MARCO GONZALEZ, 51, North LA, Board Chair, Latino Equality Alliance, He/Him/His, Mexican
Marco Gonzalez is the Advisory Board Chair of Latino Equality Alliance (LEA), a small Latinx LGBTQ+ nonprofit in Boyle Heights. He brings 15 years of experience in the nonprofit sector. The organization was founded as a direct response to the passing of Proposition 8, an initiative that defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
LEA is an alliance of individuals that represent several organizations that came together to promote liberty, justice and equality for the Latinx LGBTQ+ communities.
LEA offers a variety of resources for LGBTQ+ individuals like educational workshops, Covid-19 resources, mental health, and many more. The mission of LEA is to advocate for equity, safety, and wellness of the Latinx Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer + community.
Gonzalez got involved with LEA at their Purple Lily Awards, which he first attended in 2017.
The Purple Lily Awards honors community leaders who help create safer spaces for the Latinx LGBTQ+ community. This event helps fund programs like mental health, social justice programs and family programs.
“I was so moved and touched by the testimonies of some of the kids and their parents and how LEA had made such an impact in their lives that I decided to get involved,” said Gonzalez. He didn’t just want to support financially by writing checks to charities, he wanted to truly get involved with the Latinx LGBTQ+ community. In 2019 he became a board member and in September of 2021, he was voted by the board to be the board chair of LEA.
“This work with LEA is my passion. I hope that my work with LEA continues to create safe environments for all of our Latinx LGBTQ+ youth in Boyle Heights and South East Los Angeles,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez holds a Bachelor’s degree in Spanish, Language, and Culture from California State University, Northridge, and a Master’s degree in Communication Management from the University of Southern California (USC).
Gonzalez began his career in communications as an entertainment freelance writer for Latin media outlets such as La Opinión newspaper, Latin Style Magazine, LatinoLA.com, and Tentaciones Magazine. His first job in communications was as Director of Communications for United Way of Greater Los Angeles in 2000.
He is currently a corporate communications and public relations executive who most recently served as Vice President of Public Relations and Corporate Affairs for Estrella Media. He founded the Public Relations division and was responsible for all media relations and community affairs for the company’s EstrellaTV network and its various radio stations.
Responses are edited for brevity and clarity.
WHEN WAS YOUR ORGANIZATION ESTABLISHED AND WHY?
We were established in 2009 with the purpose of advocating for equity, safety, and wellness for the Latinx LGBTQ+ community. We realized there weren’t enough services offered east of the Los Angeles River. The Los Angeles Gay and Lesbian Center was too far removed from the Boyle Heights community where our gente and our kids are. We were established as a result of Proposition 8, and we basically just want to create safe spaces for our young Latinx LGBTQ+ kids.
WHAT IS YOUR MISSION STATEMENT?
The mission of LEA is to advocate for safety, equity, and wellness for the Latinx LGBTQ+ community. Our organization focuses on youth empowerment, family acceptance, educational equity, public health, and civic engagement.
WHAT HAVE BEEN SOME OF YOUR BIGGEST SUCCESSES SINCE ITS INCEPTION?
We have anti-bullying campaigns, we work with the Los Angeles Unified School District and other school districts. We have workshops for the parents in English and Spanish for parents who are dealing with transgender kids or kids that are coming out of the closet, we have those types of training for the parents. We also offer services to Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) in Spanish that take place at Mi Centro, a community center we established in Boyle Heights and where we are housed, It’s a collaboration with the LA Gay and Lesbian Center. All of these things are our successes, a lot of the programming, a lot of leadership development and academic success that’s where we are the most successful today.
WHEN IT COMES TO LGBTQ+ COMMUNITIES, WHAT ARE THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT HEALTH ISSUES AND WHY?
I think the first issue is to raise awareness of the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. HIV education is still very important because, unfortunately, when kids are kicked out of their homes, they are at a higher risk of getting infected with HIV. Secondly, creating awareness of good nutrition as a health imperative for a community, is very important. Lastly, educating about Covid and Covid vaccines that are offered here at our organization.
WHAT ARE AMONG THE KEY SOLUTIONS TO THESE ISSUES?
It’s education, awareness, and having the proper tools to educate and inform the community about these issues.
WHAT CAN LOCAL AND STATE GOVERNMENTS DO BETTER TO HELP LGBTQ+ COMMUNITIES?
We need more grants and we need more resources. Federal, state, and local officials need to make it part of their agenda to allocate resources for smaller organizations like LEA and other organizations. For instance, in Los Angeles, we have The Wall Las Memorias Project and Bienestar. All these organizations do amazing work in the community but we need more grants and we need more resources directed to our community.
WHAT CANDIDATES, CAUSES, AND LEGISLATION NEED TO BE SUPPORTED TO HELP LGBTQ+ COMMUNITIES? AND WHY?
I think anti-bullying, school campaigns, and hate crimes toward our transgender community [need to be supported]. I think we need more legislation nationally. In California, we are more progressive but in other parts of the country, we need some major reforms specifically, hate crime laws, to prevent these crimes from happening. There has to be consequences for the people that are committing these crimes against the LGBTQ+ community. I think it’s the same for gun regulations. It’s important that they create more legislation against bullying and hate crimes. Many times, these hate crimes result in a horrible tragedy.
I also believe we need more education and training for our police officers and police departments on gender identities, on LGBTQ+ issues, because I think that a lot of the problems when it comes to law enforcement is that they’re not trained properly on how to deal with the LGBTQ+ community. Those are the two most important things: more legislation on hate crimes and more training and education for police departments.
WHAT MESSAGE WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEND OUT THIS YEAR FOR PRIDE MONTH?
Pride is just not one month. It’s almost like Mothers Day. You celebrate your mom every day.
For those who aren’t part of the LGBTQ+ community, allyship is important all year round. Be an ally, and be an ally all year round. Really sit and think what does an ally mean? When you hear a joke or a stereotypical comment about someone in the LGBTQ+ community, put an end to it when you hear it. Don’t be a silent offender. If you’re going to be an ally, support the community by standing up for the community, with the community. If there’s a march, if there’s a demonstration, come out and support, because whatever affects this community, it affects the entire community as a whole. For the people of color in this community, it’s a double whammy against us because we are already the minority group. Sometimes we are marginalized, so I think it’s important for our allies to speak up and never be silent offenders. When you hear something just speak up because once we speak up, we let people know it’s not OK to make those types of jokes or it’s not OK to attack the community or any community for that matter. So please speak up and support each other.