Later this month, the Gay and Lesbian Latino AIDS Education and Initiative’s Outlet Program will publish its very own ’zine — Único, which translates to “unique.”
The publication was designed to give voice to an often unheard population — and its name was selected to express the talents and strengths of the program’s participants, said executive director Elicia Gonzales.
GALAEI’s Outlet, which helps empower and bring together Latino LGBT youth in North Philadelphia, started last year. According to Gonzales, the program has been incredibly successful.
“There is no other program like this that exists. We’ve seen an increase in numbers of Latino LGBT youth who came into GALAEI and who volunteer and are a part of GALAEI,” she said. “The project is building community for these folks.”
The project has had one challenge, Gonzales said: to break down barriers between the LGBT and greater Latino community.
“While at GALAEI, they can be themselves, but they get nervous to approach topics with family members because there is still a stigma about the LGBT community.”
Gonzales cited a youth who is currently being bullied at school and will not talk about his experiences with his mother, even though she is affirming of his sexual orientation.
“There is still hesitation from the part of youth to involve their families,” Gonzales said.
In an effort to overcome those barriers and make those stories public, the Outlet Program will premiere its ’zine on Nov. 30.
“A lot of our stories happened organically. [The youth] come to the office because it is a place they can be themselves and share their stories. They wanted to share their stories in a public way,” Gonzales said. “They had a concept of coming up with a ’zine that will be a contemplation of their stories about what it means to be them and what it feels like to have multiple identities.”
MPACT youth coordinator Nikki López, who is also a writer and a poet, has overseen the project.
For López, it has been a chance to integrate that side of her life into the work she does at GALAEI and with the youth.
“I don’t get the opportunity to do things on the arts side. The ’zine allowed me to connect with the youth in a way that is much more personal,” she said.
Único is all youth-led, driven and created. The contributors wrote about identity, stereotypes, sexual health and their own coming-out stories. Several of the youth contributed their graphic-design skills to the ’zine’s publication.
López said the biggest challenge was not only meeting deadlines but trying to condense the work.
“It was a matter of being able to take their big ideas and making them really small and concise. We had youth that wanted to do a coming-out section, a fashion section,” she said. “How can we get ideas on what we want to do and make it more feasible? We decided to do something small and give a snap shot.”
López said the participants’ drive has amazed her.
“I’ve been impressed with how talented they are and I love seeing how they shine through with their talents,” she said.
Funding for Único came from the Philadelphia Foundation. Gonzales said the ’zine will be a one-time publication, depending on future funding.
Gonzales has high expectations for Único’s impact.
“My hope is that it will help and celebrate the Latino LGBT youth who are just incredibly rich in terms of culture, strength and passion,” she said.
The premiere party will be held 6-9 p.m. on Nov. 30 at the Crane Building, 1417 N. Second St.