Allies & Heroes, the 2014 LGBT Hero Awards Welcome You

Greater inclusivity, community unification and visibility are at the core of the 2014 LGBT Hero Awards ceremony. Traditionally the focus has been to recognize the accomplishments of Latino LGBT individuals who have dedicated their lives to entertainment, arts, community, politics, public health and business.

Founder Victoria Ruiz held the first LGBT Hero Award ceremony in a small restaurant, and she expected only about 50 people, about 80 attended. The growth and awareness of the awards is inspiring. The evolution to include people outside of the LGBT community and people outside of the Latino community, though seemingly natural, required an extensive rebranding.

“The ceremony is a big reflection of who is participating,” said Xavier Mejia, who is a past LGBT Hero Award winner and now works as creative director of the awards. “There is a place for you, here.”

Ruiz, Mejia and about 30 volunteers have curated a collection of celebrities and prominent personalities to inspire and entertain this year’s guests, including Latina pop star, Fey, soap opera star, Gaby Spanic, Broadway babe, Bianca Marroquin, singer Diana Reyes in a tribute to Jenni Rivera, Long Beach Mayor, Robert Garcia, California State Sen. Ricardo Lara and Mexican TV host, Horacio Villalobos.

Why have another awards ceremony? “Because we deserve this,” Ruiz said. She said she has never found an organization or awards ceremony that recognizes contributions of Latino people, LGBT people and people who champion grassroots change, all at once.

“The reason this awards ceremony is different is that there is a soul behind it,” Mejia said. He pointed out that Ruiz has had to face so many barriers from language and immigration to transgender issues and discrimination, and yet she is not the type of person to carry feelings or messages of limitation. Despite her personal struggles, Mejia said, “she just perseveres and moves forward.”

As a young child back in the small town of Jaluco in Jalisco, Mexico, Ruiz said she remembers hearing people say, “that F@&&0# is so nice” or “that F@&&0# is so creative.” She said that she couldn’t understand how people could quietly and privately recognize the contributions and talents of LGBT people, and yet still not accept them publicly as a part of their community. Their sexuality essentially negated any contributions or talents.

Ruiz said that from those moments in her childhood she always believed that one day she would do something to celebrate the contributions of LGBT people to bring about their acceptance and recognition in mainstream society.

Ruiz said that the self segregation among the Latino LGBT community creates a certain amount of contention over The LGBT Hero Awards. People argue against the qualifications of a nominee, contest the political correctness of a category, deny the value of the celebration all together, and even question the validity of a nominee’s sexuality. Ruiz wonders if it is jealousy, a lack of knowledge, or if it is just a conditioned response of the community to put down their peers?

According to Ruiz, the subsets of LGBT community are known to discriminate against each other, but not as one would think. Something she just recently learned through the nomination process this time around was that “we (Transgenders) tend to say and believe that we are the most discriminated against, but it’s not true. Lesbians are also discriminated against, by us,” she said.

Ruiz and Mejia received a wave of gratitude from the Lesbian community over the nomination of Magaly La Voz de Oro for “New Artist of the Year.” La Voz de Oro is a lesbian singer in the Mexican Regional music scene. “The Lesbian community is going that night to support her and celebrate her moment. They feel like this year there is a kind of justice, and a fair representation of them,” Ruiz said.

However, the greatest amount of controversy surrounded the “Bisexual of the Year” category. According to both Mejia and Ruiz, within the Latino LGBT community, Bisexuality is a very sensitive subject. “In the Latino LGBT community we still don’t understand Bisexuality. I don’t know if it is that way in the mainstream American LGBT community, but in the Latino community it comes at a high cost to identify as Bisexual,” Ruiz said. “But I don’t understand the dynamic of why that is.”

The “Bisexual of the Year” category received very few nominations and eventually “it was so controversial that we ended up taking the nomination category out, just because we’re not equipped to deal with controversy at this time,” Mejia said. Ruiz and Mejia were flooded with questions and comments about their definition of a Bisexual to the flat out objection of Bisexuality as an orientation.

Mejia recalled a very striking comment that said, “’That’s a double category because we know that there are no Bisexuals.’ That was quite interesting to see that!” Mejia added that understanding Bisexuality can be difficult in many communities large or small, but hopefully in the near future with greater understanding the category can return.

“[The LGBT Hero Awards] isn’t a party, it is a ceremony where will be entertained, we will be educated, and, at the very least on that day we will get along like a community, like a family. I want to deliver a message of how important community is,” Ruiz said. She added that “we are brothers and sisters today, and that is how it needs to be tomorrow. Because I cannot send a message to the heterosexual community, if we (the LGBT community) haven’t gotten the message.”


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