Standing in front of a mixture of UCF students, staff and faculty members, Christopher Cuevas explained Tuesday what it is like when Latin culture meets LGBTQ culture.
The Latinidad x LGBTQ+ Identity event held by QLatinx coincided with both Hispanic Heritage Month and LGBTQ+ History Month. Cuevas discussed the intersection of LGBTQ, gender and Latinx identities to an audience of about 15 people in the Barbara Ying Center on UCF's main campus.
Cuevas is the executive director of QLatinx, an Orlando-based organization that supports Central Florida’s LGBTQ+ Latinx community and focuses on racial, social and gender justice. "Latinx" is a gender-neutral substitute for Latino or Latina.
Cuevas — who uses the gender-neutral pronouns "they," "them," and "theirs" — explained the importance of gender pronouns as a marker of someone’s identity.
"[Gender pronouns are] a marker of someone’s humanity," Cuevas said. "So the way that someone chooses to present themselves physically may not necessarily align with the way they identify or the way they present themselves to the world internally, their authentic and true self."
QLatinx was founded after the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub on June 12, 2016, that left 49 people dead and wounded dozens more. The shooting at the LGBTQ nightclub happened on Latin night.
“Almost immediately after [the shooting] what happened was, a bunch of strangers in the community, all Latinx folk who were deeply and directly impacted, sort of just found each other,” Cuevas said.
Cyndia Muñiz, the assistant director of Hispanic Initiatives and Professional Development, said she wanted to partner with QLatinx for the event as the two communities' celebratory months overlap in October.
National Hispanic Heritage Month started on Sept. 15 and ends on Oct. 15, while LGTBQ+ History Month runs through the entire month of October.
Muñiz stressed the importance of her own intersectional identity.
“It’s important to me to recognize all the multiple identities we carry," Muñiz said. "I am not only Latina. I’m a woman. I’m a professor. I’m a wife."
Faculty and staff are encouraged to attend diversity educational sessions like the one held Tuesday to become more familiar with diversity at UCF.
Andrea Snead, who is the sport clubs and the adaptive recreation coordinator at the Recreation and Wellness Center, attended the workshop.
Snead echoed the significance of recognizing intersecting identities.
“I don’t just identify as a woman. I don’t just identify as a black person. I don’t just identify as a gay person," Snead said. "I identify as all three. Not one is above the other."
Snead has been married to her wife for six years and is also a facilitator for LGBTQ+ Services and the chair of UCF’s Diversity Committee.
Snead said she enjoys holding a seat on the committee and is able to some of the sessions for LGBTQ+ 101, a workshop that focuses on LGBTQ terminology and history.
Snead said she likes the workshop because it allows her to educate others and from a different direction” rather than utilizing other approaches such as protesting or marching.
“There’s the intersection pieces, I think that’s something that folks don’t really think about, and I think that that’s where we need to continue to have the education,” Snead said. “It’s the intersections, because we all think that it’s either this, or it’s that. We live in a black and white society, and it’s not black or white."
Gary Cahen, associate director of Programs Recreation and Wellness Center, also attended the workshop. Cahen is also a part of the Student Development and Enrollment Services division.
“One of the great things about working in [the Student Development and Enrollment Services] division is it’s encouraged and even part of our culture that we attend sessions as part of continuing education when it comes to diversity,” Cahen said.
Cahen explained that people who are a part of the division are required to earn diversity education credits. He said he “has been to dozens of sessions over the years.” Cahen went through an LGBTQ allies training for basic structure of understanding the community. After that training, he said he considers himself an ally to the LGBTQ community.
Cahen said he tries to attend sessions that center on topics. Though Cahen said he had heard of QLatinx, the workshop allowed him to learn more about the organization and its mission.
“Just to be able to understand that perspective [of QLatinx] a little bit better, was actual my motivation, aside from the other commitment that we make to come to all these types of sessions,” Cahen said.