In her role as a Mexican Consulate Official, Dulce Flores never expected to be marching in an LGBT Pride event, so she was as surprised as those who saw her on June 11, marching with the unprecedented encouragement of the Mexican government.
“It was one of the most favorite days of my life – definitely,” says Flores, 33, an out lesbian who has worked at the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles for a decade.
Flores has long been passionate about making the consulate a welcoming place for LGBT people. Just days before LA Pride weekend, she got the full backing she has always wanted.
That’s when Mexico’s equivalent of the U.S. Secretary of State sent a message to Mexican Consulates all over the world, calling on them to strengthen their relationships with LGBT people in their respective cities and to get connected with LGBT centers and other nonprofits that help LGBT people.
One of her colleagues shared the message with her, saying “Look at this! We are ordered to participate so let’s do it!”
Flores cried, then she called the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
With a co-worker, she marched with hundreds of Center staff and supporters, holding a striking purple banner that read: “Consulate General of Mexico in Los Angeles.” They’re believed to be the first Mexican foreign nationals, authorized by the government of Mexico, to participate in an LGBT Pride event.
“Some Mexicans saw us and said, ‘Wait a minute! Is that the Consulate?’ They were like ‘Hi!’ and ‘thank you!’” Flores recalls.
“There were some people who came over and hugged us and that was amazing. That’s a great feeling to have that power to provide that feeling to people. It’s great. I was just the happiest person there.”
Recalls Flores: “Having the back-up of my government has empowered me to be more assertive and to say, ‘Hey, we’re here to serve you. And we’re here to make you feel welcome and feel safe at the Consulate.’ That’s something I really, really wanted to do for my community because it’s something that we didn’t have before.”
Historic Sensitivity Training
The effort continued this week when all 130 employees of the Mexican Consulate in Los Angeles participated in LGBT sensitivity training provided by the Center and GLAAD. They are believed to be the first Mexican Consulate in the US to participate in such sensitivity training.
“It’s the first step you’ve got to take to better serve your community,” says Flores.
“The Mexican LGBT community often does not request our services. We want to have them feel welcome at the Consulate. Our mission is to let them know that this is a safe place, that they can come and request services without being judged, without being treated different. They’re not different they’re just special and we want to let them know that.”
It’s About Survival
When she got the green light from the government to reach out to LGBT organizations, it was Mariana Marroquin, the Center’s Anti-Violence Project Manager, who Flores contacted first. The two had connected years earlier when the Center participated in an LGBT domestic violence forum hosted by the Consulate.
An LGBT immigrant from Guatemala, Marroquin is keenly aware of the challenges faced by those in the community who may turn to the Consulate for help.
“Too often for LGBT immigrants, it’s not about the American dream, it’s about being able to survive,” she says. “This is the reality for some who emigrate from Mexico and are looking for a place to be safe.
“Even though this is California, where laws protect LGBT people, we have a large number of clients—many of them immigrants—who are harassed or who experience discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Particularly because of these challenges, Marroquin is encouraged by the Consulate’s efforts to be more LGBT welcoming.
“It gives me hope that this will set an example for other consulates in Los Angeles and throughout the U.S.,” she says.
Flores knows from experience how harrowing it can be to be LGBT in certain parts of Mexico. Growing up as a lesbian in the state of Tabasco, she says, “you are bullied 24/7. You are not treated well. So the moment I got out of that state was the best day of my life.”
That personal background makes her current work all the more gratifying.
“I feel very proud to be a part of this team–I feel very proud to be one of the persons pushing these things and making it happen. I want to cry when I see the things we are finally achieving.”
Flores says she’s just getting started and has many proposals she’s working on. She thinks each consulate should have an LGBT liaison to help the LGBT community when they have any sort of issue.
“That’s the next step–to do something real that will have a big impact on the community.”
Like one day having a rainbow Pride flag flying alongside the Mexican flag at the consulate?
“I really hope so, soon,” she says with a smile. “I will push for that.”