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Five Decades of Fabulous LGBTQ+ Latinx Figures

Tusk takes a look at five LGBTQ+ Latinx folks whose existence and resistance helped uplift their community. 

By Elizabeth Tovar

 In a culture that idealizes machismo and heterosexuality, it’s important to celebrate folks who have fought for queer visibility and rights. Spanning from 50 years ago to present-day activists, these queer Latinx luminaries deserve a spotlight for their valiant contributions.

1960s — Sylvia Rivera

Throwing the second bottle bomb at the Stonewall Riots, Rivera helped form the gay rights movement. Rivera’s battle focused on those who were outcasts in the movement: the transgender youth and queer people of color. 

1970s — Nancy Cárdenas

Cárdenas accomplished many “firsts” in Mexico, such as starting the first gay organization called Frente de Liberación Homosexual Mexicano and the first pride march in the Tlatelolco neighborhood of Mexico City. 

She was also one of the first individuals to openly talk about her sexuality on television in Mexico.

1980s — Angie Xtravaganza

Xtravaganza made waves, not just by being extravagant, but by founding and being  house mother in the first Latinx house of New York’s underground ballroom scene.

The House of Xtravaganza is featured in the ballroom documentary, Paris is Burning, and part of Xtravaganza’s motherly duties was to teach her children how to survive in the gay world.

1990s — Dennis deLeon

DeLeon served as a New York City’s Chair of the Commission on Human Rights and was one of the first officials in New York to be openly HIV positive.

DeLeon was president of The Latino Commission on AIDS, a nonprofit whose mission is to advocate for the health of the Latinx community, and helped expand it to what it is today. Under his leadership he initiated National Latino AIDS Awareness Day.

2000s — Shane Ortega

Ortega is the first openly transgender soldier in the military.

According to the WIlliams Institute, there are roughly 15,000 active transgender military personnel. Until Ortega came along, that number was only a number. He’s now the face for those who can’t come out.

Ortega is also a co-founder of SPART*A, an organization that advocates for transgender military members, veterans, and their families.


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