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By Dan Torres, Esq.
Proyecto Poderoso Project Manager

The discussion about lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender acceptance often begins with conversations with those closest to us—our families.

But in some households, cultural barriers create obstacles that can seem too big to overcome, making it nearly impossible for some LGBTQ people to share with their families who they truly are and the daily struggles they face as members of the LGBTQ community.

In many Latino households, cultural barriers prevent families from fully accepting and embracing their LGBTQ family members. Too often, these barriers mean that LGBTQ youth are cut off from their families when they need them the most, and families lack even the most basic information about how to be supportive of an LGBTQ child.

Proyecto Poderoso, a joint project of the National Center for Lesbian Rights and California Rural Legal Assistance , sought to build a dialogue that would help close this gap in Spanish-speaking Latino households. In partnership with San Francisco State University’s Family Acceptance Project and Radio Bilingüe, we’re launching the on-air premiere of our radionovela series, a Spanish-language soap opera that will air on Radio Bilingüe stations across California from February 11 through March 31. Even if you don’t live in California, you can listen to podcasts of the radionovela that will be available on www.RadioBilingüe.org.

We used a classic medium in the form of a radionovela—similar to those popular during the Golden Age of Radio—to break down the walls of communication, helping Latino families begin conversations on issues they otherwise would never talk about. We hope that the series can provide them with a greater understanding of the hurt and damage experienced by LGBTQ adults, children, and youth who don’t have their family’s full, loving support and acceptance.

The three-part series—called “Bienvenidos a Casa,” or “Welcome Home”—is based on groundbreaking research from the Family Acceptance Project, which conducted the first comprehensive study of Latino LGBTQ adolescents, young adults, and families, including family dynamics and the impact of family acceptance or rejection.

The series weaves together timely social issues into storylines that have historically been difficult for traditional Latino families to discuss. This innovative evidence-based series is intended to help families talk about important issues that are currently affecting the LGBTQ community.

The primary story in the radionovela is about a teenage boy named Carlos who gets bullied in school because other kids think he’s gay. He has not yet come out of the closet because he is afraid his family will reject him.

After getting attacked by a group of students at school, he comes home and tries to hide his injuries from his parents. But his mother, Gloria, finds out about the attack through another parent. When Gloria learns that Carlos was attacked because he’s gay, Gloria reacts with shame and anger. Not knowing what to do or who to consult, she talks to her straight brother about how to make Carlos straight. Gloria eventually finds support from another couple who have an adult gay son. They share their journey towards acceptance of their gay son and his partner, and demonstrate an even more powerful value in Latino culture—the value of family unity.

The hurdles that a student like Carlos has to overcome are huge, but without the support of his family, a young person like him is unlikely to make it through this journey. Research conducted by the Family Acceptance Project confirms that family rejection significantly increases the risks of suicide, substance abuse, and homelessness among LGBTQ youth.

No one should ever have to be ashamed of who they are or who they love, and everyone should be able to share their lives, their fears, their struggles, and their hopes with their families, and know that they will have their family’s support.

Our hope is that through this unique series, we can start breaking down the barriers of silence in the Latino community and help families to open up their hearts and minds to acceptance and equality for the LGBTQ members of our community.

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