Being Latino/a & LGBTQ: An Introduction

Head to Recursos en Español de HRC for Spanish-language resources.

Latino/as* (a.k.a, "Latinxs" or "Latin@s") have a long and rich history of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) activism. Early movement pioneers include José Julio Sarria, the first openly gay candidate for public office in the United States; Sylvia Rivera, a bisexual and transgender rights activist often credited with starting the Stonewall Riots; and Gloria Anzaldúa, a noted scholar of Chicano history and lesbian rights advocate. That activist spirit continues today in the work of people such as Raffi Freedman-Gurspan, the first openly transgender person to work in the White House.

According to the Pew Research Center, Latino/as made up 17.4 percent of the total U.S. population in 2014. Data analysis by the Williams Institute reveals there are approximately 1.4 million LGBT Latino/a adults currently living in the United States. Of the 146,000 Latino/a same-sex households in the U.S., 29.1 percent are raising children.

LGBTQ Latino/as tend to live in areas where there are already high concentrations of Latino/a people. One-third of same-sex Latino/a couples live in New Mexico, California and Texas. Other states with high LGBTQ Latino/a populations include Nevada, Arizona, Wyoming, Colorado, New Jersey, Kansas, Florida, New York and Washington, D.C. Notably, many of these states lack statewide non-discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

What are some important issues affecting Latino/a LGBTQ people in the United States?

Stemming in part from early disputes over Spanish and Mexican territories, issues affecting the Latino/a LGBTQ people in the United States run the gamut – from widespread exploitation of Latino/a workers to hotly contested immigration and detention policies. Some of the important issues facing LGBTQ Latino/as include:

  • Immigration – A 2013 report by the Center for American Progress put the total number of LGBTQ immigrants living in the United States at 904,000, with many coming from Central and South America. At least 267,000 of them are also undocumented, which can pose additional challenges, including possible mistreatment by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). For example, a 2013 report by the Government Accountability Office found that one in five substantiated sexual abuse and assault cases in ICE facilities involved transgender detainees, who only make up one in 500 ICE detainees.
  • Language & Access Barriers – According to 2010 Cencus data, there are nearly 61 million people in the U.S. who spoke a language other than English at home. Among the non-English speakers, two-thirds spoke Spanish, which underscores the importance of language access and accessibility, especially in the provision of government services.
  • Economic Insecurity – While Latino/a same-sex couples generally fare better than their heterosexual counterparts, certain members of the community are particularly vulnerable, including Latino/a same-sex couples with children, and Latino/a same-sex couples where one or both partners lack U.S. citizenship.
  • Violence & Harassment – According to a 2014 report on hate violence against LGBTQ and HIV-affected communities, 15 percent of homicide victims were Latino/a. Additionally, Latino/a survivors of hate violence were 1.7 times more likely to experience police violence than non-Hispanics. Latino/a survivors were also 1.8 times more likely to experience physical violence, 1.5 times more likely to experience discrimination, and 1.5 times more likely to experience hate violence in the workplace. The situation is especially dire for Latino/a transgender women, who experience alarmingly high rates of violence and harassment when compared to other members of the LGBTQ community. However, few are willing to turn to the police for help out of fear of revictimization and abuse by law enforcement personnel.
  • HIV & Health Inequity – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that Latino/as are among the groups most heavily impacted by HIV. Despite making up 16 percent of the U.S. population in 2010, Latino/as represented 21 percent of new HIV infections. Of the new infections, 87 percent were men and 79 percent were attributed to male on male sexual contact. Latino/as also accounted for 21 percent of new HIV diagnoses in 2011, and one in five AIDS-related deaths.

Where can I find resources that are relevant to the Latino/a LGBTQ community?

Human Rights Campaign (English)

Human Rights Campaign (Español)

Additional Resources

This resource uses the term "Latino/as" to include Latino men, Latina women, and people of Latino/a descent who may identify as transgender or gender-expansive. It is also specific to the experiences of LGBTQ people living in the United States who identify as Latino/a. For more on the experiences of Latino/a LGBTQ people living outside of the U.S., click here.