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'Resistencia' presents Latinx LGBTQ perspectives
Special to the online edition of Windy City Times
by Vern Hester

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On Oct. 29, The National Museum of Mexican Art and The 2016 Sor Juana Festival presented "Resistencia: Remaining Resilient in Times of Adversity."

The event, modeled after TED Talks and MEX Talks, presented invited speakers from unique viewpoints that reflect the Mexican/Latinx LGBTQ experience to dialogue about resilience in the face of tragedy and difficult times. The event sought to open a conversation on community resilience while taking ownership of "our narrative."

The concept for the event was workshopped following the Pulse Nightclub shootings, and begged the question of how to prevent the event from being rewritten or whitewashed. It also to insure that Latinix names would not be lost in the media the way they were lost in the history of The Stonewall Riots in 1969.

With moderator Jorge Valdivia opening the presentation, the speakers discussed a wide range of personal histories and how they dealt with them. Among the speakers were Erik Glenn ( CEO of Chicago Black Men's Gay Caucus ), Norma Seledon ( The Mayor's Advisory Council on Latin Affairs and recent inductee to The Chicago LGBT Hall of Fame ), Isaac Gomez ( celebrated writer and dramaturg at Victory Gardens Theater ), Karari Olvera Orozco ( contributing writer for HispanicLA, Gozamos and Extra Newspaper ) and Gwen La Roka ( upcoming comedian who has worked at Zanies, The Improv and The Icehouse ).

The individual histories included suicide, pervasive depression, the loss of loved ones, divorce, dealing with homophobia and transphobia, and widespread racism. A common thread that ran through many of the narratives was the importance of communication, speaking out, seeking help and community. La Roka made the point that some in the community cannot depend on biological family for support so the support system has to be built on through friendships and community.

Seledon spoke about her daughters fight with leukemia, losing her career, a bitter divorce, losing her home and the death of her partner, saying, "All of the pain made me numb and I stopped being an optimist. And that was the worst part, giving into apathy." Orozco spoke about suicide and how being alone forced her to deal with her vulnerability while Glenn spoke about his unacknowledged history of anxiety attacks and deepening depression. All three spoke on the importance of seeking help, connecting with other people and staying active.

Additionally, La Roka commented on the importance of being "who we are." She said, "At Stonewall, we were showing who we were and that brought police action. So we turned that sh*t around and made [Stonewall] into a parade—a big a*s Gay Pride Parade with a*sless chaps!!!"

The presentation ended with a question-and-answer session with the audience.

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