Some of the honorees and their guests at Thursday's Purple Lilly ceremony in Boyle Heights. Photo by Eddie Sakaki

After two years of hosting its Purple Lily Awards virtually, the Latino Equality Alliance (LEA) illuminated and honored four shining stars in-person last week, for their leadership and work within the LGBTQ+ community. 

“Being able to have this ceremony back in person is something special and it’s so beautiful being able to see so many members and allies of our community coming together again to celebrate and honor those who have helped advance the Latinx LGBTQ+ community”, said LEA’s Executive Director Eddie Martinez during Thursday’s gala at Studio-MLA in Boyle Heights.

“It’s been seven years since the first Purple Lily was awarded and the event has kept growing ever since,” added Martinez, “and this ceremony is where we’re giving out our first Lifetime Achievement Award.”

The recipient of said award was lesbian pioneer Nancy Valverde, long known in the community as a trailblazer who overcame outstanding obstacles to pave the way for thousands of queer and trans Latinx youth throughout Los Angeles. 

Honoree Nancy Valverde receives an ovation during ceremony. Photo by Alex Medina.

Born in 1932 in New Mexico to Mexican American parents, Valverde moved to LA as a child where she was raised and came to live most of her life. 

“Things were a lot different back then,” said the woman who earned the nickname “Nancy from Eastside Clover,” because of her association with the Lincoln Heights neighborhood.

As a masculine-presenting Chicana with short hair who wore “ropa de caballeros”, she was often harassed by the LAPD and accused of violating so-called “masquerading laws,” which prohibited anyone from wearing gender-nonconforming clothing.

“No estaba haciendo nada más que ser yo misma, pero la policía y muchos otros me trataron como una criminal,” the 90-year-old said in Spanish.

 In 1951, Valverde brought an end to such arrests after doing research at the LA County Law Library, where she found legal proof that it was no crime for a woman to wear men’s clothes. 

The awards. Photo by Alex Medina.

“She’s an icon and someone who has inspired me and many others over the years to not only openly be who we are, but also push to be recognized and respected as such,” said Alan Acosta, Director of Strategic Initiatives at the Los Angeles LGBT Center and another recipient of a Purple Lily Award this year.

“I have such a respect for her pioneering for Latina lesbians like herself and the entire LGBTQ+ community,” Acosta added. “She’s someone who we can thank for being an essential part to getting our community to where it is today.” 

Also included in this years honorees were the Los Angeles media outlet ABC7 News, for consistently highlighting stories revolving around the community; former Manager of Policy and Community Engagement with the Trans Latin@ Coalition, Michaé de la Cuadre, who developed and authored the #TransPolicyAgenda; and Monica Trasandes, the Director of Program, Spanish-language and Latinx Media at GLAAD.

Among those receiving the award for ABC7 News was openly gay reporter Eric Resendiz. 

“Growing up, I only felt connected with Spanish-language stations, but even though I was a little brown boy, I still didn’t feel like I belonged. Why? Because I didn’t know I was gay and I didn’t know I was in the closet. I didn’t understand the rationalization of why representation matters. Pero ya grande y alto I know why representation matters in front of and behind the camera to share the voices of nuestra comunidad de la raza, de la gente.” 

Eric Resendiz, ABC7 News

“We don’t do this work for recognition, we do it because we have a responsibility to our community and have orgullo in who we are,” said honoree Acosta. “To be honored alongside Michaé, GLAAD’s Mónica Trasandes and Chicana icon and pioneer Nancy Valverde is truly something special and something I will remember and hold dearly in my soul even past my retirement this coming September.” 

Raquenel performing at the ceremony. Photo by Eddie Sakaki.

LGBTQ+ ally and Latin music recording artist Requenel (Mary Boquitas) was this year’s special musical guest. She is best known for regional Mexican hits such as “Si no Tte gusta lo que soy”, “Atrapada en un amor” and “A contratiempo,” as well as her acting role in various telenovelas. 

Proceeds from this year’s Purple Lily Awards will be going to various mental health and social justice programs through LEA in support of creating safe and affirming spaces for Latinx LGBTQ+ youth and their families throughout Los Angeles. 

The ceremony was held at a Boyle Heights architectural studio. Photo by Alex Medina

Located at Mi Centro LGBTQ Community Center in Boyle Heights, LEA’s mission has always been to advocate for equity, safety and wellness for the Latinx LGBTQ+ community. For more information on the services and programs of Latino Equality Alliance and to donate in support of their work, please visit http://www.latinoequalityalliance.org/





Alex Medina

Alex Medina is a graduate of Francisco Bravo Medical Magnet High School and 2018 alumnus of the Boyle Heights Beat. He is a recent graduate of Hamilton College in Central New York where he majored in Hispanic...

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