if LGBTQ+ people are persecuted in a person’s country of origin (consult with an attorney).

LGBTQ+ immigrants, whether undocumented or documented, who fall in love with American citizens can legally marry, and U.S. citizens can petition for their spouses to remain in the U.S. and become citizens themselves (consult with an attorney).

Undocumented LGBTQ+ Immigrants

While every story is different, many undocumented LGBTQ+ immigrants have spoken out about their shared experiences.

Some have identified and reclaimed their dual identities as “undocuqueer,” which expresses how both intersecting identities are equally important to who they are. Especially in today’s fraught political environment, living with these identities can mean dealing with an uneven landscape of social acceptance and political control over decisions within your daily life.

Despite the added pressures undocuqueer people may face in the coming out process, many find that living authentically allows them to lead fuller, happier lives. However, only you can determine your own level of safety and comfort when it comes to disclosing your LGBTQ+ identity.

Unfortunately, the risk of deportation for undocuqueer people may be particularly dangerous for those who could be sent to countries that are hostile or discriminatory toward LGBTQ+ people. Undocuqueer people are also more likely to be detained for longer periods and to be placed in facilities inconsistent with their gender identities.

Living in a Multicultural World

Like many Latine Americans, especially those who are immigrants or the children of immigrants, you may feel like you are living in a multicultural world, grappling with the norms and expectations of both American and Latine cultures.

Determining when, if and how to work through these overlapping realities — especially if they conflict — may first require identifying what is important to you personally. Indeed, the role your LGBTQ+ identity plays in relation to your Latine identity may vary depending on the context and your current situation.

For instance, some individuals may grapple with reconciling their own gender identity or expression with the Latine value of machismo, which dictates strict gender roles for men and women, often without any room for other gender identities or expression. Some Afro-Latine people may wonder where they fit in with Black American and Latin American queer cultures in the United States. When we as a culture enforce these beliefs, we legitimize whatever abuses, whether physical or emotional, occur against the LGBTQ+ community and everyone else who falls short of the expectations of machismo.

It’s important to remember that how you live should not be limited or hindered by others’ beliefs about how you “should” or “should not” behave based on your gender identity or sexual orientation. Depending on your situation, this may be difficult to manage if such beliefs are reinforced by your family, peers or community. However, you will likely find that it gets easier to navigate these interactions over time, especially as you gain a greater sense of self and better understand what values are truly important to you.

Another aspect of multiculturalism often means speaking multiple languages and engaging in cross-cultural communication. It is already difficult for many people to express their sexual orientation or gender identity in their native language, especially when they are first coming out. Conveying these complex feelings and emotions across language or cultural barriers can be even more challenging, especially for Latine youth who speak a primary language different from their parents. Moreover, in some languages, effective translations for LGBTQ+ terminology and concepts may not exist.

Just as there is no singular American or Latine experience, there is no single way to live out your own ethnic or racial identity. Especially in the absence of prominent LGBTQ+ figures in Latin America, it can sometimes feel like your LGBTQ+ identity is not compatible with your Latine identity. Even within LGBTQ+ Latine communities, there is much work to be done to embrace the wide diversity of Latine people, including addressing the colorism that impacts Afro-Latine individuals and indigenous people.

Above all, know that there is no specific Latine “mold” you have to fit, even as you may feel pressure from your family or community. Being LGBTQ+ does not make you any “less” Latine or any other national heritage or ethnic or racial identity you may hold.

Your Latininad cannot be earned or diminished — it will always be part of you, no matter what language you speak, who you are or whom you love.

The fact that I’m queer seemed to have been conveyed without my using any words to describe my orientation. I’ve spent every summer in Mexico with my mom’s family since I was born, and one summer I took my partner with me for the first time. My aunt made it a point to take me aside and tell me that my partner seemed very nice. She never said the words, but didn’t need them to show me her acceptance.

Sandra Telep, Mexican American, activist and parent of two

Reconciling Religion & Faith

Around the world, more and more faith traditions are now openly embracing LGBTQ+ people both in places of worship and in the larger community.

Religion plays an important role for many Latine Americans, with over 70 percent attending religious services regularly.5 This includes the 52 percent of adult Latines who identify as Catholic,6 but also many others who identify with Evangelical, Protestant, Mormon, Jewish or other religious traditions that have varying levels of LGBTQ+ acceptance and affirmation both in the United States and abroad.

Sometimes, it may feel difficult to reconcile your religious beliefs or those of your family with your LGBTQ+ identity. However, millions of LGBTQ+ people are people of faith, including many who are learning to bridge their own identities with the religious traditions of their families and communities.

Many religious communities and denominations that were once non-affirming now recognize that embracing LGBTQ+ people is in line with the strong religious and spiritual values of compassion, love and the commitment to treat others how they would like to be treated.

Today, countless congregations openly welcome and affirm their LGBTQ+ members, including blessing their weddings and welcoming their full participation in worship and religious activities.

A Shift in Doctrine

Across the United States, there is a growing acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community in Latine Catholic communities. Just like any group of people, religious communities vary greatly in their attitudes and level of inclusion of LGBTQ+ people, even within the same denomination or sect. Moreover, the number of LGBTQ+ affirming religious communities across the country is steadily increasing, and that is true among Latine religious communities as well.

Remember, only you can decide the degree to which faith plays a role in your life and how you choose to integrate it with living an authentic life.

However, it is important to recognize despite your ability to reconcile your faith and LGBTQ+ identity, your family may have difficulty accepting your sexual orientation or gender identity because of their own religious beliefs or traditions.

For more information on this topic, please refer to HRC’s Religion & Faith resources, including our bilingual project A La Familia.

Other Coming Out Considerations

Coming Out at School

Coming out at school can be a significant decision for many young people, especially in communities or at campuses where LGBTQ+ people may not yet be fully embraced. At the same time, many school districts, colleges and universities actively and openly support their LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff. Before deciding to come out at school, you may first consider:

  • Does your city, state, school district or university have non-discrimination and anti-bullying policies to protect LGBTQ+ students, faculty and staff?
  • If you are not fully out in your community or to your family, can your physical safety and privacy be guaranteed if you are out at school? For some college students who rely on their parents for financial support, you may need to carefully weigh your specific circumstances when coming out.
  • Can you seek out classmates, teachers, counselors and other adults at school whom you can trust and go to for support during your coming out process?
  • Does your school have a dedicated safe space or affirming organizations, including a Queer Straight Alliance, LGBTQ+ resource center or LGBTQ+ and Latine organizations?

For more information about this topic, please refer to Lambda Legal’s “Know Your Rights” for LGBTQ+ teens and young adults in school.

Coming Out at Work

Just as in other facets of life, being open at work can be a daunting challenge. But it can also relieve the daily stress of hiding who you are. At the same time, however, no one wants to put their job security or opportunity for advancement in jeopardy.

Before choosing to come out at work, you may first consider:

• Does your employer have a formal non-discrimination policy that specifically covers sexual orientation and/or gender identity and expression? Check the official Equal Employment Opportunity statement (usually found on the company website and in the employee handbook).

  • Does your state or locality have a non-discrimination law including sexual orientation and gender identity/expression?
  • Is your company ranked on the Human Rights Campaign Corporate Equality Index? If so, what rating has it earned?
  • Are your employer’s health benefits fully inclusive, including covering transition-related health care and domestic partner benefits?
  • What is the overall climate in your workplace, including whether other LGBTQ+ people are out in the office and whether co-workers make derogatory or supportive comments about LGBTQ+ people?

For more information about this topic, please refer to HRC’s “Coming Out at Work” and Workplace Equality resources.

Being an Ally

If you have a friend, family member or co-worker who is coming out, you can help them by being a supportive ally. However, be aware that they are the only person who can make the decision about how and when to come out with their LGBTQ+ identity.

You can help by researching and sharing culturally competent, linguistically appropriate resources; making introductions to others who are LGBTQ+ and allies; and speaking up when others make anti-LGBTQ+ jokes and gender assumptions. You can be an advocate for LGBTQ+ equality and fairness. You can speak out. Educate others, especially those for whom LGBTQ+ identities may be unfamiliar. Share information. We must all work together to build a better world that embraces diversity and personal freedom. To learn more about how you can get involved, visit HRC’s ally resources.

Rigo is still my baby — he may be almost 30 years old, but that’s how I see him! So I like to speak out about this issue, because what I want is for every child or every adult who goes through this transition to know that there is a cushion there, or a support system. What makes our family so very proud of Rigo is that he’s so happy living an authentic life, being honest about who he is — and it brings a lot of joy in our lives.

Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL),, sharing her family’s experience embracing her transgender son Rodrigo. In 1989, Ros-Lehtinen became the first Cuban American and first Latina elected to Congress.

At the Intersections of Race and the LGBTQ+ Community

Racial discrimination continues to be a pervasive issue in our society, and LGBTQ+ people of color often must face heightened challenges in many facets of daily life.

Unfortunately, just as it is in any community, the LGBTQ+ community is not untouched by racism and other forms of discrimination — and as you seek love and acceptance, there may be times where you must confront that reality.

As you choose to come out and live authentically in your own way, you may find it helpful to surround yourself with others who recognize and affirm who you are — including both your Latine and LGBTQ+ identities. Many LGBTQ+ people, including those who may not find full support among our families or communities of heritage, find love and support from “chosen family” who fully embrace us for who we are.

Most importantly, know that you are not alone.

Far beyond the proud community of LGBTQ+ Latine Americans, there are many who stand with you and who will accept you for who you are.

LGBTQ+ Latine History and Culture

A Historical Appreciation of Sexual and Gender Diversity in Latin America

LGBTQ+ Latine heritage and can be traced back to pre-Colombian times. Many indigenous cultures in the Americas have long had traditions of two-spirit people, or those sometimes considered to be a third gender or otherwise gender-expansive.

In Mexico, the Zapote people have a long history of recognizing muxe people, young people assigned male at birth who embrace identities as women or non-binary people. Muxe individuals continue to be celebrated as cornerstones of the community, especially in rural areas in the state of Oaxaca.

Same-sex relations are well documented in the Maya civilization, encompassing what today includes portions of Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, Honduras and El Salvador, especially in rituals and other ceremonies.

In Peru, archaeological discoveries of several erotic ceramics led scholars to study the role of sexuality in the Moche community, a pre-Inca civilization. In addition, Spanish missionaries noted that same-sex relationships were “widely accepted in several regions of the country” among indigenous communities.

LGBTQ+ Progress in the 21st Century

LGBTQ+ equality has seen encouraging momentum in recent years in Latin America, led by the courage and persistence of local activists and allies, even in many countries where LGBTQ+ people are still ostracized or persecuted.

In some countries, LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance have progressed even further, or more quickly, than in the United States.

A January 2018 advisory opinion issued to Costa Rica by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights states that same-sex couples are legally entitled to civil marriages and that member states must make the process of changing gender markers on state-issued identification streamlined, inexpensive and simple. While the opinion is not legally binding, all 33 member states in the Americas are required to abide by the American Convention.

The World Health Organization has called Argentina “an exemplary country,” especially in regards to transgender equality. In 2012, the country passed the Ley de Género (Gender Law) which ensures coverage for transition-related health care under private and public health care plans. Under the law, Argentina also became the first country in the world to protect the rights of transgender and gender-expansive people to change their gender identity, name or image on official documents without the approval of a judge or doctor. In 2022, Argentina created a position within the country’s Foreign Affairs Ministry that focuses exclusively on the promotion of LGBTQ+ and intersex rights. Additionally, Alba Rueda became Argentina’s first-ever Special Representative on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity.

In Brazil, two transgender women, Duda Salabert and Erika Hilton, were elected to Congress during the 2022 elections.

Several Latin American countries also have laws protecting human rights around gender identity:

Mexico – Transgender people can change their legal name and gender in Mexico City and several states. In 2023, the Foreign Ministry issued its first non-binary passport.

Costa Rica – Transgender people can change their legal name without judicial permission. Sex is not listed on state IDs issued since 2018.

Argentina – Transgender people can change their legal name without judicial permission. By law, 1% of public sector jobs are reserved for transgender people, with economic incentives available to increase opportunities for transgender people in other job sectors.

Bolivia – Transgender people can change their legal name without judicial permission.

Brazil – Transgender people can change their legal name without judicial permission. Gender-affirming care, including HRT, psychological treatment and some surgeries are available for free under Brazil’s national healthcare system.

Chile – Transgender people can change their legal name without judicial permission. Non-binary people can select “X” gender marker for their National ID cards.

Colombia – Transgender people can change their legal name without judicial permission.

Ecuador – Transgender people can change their legal name without judicial permission.

Peru – Transgender people can change their legal name without judicial permission.

Uruguay – Transgender people can change their legal name without judicial permission.

Dozens of elected officials and other leaders provide hope and strength for LGBTQ+ communities in Latin American countries, including:

From left to right: Kátia Tapety, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, Sandra Morán, Jaime Parada Hoyl and Patria Jiménez.

Patria Jiménez, a lesbian rights activist and the first openly LGBTQ+ legislator in Latin America who was a federal deputy in Mexico

Carmen Muñoz, Vice-Minister of Government and Police of Costa Rica and Costa Rica’s first openly LGBTQ+ member of the Legislative Assembly

Sandra Morán, the first openly LGBTQ+ person elected to Guatemala’s National Congress

Alba Lucía Reyes, whose son was bullied and committed suicide in 2014, inspiring her to devote her career to creating safe spaces for LGBTQ+ students in Colombia

Diane Marie Rodríguez Zambrano, an LGBTQ+ activist who became the first openly transgender person elected to Ecuador’s National Assembly in 2017

Victor Madrigal-Borloz, an openly gay Costa Rican jurist appointed in 2017 as the U.N. Independent Expert on Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

LGBTQ+ rights advocates Tamara Adrián and Rosmit Mantilla, the first openly transgender and first openly gay deputies, respectively, elected to Venezuela’s National Assembly

Carlos Bruce, the first openly gay member of Peru’s National Congress and the current Minister of Housing

Kátia Tapety, who became Brazil’s first openly transgender elected official in 1992

Jean Wyllys, an openly gay member of Brazil’s Chamber of Deputies

José Manuel Canelas, Bolivia’s first openly gay congressperson and the Vice Minister of Planning and Coordination

Claudio Arriagada and Guillermo Ceroni, the first openly LGBTQ+ members of Chile’s Chamber of Deputies

Jaime Parada Hoyl, the first openly gay elected official in Chile

Osvaldo Ramón López, an openly LGBTQ+ former Argentine senator who was the first elected official to marry a same-sex partner

Analia Pasantino, the first openly transgender police chief in Argentina

Contemporary LGBTQ+ Latine American Leaders in the United States

Today, we celebrate the myriad stories and contributions of LGBTQ+ Latine Americans in the United States who continue to provide leadership, visibility and pride to our diverse community.

In 1989, three-term Madison Common Council alderperson Ricardo Gonzalez became the nation’s first openly gay Latino elected official. In Puerto Rico, Justice Maite Oronoz Rodríguez, the fifth woman to serve on Puerto Rico’s Supreme Court, also became the first openly LGBTQ+ chief justice in U.S. history when she assumed that position in 2016. Mary Edna González became the nation’s first openly pansexual lawmaker when she was elected to the Texas House of Representatives in 2012. Similarly, Carlos Guillermo Smith became Florida’s first openly gay Latino state lawmaker in 2016. Nitza Quiñones Alejandro became the first openly gay Latina to become a federal judge in 2013. In 2005, openly lesbian former Dallas County Sheriff Lupe Valdez became the only Latina sheriff in the country. Valdez, an Army veteran, also became Texas’s first Latina and first openly LGBTQ+ nominee for governor when she won the Democratic primary in May 2018.

In local communities and across the nation, we celebrate the work of advocates like Arturo Vargas, Bamby Salcedo, José Gutiérrez, Ruben Gonzales, Anthony Romero, Jorge Gutierrez, Isa Noyola, Ezak Perez, Drago Renteria, Jennicet Gutierrez and Diego Sanchez, who have challenged us to question the bias, discrimination and prejudice that disproportionately affect LGBTQ+ people of color in America.

We also look to artists and writers like Frida Kahlo, Alex Sanchez, Gloria Anzaldúa, Cherríe Moraga, Rose Troche, Denice Frohman, Julio Salgado and Ricky Martin, who have shared their stories and intersectional perspectives through their work. Meanwhile, U.S. and international athletes like Orlando Cruz, Rudy Galindo, Bianca Sierra and Stephany Mayor have broken boundaries in the fight for equality both inside and outside the sports arena.

LGBTQ+ Stories in Film and Television

Although LGBTQ+ Latine Americans are often underrepresented in mass media and entertainment, trailblazing artists continue to pave the way to share our stories.

Celebrities including Michelle Rodriguez, Sara Ramirez, Mark Indelicato, Stephanie Beatriz, Demi Lovato, Emily Rios, Wilson Cruz and Natalie Morales live openly and authentically, inspiring others to live their truth and serving as role models for Latine youth. Meanwhile, LGBTQ+ cinema and television are on the rise in Latin America and other Spanish-speaking areas of the world, bolstered by the wider accessibility provided by digital platforms.

In 1993, Strawberry and Chocolate became the first Cuban picture to be nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También was nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards and Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globe Awards in 2003. In 2016, openly gay filmmaker Dante Alencastre’s documentary Raising Zoey followed the story of HRC Youth Ambassador Zoey Luna and her family as she fought for her right to self-identify in school. Chile’s A Fantastic Woman, featuring openly transgender actress Daniela Vega, received international acclaim and won the 2017 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.

In the past decade, more and more television shows are featuring LGBTQ+ Latine characters and storylines. In 2009, Grey’s Anatomy debuted network television’s longest-running relationship between a same-sex couple that included bisexual Latina Callie Torres. On Ugly Betty, openly gay writer and producer Silvio Horta introduced America to Justin Suarez. In 2017, the reboot of One Day at a Time followed the coming out story of Latina lesbian teenager Elena Alvarez. Set in East Los Angeles, the 2018 series Vida provides an intersectional lens on LGBTQ+ Latine culture across class, race, culture, sexuality and generations.

Shows with LGBTQ+ Latine leads include Pose, Gentified, Los Espookys, The Owl House, Love Victor, One Day at a Time, Veneno and La Casa de las Flores.

Other prominent LGBTQ+ Latine stories in media include My So-Called Life’s Enrique Vasquez, The Office’s Oscar Martinez, Broad City’s Jaime Castro, Glee’s Santana Lopez, Jane the Virgin’s Dr. Luisa Alver, Brooklyn 99’s Rosa Diaz, Looking characters Agustín Lanuez and Richie Ventura, Sense8’s Hernando, True Blood’s Jesús Velásquez, Telenovela’s Gael Garnica, and reality TV stars Carmen Carrera, Mondo Guerra, Valentina, and Wendy Guevara, among others.

“I’m always going to support the LGBTQ+ community and equal rights for the LGBTQ+ unity. That’s going to be with me till the day I die and beyond.”
— Artist and bisexual activist Sara Ramirez

Additional Resources

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The Human Rights Campaign Foundation improves the lives of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ+) people by working to increase understanding and encourage the adoption of LGBTQ+ inclusive policies and practices. We build support for LGBTQ+ people among families and friends, co-workers and employers, pastors and parishioners, doctors and teachers, neighbors, and the general public. Through our programs and projects, we are enhancing the lived experiences of LGBTQ+ people and their families, as we change hearts and minds across America and around the globe. The HRC Foundation is a nonprofit, tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization.

Hispanic Federation

The mission of the Hispanic Federation is to empower and advance the Hispanic community. The Hispanic Federation provides grants and services to a broad network of Latino non-profit agencies serving the most vulnerable members of the Hispanic community and advocates nationally with respect to the vital issues of education, health, immigration, economic empowerment, civic engagement and the environment. For more information, please visit


The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is the nation’s largest and oldest civil rights volunteer-based organization that empowers Hispanic Americans and builds strong Latino communities. Headquartered in Washington, DC, with 1,000 councils around the United States and Puerto Rico, LULAC’s programs, services and advocacy address the most important issues for Latinos, meeting critical needs of today and the future. For more information, visit


UnidosUS, previously known as NCLR (National Council of La Raza), is the nation’s largest Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization. Through its unique combination of expert research, advocacy, programs, and an Affiliate Network of nearly 300 community-based organizations across the United States and Puerto Rico, UnidosUS simultaneously challenges the social, economic, and political barriers that affect Latinos at the national and local levels. For 50 years, UnidosUS has united communities and different groups seeking common ground through collaboration, and that share a desire to make our country stronger. For more information on UnidosUS, visit or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

To access this resource online and in Spanish, please visit:

Para ver este recurso en español y en línea, por favor visite:

Other Coming Out Guides

Black LGBTQ+ Coming Out Resource

For those who identify as Black LGBTQ+ people, the coming out process can be complex to navigate. Coming Out: Living Authentically as Black LGBTQ+ People is designed for those embarking on their own coming out journey at the intersections of LGBTQ+ and Black identities. This guide aims to recognize the unique experiences Black LGBTQ+ people have in coming out, while understanding that coming out is a personal choice and the lifelong coming out experience is different for everyone.

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Coming Out: Living Authentically as Transgender or Non-Binary

Coming Out: Living Authentically as Transgender or Non-Binary will use the phrase “transgender and non-binary” to try to best capture this broad array of identities. That being said, it is important to recognize that not all people in these groups may identify as transgender or non-binary. In addition, there may be transgender or nonbinary people whose gender does not fit in any of the terms described above. This resource is meant for anyone and everyone whose gender does not fit what they were assigned at birth. No matter who you are, we affirm you, and your gender is valid.

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Coming Out: Living Authentically as Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual+

Coming Out: Living Authentically as Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual+ was designed to help you and your loved ones through the coming out process in realistic and practical terms. It acknowledges that the experience of coming out and living openly covers the full spectrum of human emotion — from paralyzing fear to unbounded euphoria.

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Coming Out: Living Authentically as Bisexual+

Coming out is different for every person. For bisexual people, coming out can present some unique challenges. As bisexual people, we face skepticism and stereotypes about our sexuality, we are ignored and excluded from LGBTQ+ spaces, and we are often invisible to each other - challenges that can make coming out a complicated process.

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Being an LGBTQ+ Ally

Being an LGBTQ+ Ally is designed to help build understanding and comfort. If you are new to LGBTQ+ issues, we will answer many of your questions. Or, if you have known LGBTQ+ people for years and are looking to find new ways to show your support, you can skim this resource and take the pieces that are relevant to you. It’s ok to not know everything — we’re here to help.

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