Comerica Corner: Somos Familia
Story By: Rosa Rodriguez
With the Supreme Court’s ruling that same-sex couples have the constitutional right to marry, and the success of Logo, an LGBTQ television network, the gay community has crossed societal barriers that were once taboo in national and global mainstream and legal standards. But many moral, religious and traditional views condemn this community, often in Latino families.
Somos Familia, an organization based in the San Francisco Bay area, supports the needs of LGBTQ members who struggle to gain acceptance from their families, communities, and society.
“We provide those resources, provide them in Spanish to these families who are looking for something that can speak to them as a culture, as a Latino family, so that the parents can sort of see, see and feel what it’s like for their children to come out,” said Joshua Delfin, president of Somos Familia.
Founded in 2007, the organization provides workshops, social events, welcomes volunteers and participates in various activities that engage and connect the LGBTQ community with local stakeholders, ultimately forming partnerships that lead to more leadership opportunities for gays. Additionally, parents and other family members become more accepting of their gay family members and positive bonds are created as they engage in information sessions and events presented by Somos Familia.
“It’s a process when parents hear their children come out,” Delfin said.
Somos Familia was founded by Laurin Mayeno, whose son is gay, and Mirna Medina, a native of El Salvador, whose son is bisexual. Both women believed, with Medina having limited English proficiency, that there were many Latino parents who did not speak English and lacked the resources in their native language to understand and find the support to better understand the needs of their gay children. They spoke to a Spanish Catholic congregation and attended pride parades to inform the public of their organization and advocate for communitywide changes.
“We’ve gotten mostly really, really positive responses,” Mayeno said. “And what we’ve found when we speak to parents and schools and community organizations is that most of the people haven’t had the opportunity to have this conversation, they haven’t had a chance to ask questions. There’s a lot of silence about having LGBTQ children and the dialogues we’ve had with a lot of people have allowed them to break their silence.”
• As of 2013, there are 904,900 LGBTQ immigrants, many from Central and South America, living in the United States (source: Human Rights Campaign)
•“Entre Nos” are a series of videos produced by Somos Familia that feature cartoons exploring coming out situations in families
Delfin and Mayeno attribute much of Somos Familia’s success to their relationship with Comerica Bank. Comerica, which cosponsored their 10-year anniversary event, supported their needs at a time when the organization had a minimal budget and limited resources to set off the organization.
Some of Comerica’s support included offering free conference room spacing for meetings, which Delfin said would have exceeded their budget had they needed to rent room space through a different group. For Delfin and Mayeno, Comerica’s involvement serves as the backbone of many of Somos Familia’s projects and endeavors, helping families understand their LGBTQ members and embracing their beliefs and way of life.
“You want to look for a bank that shows commitment to the community that they serve,” Delfin said.