Recognizing that there is a lack of focused support for Latino members of the LGBT community in Baltimore, Lilian Amaya, 27, and four others decided to do something about it. They formed a group that they hope will help address this underserved portion of the community.
Most of the Latino LGBT population lives in or near the Highlandtown area of Baltimore yet the majority of the LGBT services are located in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. Amaya believes that aside from the location barriers to services, the Latino LGBT community faces many other intersectional barriers, such as not being able to speak English, immigration status, acceptance in culture and isolation.
“A few of the group members have lived in Baltimore for quite some time and have seen programs focused around the Latino LGBTQ community come and go,” Amaya told the Blade. “During our initial planning meeting, it was clear that the Latino LGBTQ community of Baltimore is in need of support that is consistent and will not go away here in Highlandtown.”
To begin to fill that void, a community meeting for Latino LGBT individuals has been scheduled for Jan. 11 from 5-8 p.m. in the Southeast Enoch Pratt Library, 3601 Eastern Ave., in Baltimore. Topics to be discussed include: What are the problems our community faces? What resources do we have? How can we support ourselves?
“We are hoping that this initial community meeting will be a good introduction to group meetings held monthly in Highlandtown for the Latino LGBTQ community as well as an opportunity for the community to have voice,” said Amaya, who is Bilingual Service Coordinator at House of Ruth Maryland.
A colleague introduced Amaya to Alfredo Santiago, who is working with Amaya to organize the Latino LGBTQ group. A social worker who has lived in the community for more than 15 years, Santiago works for RISE, which is a retreat for gay and bisexual men.
“It is time to acknowledge and recognize the Latino LGBTQ community presence in Baltimore,” Santiago told the Blade. “In unity, there is space for personal and community development.”
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