HRC Blog

Ya Es Hora Las Vegas!

This post is by HRC Las Vegas steering committee member and ya es hora organizer Hergit Llenas.

More than 400 people turned out for the first Nevada ya es hora ¡Ciudadanía! (It’s time, Citizenship!) naturalization workshop of the year on April 16.

While more than 100 volunteers from 17 participating organizations were on hand to help, turnout was more than capacity and, unfortunately, the workshop was full within 20 minutes of opening.  After screening for eligibility, more than 125 people received help to complete their applications and left ready to apply for U.S. citizenship.

People from all different organizations and walks of life – with diverse cultural backgrounds – came together as one to make ya es hora a success.

I must confess, though that it was my interaction with one volunteer in specific that literally made my day.  At the end of the event, I came to her table to personally thank her.

I am not at liberty to disclose her name, so let's call her Annie. Annie is a forty-something-year-young woman, married to an American man, her sweetheart for the last 22 years. Annie is a Christian and a Latina, and she had many questions about the event and about HRC. When I told Annie that we are a pro-equality organization that advocates for LGBT rights, Annie did not like the news.

“I am tired of the gays trying to shove their agenda down my throat," she said. “I am gay, I am gay!!! So what!" she continued. "I am straight, what about my rights?”

"Annie, I am so glad you asked," I said.

"Are you gay?"

"Yes."

Then, I start telling Annie a little bit about me and our struggles.

“I went through surgery a couple of years ago, and my partner had to lie in order to be able to spend the night at the hospital with me. Because then, before President Obama changed federal policy, I had no visitation rights like you and your husband do.”

She shook her head. “I didn’t know that,” she said.

“Also, Annie, I would like to adopt children, since I cannot have them. But if I adopt a family and something were to happen to me, my children will not go under the custody of my partner like your children would if you or husband were to die. It would cost me thousands of dollars to put legal instruments in place to protect them, and even then, there is no guarantee. You, on the other hand, don’t even have to think about it. Do you think that is fair to me?”

“Well, you have chosen that life,” she replied. “It is a temptation and should be resisted, like stealing.”

I have heard this argument before. I come from a very religious family. This is how being gay is explained in many churches. I could not help but to smile.

“If I could choose,” I said, “Don’t you think I would have chosen an easier path for me? Being gay wasn’t my choice. I can choose to steal something or not, however, how could I have helped not liking to play with Barbies when I was a little girl? My sister took my Barbies still wrapped in plastic. I never open them to play with them. I always was a tomboy who liked climbing trees more than Barbies. I was born like this. This is who I am.”

All the sudden, Annie opened, and we were having a dialog.

We talked about many things, but what we talked about is not the point. The point is that WE WERE TALKING!

Two human beings who under different circumstances would have never met, nevertheless openly discuss our views on gay rights, were having a conversation! We were talking, and I felt courageous, so I asked, “You see the people with the yellow t-shirts? They are all from HRC. Did any of them make you feel uncomfortable in any way? We have been in this room with each other all day.”

She looked around, pinning down all the yellow t-shirts.

“Are they gay too!?”

“Yes, we are all gay.”

She was surprised.  It seems that Annie just discovered we are just like anybody else! Go figure!

She promised to come back to the next event.

This successful workshop was made possible by the hard work of a great coalition consisting of the following organizations: Caesars Entertainment, Human Rights Campaign, Mi Familia Vota Education Fund, ASI Conference Systems, COLAVE (Colombian Association of Las Vegas), El Tiempo, Univision 15 Las Vegas, Latin Chamber of Commerce, NALEO Educational Fund, SEIU Nevada, Wells Fargo, ACC (Asian Chamber of Commerce), Chihuahua Sin Fronteras, Dom Pedro II Brazilian Foundation, Hermandad Mexicana Transnacional Inc., ProgressNow Nevada, and Toastmasters en Español.

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