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First Coast Connect: Giving A Voice To Jacksonville's Latino LGBT Community

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Kelsey Oates
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Manny Andrade, Cindy Watson and Mario DeCutoappeared on Thursday’s First Coast Connect to talk about the challenges facing Jacksonville's LGBT community, especially those in the Latino and Hispanic communities.

With more than 90 percent of the victims in the Orlando mass-shooting being Latino — the third largest population in the nation — the shooting was a devastating strike on the fast-growing community that makes up nearly 30 percent of the population of Orange County.
 

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Credit Kelsey Oates
Cindy Watson, Executive Director of JASMYN, and Mario DeCuto.

According to a 2013 report by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, an estimated 1.4 million Latinos in the U.S. identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.

Andrade, Latino outreach coordinator with the Northeast Florida Aids Network, said while the Latino LGBT community is growing, the coming out process is still often very difficult.

"In addition to cultural barriers that people face around language and culture, there’s also a huge thing I've noticed with the clients I work with — a huge sense of loss and grief from having to leave the island. It is a complex situation,” he said.

During Sunday’s vigil at Memorial Park, Andrade said although the LGBT community here in Jacksonville turned out in support of the victims, the fact that the majority of the victims were Latino was only mentioned once in passing.

“Where were the Latino voices? ... Where was more Latino involvement to honor the people who had died and to at least pronounce their name properly,” Andrade said.

Andrade said he left the vigil early because of the feeling of isolation and devastation consumed him.

“The biggest enemy of the LGBT community and the Latino community is very often invisibility and addressing that invisibility," he said.

DeCuto, who serves serves on the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission, supported Andrade's comments, adding there needs to be stricter gun laws in place.

“We all agree this could have been avoided if there were stronger laws keeping people who are on FBI lists or no-fly lists from purchasing guns that can literally execute 50 people in the matter of minutes — it's just unnecessary,” he said.

Watson, who works with LGBT youth through the outreach organization, JASMYN, discussed the coming out process and how some of the victim's parents were not aware their children were gay until their names were revealed on the news.

One reason, she said, is that many fear their families are going to reject them, especially in the Latino communities.

But Watson, and the other panelists, agreed that access to assault weapons played the largest role in the Orlando shooting.

“If we can stand together and pull together across these three intersections and make some significant changes in community attitudes and laws, then there is something we can take from this horrible tragedy and move forward,” she said.