“I do the work because we need to do it. It needs to be done.”
Reynaldo Magdaleno is making waves. For the past five years, he’s been working to bring visibility to a minority population that’s often overlooked in Southeastern Michigan. A proud second generation Mexican-American, at 24 Magdaleno has already won a Triangle Foundation Catalyst Award, a community service award from the Pride banquet and been profiled in QV Magazine, a national publication focusing on LGBT Latinos.
“To do this work you have to definitely have the mind for it or you won’t last long,” Magdaleno said. “I wasn’t expecting the Catalyst Award and it’s nice to be recognized and honored with such an award. But I think the real honor with receiving that award is that it just means that people outside of this organization recognize the work that I’m doing. That means the word is getting out and people’s needs are being met.”
Magdaleno really wants to meet the needs of gay Latinos, and founded the Hermanos de Corazon program to help do just that.
“I think that was definitely a very important part of my life and a very important accomplishment to get that program recognized,” he said. “I piloted the actual program services but of course Angela Reyes, our executive director, wanted to provide services to the gay community to address the high percentage of HIV-infected and affected population, and in this community we can safely assume that there’s a lot of cases out there of people who are affected or infected with HIV who have not been tested. We know that it’s not part of our culture to be tested because a lot of times, the reason why we consider this population to be Latino MSM, men who sleep with men, is because a lot of Latinos don’t identify as being gay or being bisexual.”
Luckily for Magdaleno, his Americanized parents were very supportive of him when he came out at age 20.
“I’m grateful because I didn’t feel compelled to be bothered by the traditions and culture and religion that so many other Latino people face,” said Magdaleno. “I took my mom with me to the Triangle dinner when I was presented with the Catalyst Award because she has been so supportive. ”
Magdaleno’s first job in the community was working for MAPP, where he facilitated the La Comunidad program. It was there that he added “model” to his resume, posing for the agency’s safe sex brochures.
“I have a very outgoing personality and most people who know me know that I’m very personable and a lot of people know me in the community and when the opportunity came up to do safer sex ads, prevention ads, and they needed a face, I definitely volunteered,” he said. “Even though my status is negative and I’m STD free, I just wanted to drive the message home about how important prevention is, and that’s why I wanted to be a part of that. Because a lot of times people look at ads and it’s just another ad because they don’t recognize anybody in the picture. But when they see somebody they know they’re going to pay a little bit more attention to it.”
And people are definitely paying attention to Magdaleno. He was recently promoted to director of marketing and fund development at the Detroit Hispanic Development Corporation, where he’s worked for the past two years. Magdaleno is finishing up his Bachelor’s degree at the University of Phoenix. He then plans to get a Master’s degree in public health from the University of Michigan. After that, well, Magdaleno wants to run for public office and take his message to the masses.
“I do the work because we need to do it,” he said. “It needs to be done. We’re not considered equals. We’re not recognized as equals. We’re not treated fairly and I totally believe in the motto that what affects one affects us all. And if we don’t stand up for ourselves then we only have ourselves to blame. So the work that I do, the activities that I get involved in, the groups, the coalitions, the organizations that I support, it’s out of need and I have a passion for it, so it makes it a little easier for me to get involved because I believe in it so much.”