HRC Youth Ambassador Spotlight: Ashton Mota and Armando Hernandez

by HRC staff

Post submitted by Youth Well-Being Manager Andi Salinas

As we celebrate Latinx Heritage Month, we sat down with HRC Youth Ambassadors Ashton Mota and Armando Hernandez to discuss the intersection of being LGBTQ and Latinx, and the roles youth-serving professionals have played in their lives. Mota, who is transgender and Afro-Latino, and Hernandez, a gay Latinx male, spoke about their personal experiences with youth-serving professionals and offered words of encouragement for other young LGBTQ Latinx people.

Becoming an HRC Youth Ambassador wasn’t on Mota’s radar until he was approached by an HRC staff member. After learning about the program, he realized it would be a great opportunity to make sure the voices of LGBTQ youth of color would be heard on a national platform.

“When I came out as transgender, it didn’t take me long to realize that there wasn’t enough representation of transgender youth in the media. And within the representation of transgender youth in the media, there weren’t really any youth of color,” Mota said. “Being a Youth Ambassador gave me the chance to make sure the stories of LGBTQ youth of color are heard.”

For Hernandez, the drive to become a Youth Ambassador came from his belief in the mission of HRC. Being a Youth Ambassador gives him the chance to advocate for his community and “those most marginalized and with the most at stake.”

Before coming out, Mota always knew that his race and ethnicity “would put a target on my back.” But after coming out, he described having to balance both his race and ethnicity with his trans identity, two identities that make him “a target for discrimination.”

As a gay Hispanic person, Hernandez was ridiculed and discriminated against based on those identities.

“The intersection of those identities has impacted not only my life but the lives of so many others who are in a similar situation,” stated Hernandez. “It’s impacted both our privilege and the levels of discrimination we experience.”

For both Youth Ambassadors, youth-serving professionals played an important role in the development of their Latinx and LGBTQ identities.

Mota described a supportive teacher in middle school who was one of the only staff willing to talk about LGBTQ issues with students. This teacher was the first person Mota came out to, and she was extremely supportive throughout his coming out journey.

“We would talk about how my trans identity would intersect with my Latinx identity and how my experience is going to be different than a white transgender kid. She was really open to having conversations with me about my identity,” said Mota.

For Hernandez, a school program gave him the opportunity to connect with his school staff about being Latinx and LGBTQ. This program brought together students and staff from different backgrounds to learn from one another and learn about their personal biases, and the experience gave Hernandez the opportunity to connect with his teachers on a new level.

“They are not just educators, they are there to lead us in life outside of academics. A lot of the staff have become mentors to us,” Hernandez said.

For Latinx LGBTQ youth who might be struggling, Mota and Hernandez offered words of encouragement:

“Just know that you’re not alone. When I first came out, I didn’t know anyone else that was an LGBTQ person of color. I felt really alone because my family didn’t talk about LGBTQ issues and I didn’t even know if it was a possibility for me to be trans. You’re not alone in that,” said Mota.

“VOTE! Register to vote and encourage others to register as well. We need to elect a president that’s going to listen, recognize and advocate for our most marginalized communities, for LGBTQ people, HIV positive people, for transgender people of color. Also, vote in your local elections because they are just as important,” offered Hernandez.

To access HRC’s Latinx LGBTQ Youth Report, click here. For coming out resources for LGBTQ Latinx Americans, click here.

Learn more about HRC’s Youth Ambassador program at hrc.im/YouthAmbassadors.