by Jessica Carreras
Tony O’Rourke-Quintana is an organizer for the LGBT Latino nonprofit Detroit [email protected], and a dedicated lifelong volunteer to HIV/AIDS causes. He is working to promote the LGBT Latino community, as well as help those who are just coming out.
1) Why did you decide to get involved with Detroit [email protected]?
I have been organizing in the LGBT community since the early to mid-1990s. Latinos/as in southeastern Michigan need a place to go and a “family” of supporters with whom to meet, mingle and organize that understands their sensibilities and unique needs. Detroit [email protected] provides just such a resource. Family is everything for us, and without providing a second “family,” the true coming out process will not happen.
2) What has the group been up to recently?
Most recently, we were at Hotter Than July, Detroit’s black gay Pride celebration, where we had a table at the Palmer Park Festival and mingled with event participants. We were also at Motor City Pride in Ferndale.
We had a nice big group of folks at Diablos Cantina and Club 9 in Ferndale for Cinco de Mayo this year as well. We also provide a monthly educational forum from fall to spring, usually held at The Loft, home of MPowerment Detroit, downtown.
3) How did you get involved with HIV/AIDS advocacy work?
I started as a volunteer with the HIV/AIDS Resource Center of Washtenaw County in late 1991. Back then, I attended vigils and visited patients in nursing homes, who were always dying. My then boyfriend got me involved, and I have loved the work ever since!
4) Why should the Latino community care about LGBT and HIV issues?
Besides the fact that we are over-represented in terms of infection rates (we represent more of those infected than we do the general population), we also have challenges similar to other communities of color. Many men who have sex with men in the Latino community are very secretive about it. This leads to higher risk factors such as no barrier usage, slower access to medical care and shame and guilt issues.
5) How do Latino gays and lesbians hope to become a more prominent part of the LGBT community?
Detroit [email protected] has to ride a tightrope of sorts in that we need to be sensitive to the needs of those coming out, but at the same time try to be as visible as possible. Providing ongoing support for the coming out process is the only way to create a larger, more prominent community.
We need to be at the table for all major LGBT events and decisions, but also provide a space where members can feel safe, secure and supported relative to family and faith concerns. For those members and leaders who are ready to be visible, though, we need to be front and center, not just in southwest Detroit or Ferndale, but at every possible opportunity where LGBT people and Latino/a folks are gathering.