White House LGBT liaison Gautam Raghavan was a guest speaker at the Boyle Heights LGBT Forum. Photo by Freddy Monares
White House LGBT liaison Gautam Raghavan was a guest speaker at the Boyle Heights LGBT Forum. Photo by Freddy Monares
White House LGBT liaison Gautam Raghavan was a guest speaker at the Boyle Heights LGBT Forum. Photo by Freddy Monares

More than 100 people turned out Saturday for what organizers called a one-of-a-kind forum aimed at creating safe places for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) youth within communities of color at Mariachi Plaza in Boyle Heights.

Hosted by the Latino Equality Alliance in collaboration with The California Endowment’s Building Healthy Communities initiative in Boyle Heights, the event included speakers, a resource fair, entertainment and workshops for service providers, families and individuals.

Forum speakers engaged attendees in deep dialogue about issues affecting LGBTQ youth, who often lack resources and safe spaces within their communities.

“Latino communities, including Boyle Heights, can be a place where our LGBTQ youth and their families can thrive and access health services and support without fear,” said Ari Gutierrez, co-chair of the Latino Equality Alliance, a Latino LGBT advocacy organization.

Workshops held focused on creating healthier communities by connecting service providers, families and individuals to build acceptance for LGBTQ youth. During these workshops members of the audience were asked to brainstorm ideas on how to make Boyle Heights and the surrounding areas aware and accepting of the LGBTQ community.

Panelist Renato Lira shared a heart-touching story of how his father abandoned him after he “came out” and how they reunited later in life. “I want people to know what I went through. I want them to know that it is time to accept their son because when I didn’t have a dad it was really hard for me,” said Lira.

Also in attendance as a guest speaker was White House LGBT liaison Gautam Raghavan who addressed the Obama Administration’s LGBT policy changes and opportunities to be implemented through federal service providers.

“Policy improvements either at the local or national level cannot happen without the active support of our community,” said Raghavan.“Events like this are really a shining example to communities all across America of how a community could come together”¦to seek solutions to the unique but really critically important issues facing our youth,” said Raghavan.

Also serving as a representative was the Los Angeles Police Department Assistant Chief Sandy Jo MacArthur who pointed out the LGBTQ community had been ignored by society and many organizations, including the LAPD, and emphasized the department’s goal to represent the entire community.

The Los Angeles Police Department will also host a LGBTQ Community Forum from 6p.m. to 8p.m. Thursday, April 11 at 100 West First Street, L.A., CA 90012. For more information contact Senior Lead Officer Alessandra Moura at (213) 486-6009.

Watch a photo slideshow by 15-year-old Brenda Cruz, member of Las Fotos Project, a youth photo mentorship program that has helped students document the positive contributions being made by the Boyle Heights LGBTQ community.

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