BEST OF THE GAYBORHOOD AND BEYOND: Hero Elicia Gonzales

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HERO: GALAEI Executive Director Elicia Gonzales
As the matriatch of the only organization for Philly (and all of Pennsylvania)’s gay and lesbian Latino community, GALAEI’s executive director has worked this year to spearhead a host of educational campaigns that offer a unique, often provocative perspective on vital sexual issues, while also shining a light on a demographic that’s often overlooked. This year, she revived the 1992 campaign “SEXO,” an exhibit that promoted safe-sex via lusty images of men grabbing their junk with rubber gloves; she kicked of Philly’s first “Masturbate-a-Thon,” encouraging self-pleasure over risky sexual encounters; and an inspiring collection of personal stories in “Positivo” showed Philly’s poz Latino community that it’s okay to embrace your HIV status. She’s the sex-ed teacher we all wish we had (and should have had) in high school. GALAEI, 1207 Chestnut St., 215-851-1822, galaei.org

GALAEI Honors AIDS Activist

Elicia Gonzales, Jose DeMarco, David Acosta and Gloria Casarez (courtesy of GALAEI)

Last week, GALAEI honored longtime LGBT, HIV/AIDS and Latino rights activist Jose DeMarco at the third annual David Acosta Revolutionary Leader Award (DARLA) ceremony. A native of Philadelphia, DeMarco is a member of AIDS Policy Project, Health Global Access Project and ACT UP Philadelphia. He’s also a former board member of GALAEI, founder of Proyecto SOL – a leadership organization for Latinos living with AIDS – and an instrumental instructor at Philadelphia FIGHT’s TEACH classes for Spanish-speaking residents living with HIV/AIDS.

Gloria Casarez, director of the Mayor’s Office of LGBT Affairs, recognized DeMarco for his unyielding efforts to fight HIV/AIDS in the city with a citation on behalf of the City of Philadelphia. Executive Director of GALAEI, Elicia Gonzales, emceed the event, which included a reception and silent auction.

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Hispanics and the LGBT Community

A new report shows that the Hispanic community tends to support LGBT rights (photo by Think Stock)

Countering sometimes popular assumptions that the Hispanic community is somehow anti-gay, a new report co-released today by National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and Social Science Research Solutions (SSRS) finds that Latinos are, in fact, as open and tolerant, if not more tolerant, than the general population in the U.S. when it comes to LGBT issues.

The report, LGBT Acceptance and Support: The Hispanic Perspective, offers an in-depth look at how Latinos view gays and lesbians within their own community, as well as the level of support for LGBT issues.

The report, funded by the Arcus Foundation, tells us that Hispanics are actually more inclined to support legal same-sex marriage and to be more accepting of gays and lesbians in society than most non-Hispanic Americans. Also, Latinos are just as likely as any other group in the U.S. today to identify as LGBT.

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GALAEI Gets $50K Grant

Elicia Gonzales is gearing up for a new program that reaches out to Latino LGBT youth in North Philly this year (courtesy of Gonzales)

This week, the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education Initiative (GALAEI) received a $50,000 grant from the Fund for Children at The Philadelphia Foundation. Elicia Gonzales, GALAEI’s executive director, says the money will be used to support a new Outlet program designed to empower Latino LGBT youth in Philly.

R. Andrew Swinney, president of the Philadelphia Foundation, and his board approved the grant in November of last year. GALAEI has already begun implementing the new program which connects Latino LGBT youth to counseling services, discussion groups and a community art project. The program will also provide training for youth service providers who routinely interact with these teens.

“Latino LGBT youth in North Philadelphia are often underserved, marginalized and isolated from the LGBT youth services in Center City, where they are primarily located,” admits Gonzales. “As a result, these youth often lack a sense of community and support, which can lead them to engage in risky behaviors to numb the pains of rejection and bigotry. The overall goal of Outlet is to unite and empower Latino LGBT youth to help them realize their potential to make a difference in their lives and in their communities.”

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