Vanessa Ruiz Calva

Original Source

In the past few years, the Mexican diplomatic and consular network in the United States, following its long tradition of innovation and dynamism, has began actively engaging with an important segment of its immigrant diaspora: the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. With the recent landmark case in the U.S. Supreme Court of Obergefell v. Hodges that finalized the legal debate on same-sex marriage in the country, it is valuable to revisit the steps that have been taken to engage with the Mexican LGBT community in a more effective manner.[1]

There are approximately 11 million people of Mexican origin living in the U.S., creating a unique environment that is permeated by distinct historical, cultural, economic, social and political realities. Consequently, Mexican consulates have gone beyond the traditional services and practices, evolving into dynamic centers that provide wide-ranging services, programs and activities. Due to the population growth of our community, there has been a spate of local, state and federal collaboration mechanisms developed to provide preventive information, protection and assistance. Those programs engage a wide and specialized network of partners to address issues ranging from immigration, criminal and civil rights, to labor rights, and now represent key allies to maximize our ability to reach out to LGBT communities.

In September of 2014 the webinar “An overview of HRC and Understanding Ways to Better Protect LGBT Immigrant Families and Individuals” was presented to consular staff with specific material to take into account the particular characteristics of Mexican consulates. The presentation addressed what it means to be LGBT, statistics about LGBT immigrants, their ethnicities, immigration and civil status, and the benefits that were available to same sex-couples at the time. HRC stressed the importance of training staff in LGBT terminology and cultural competence, organizing events directly related to issues of concern for LGBT individuals and families, displaying “safe place” signs and flyers, and providing outreach in the broader community through pride events, fairs, and local LGBT organizations and centers.

To focus on community engagement and visibility, the embassy partnered with the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) in their Spirit Day Campaign that focuses on combating the bullying of LGBT youth. On October 16th, 2014, the Mexican diplomatic and consular network actively participated in this social media campaign to raise awareness on this issue and express its support and solidarity. It was the first time a foreign government had formally engaged in this campaign and it represented a powerful opportunity to partner with a key ally on LGBT issues which generated a flurry of positive comments both from U.S. and Mexican audiences. The collaboration that has been established provides a framework to help consulates do what they do best: engage members of their community and establish a dialogue with key local actors (like school districts, authorities, community organizations and members of the media) to promote and protect the rights of their community members. Further steps can be taken to expand the working agenda that has already been established and strengthened throughout the years with important national organizations such as the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC), the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and Dreamer alliances that already have developed action plans on this issue. Such engagement would not only allow the Mexican consular and diplomatic network to gain important expertise from these key allies, but also to work jointly to strengthen the messages and initiatives that inform and defend the rights of the Hispanic LGBT community.

However, the most important challenge is to maintain an open and ongoing dialogue between Mexico’s diplomatic and consular network and its LGBT community. Outreach efforts by government officials will continue to be essential, but there needs to be constant and permanent feedback from the LGBT community in terms of their needs and interests so they can be addressed and formally incorporated into official consular duties and functions.

[1] These proposals were developed as my thesis research at the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy (Calva Ruiz, Vanessa. “Policy recommendations for Mexican Consulates in the United States regarding the Mexican Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.” Global Master of Arts Program Thesis, Tufts University, The Fletcher School (2014).

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