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Opening Doors

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Wingspan's Puertas Abiertas project is recognizing lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Latinos with seven days of events, featuring everything from hot dogs to drag queens, and dance parties to art shows.

Tucson Latin@ Gay Pride is back for its fourth year. The week is a celebration of sexuality, community, heritage and family. Events will take place across Southern Arizona, each highlighting different issues or unique aspects relevant to the Latino LGBT population.

Wingspan, Tucson's LGBT community center and the main organizer of Latin@ Gay Pride 2011, is collaborating with the Associated Students of the University of Arizona's Pride Alliance, Ain't Nobody's Bizness, Odyssey Storytelling, Fluxx Studios and Gallery, and Dinnerware Artspace to fill each day with unique and exciting activities.

Since Latin@ Gay Pride's local start in 2008, the events have grown each year in attendance and support.

"I think we live in a very special place ... and people have really embraced the week," said Oscar Jimenez, Wingspan's program director and the creator of the weeklong observance.

This year's theme, "Our Movement! Our Moment!" highlights Latino involvement in the LGBT movement for equality. Jimenez explained that Latinos are not often mentioned in accounts regarding events like the 1969 Stonewall riots in New York.

"It's often overlooked, but Latinos were there, fighting for our rights on both coasts as the revolutions occurred," he said.

The week's events will highlight difficult issues for people of all ages. Alex Lopez, the coordinator of Puertas Abiertas, Wingspan's social-outreach program for LGBT Latinos, explained that the events are not necessarily about drinking or nightlife, but instead focus on family and traditions.

"It's a mixture of older people, younger people and people representing art, showing what they offer besides going to the clubs," Lopez said about the people putting on the week's events. "That's what I enjoy: Watching us show our art and our talent."

Jimenez and Lopez say that being gay (or questioning one's gender or sexuality) while also being Latino can lead to a confusing intersection. Overlapping systems of religion, racism, immigration issues, classism and homophobia can create a complicated dichotomy.

"For Latino people, and people of color, sometimes, talking about gender or sexuality (takes) a backseat to economics and racism," said Jimenez. "Many times in community and family, we don't have time to talk about, 'I'm gay,' or 'I'm queer.'"

The week begins Thursday, Sept. 15, with "Intersecciones," a panel and discussion at 5:30 p.m. at the Cesar E. Chavez Building on the UA campus, about what it means to identify as both LGBT and Latino. Attendees are invited to interact with members of the panel, and to share experiences and/or ask questions.

"It is good information for people who are having issues coming out," said Lopez.

On Friday, Sept. 16, Ain't Nobody's Bizness, aka The Biz, is hosting is the first Miss Latin@ Gay Pride 2011 Pageant. The show will spotlight Latino drag, which has subtle differences from mainstream drag. Contestants will be judged in the categories of red carpet/eveningwear, stage questions and talent. Following the pageant will be a dance party.

Also new this year, on Sunday, Sept. 18, is the "Tardeada" Family Picnic at La Madera Park, which will include hot dogs, burgers, a jumping castle and piñatas. Members of Puertas Abiertas will be there to provide information and resources about the LGBT community.

Last year, Lopez said, he met Jimenez, who became a mentor and encouraged him to volunteer with Puertas Abiertas. Lopez said he was very shy after coming out, and said that Wingspan helped him by providing information and helping him meet members of the LGBT community.

"These events mean a lot to me. They're something that's different, not the normal club scene—events to ... have a good time with your community, learn things and enjoy people's company," Lopez said.

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