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October 6, 2022

Grantee Partner Spotlight: Somos Familia

by Maritza Martínez

The Ms. Foundation is proud to support our grantee partners, who are at the forefront of organizing and creating solutions that improve people’s lives and bring us closer to achieving a true democracy. The insight and perspective they provide is invaluable. The Q&A below was generated by Maritza Martínez, Executive Director of Somos Familia.

Somos Familia has a mission of creating support and acceptance for Latinx lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning youth and their families. Somos Familia is an Activist Collaboration & Care Fund grantee partner.

What brought you to this work?

Before being introduced to Somos Familia, I had never seen a Latina mom openly proud of their LGBTQ+ child. I had met some accepting family members and some family members who weren’t supportive, but never a parent proudly and publicly proclaiming their child is LGBTQ+. It wasn’t until I saw a video from Somos Familia, Tres Gotas de Agua, that I realized the power families hold in transforming our communities and our cultural biases. Tres Gotas de Agua tells the story of Mirna, Dolores, and Susana, three moms with LGBTQ+ kids, and has been viewed around the globe and continues to inspire people even after 11 years.

How do you connect/collaborate in your community? Who are your key partners?

Somos Familia partners with Mujeres Unidas y Activas, El/La para Translatinas, and many other community organizations to train their staff, volunteers, and members on how to better support LGBTQ+ Latinxs and their families as part of their work. We also partner with Bay Area schools serving Latinx students to create inclusive environments for families. Our work reaches families regardless of whether they have or know they have LGBTQ+ children to transform our community as a whole into a safe space. Celebrating LGBTQ+ identities and experiences is a community-wide concern because sexual orientation and gender bias is indicative of the deeply ingrained machista culture.

What are you learning or what are you teaching?

Somos Familia builds leadership in our Latinx families and communities to create a culture where people of diverse genders and sexual orientations can thrive. This is critical because family support plays a huge role in the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ people.

We support families to better understand, celebrate, and advocate for LGBTQ+ loved ones through educational workshops and our twice monthly Familias y Diversidad support group. We host a group specifically for transmasculine identified Latinxs. We partner with schools and community organizations to host Spanish-language workshops and create materials to increase understanding of LGBTQ+ identities and experiences, including an animated series, self-guided learning site, and podcast.

Tell us about a recent victory or something you’re proud of.

This year we are celebrating 15 year of service to the community. We will be celebrating all that we have accomplished and all the people who have had a hand in creating change in our community. One of my favorite memories is from 2019 when we hosted the first gathering of Latinx families with LGBTQ+ loved ones at Stanford University. Forty families from around California came together to share their experiences, learn from each other, and organize to fight for LGBTQ+ rights. There were so many breakthrough conversations, learnings, hugs and tears. And we can’t wait to do it again.

What can philanthropy do better and/or how can individuals be helpful allies?

Supporting LGBTQ+ people in your family and community is transformative and makes a real difference. Rejection hurts LGBTQ+ people in many visible and invisible ways but the one thing it doesn’t do is change their sexual orientation or gender identity.

We encourage you to take a few initial steps to being an ally to queer and trans people in your life. Here are a few simple steps: 

  1. Always share your pronouns when introducing yourself. This creates space for others to do the same. 
  2. Avoid assuming that everyone is heterosexual and on the gender binary. 
  3. Support LGBTQ+ led organizations, like Somos Familia, working to increase acceptance and celebration of LGBTQ+ identities.

What gives you hope?

Our people are resilient. We have been through a lot and we’ve kept on going. These past few years have been filled with loss and fear, but I have also seen joy and solidarity every step of the way. Whether it was pandemic Zoom dance parties, people sharing their skills, funds, and talents to support each other, or those long awaited hugs and in-person interactions after prolonged periods of isolation, I have seen community show up for each other in very meaningful ways and that gives me hope that we can overcome anything together.