ENLACE uses telenovelas to amplify the voices of queer Latinx youth

Navigating adolescence in itself is a gargantuan hurdle that takes a physical, mental, and emotional toll on budding adults. During this time, queer Latinx youth may find themselves at particularly trying crossroads of isolation and discrimination.

According to a 2019 focus group conducted by Oregon State University, queer Latinx youth are more likely to face dual forces of isolation: Within queer spaces, they may experience racism and xenophobia, while within ethnic community spaces they endure transphobia or homophobia.

For Jonathan Garcia, assistant professor and program director of Global Health at Oregon State, University, this experience resonates deeply with him, as he remembers the trials of growing up as a queer Latinx adolescent from Colombia. To help the queer Latinx youth of today find their voices, he’s taken the role of the program director of the Engaging the Next Latinx Allies for Change and Equity (ENLACE) program.

Garcia recalls enjoying watching telenovelas in the evening with his mom and grandmother (Abuela) growing up, but that he found himself “disillusioned because the few queer characters who took center stage reinforced stereotypes and provided comic relief.”

Now, through ENLACE, Garcia is changing this limiting narrative by allowing the real stories of queer Latinx youth to be told in telenovelas that reveal the complexity, depth, and bravery of these identities. For example, some of these stories expose the damaging ways in which parents respond to their queer Latinx child.

Depicting these tough interactions is especially important for Latinx youth and their families because it shows that parents, relatives, and friends have a powerful opportunity to be advocates for their queer Latinx loved ones.

It is also important for queer Latinx youth to witness the stories of others who share similar experiences of marginalization. Even if they may not relate precisely to the identity they see on their screens, they can still find solidarity.

The new ENLACE series is streaming on YouTube and features only videos made by queer Latinx youth who participated in a filmmaking workshop led by Outside the Frame and Oregon State University. ENLACE hopes that these telenovela-inspired videos will bring queer voices and voices of color to the forefront, and bring comfort to those who still struggle with isolation and self-worth.

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