Last night, in conjunction with the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia, the Latino Commission on AIDS launched a new anti-homophobia campaign, ¡libérate!, which means “free yourself,” in Spanish. As part of Behind the Scenes with the Commission series, I spoke with one of the campaign architects to learn more about the origin, intent and planned activities around the initiative.
¡Libérate! addresses homophobia from a different perspective – that of the consuming, draining, and overwhelming energy that arises from harboring homophobic sentiments. Being discriminated against, assaulted, harmed, and harassed because of homophobia is no different than experiencing discrimination, assault and harassment because of sexism, racism, stigma, xenophobia, bigotry, etc. Irrespective of the “ism”, these discriminatory experiences create lasting social wounds for the one projecting these sentiments, as well as to those experiencing them. Homophobia is a heavy burden, it’s consuming, it’s overwhelming; let go and be free!
A campaign like this is needed since homophobia has remained an unchanged reality affecting the Latino LGBT community. For example, according to a report by Make the Road NY, LGBTQ people of color have been disproportionately impacted by police stops in Jackson Heights, Queens. LGBTQ survey respondents reported being stopped and frisked more often and experiencing police harassment more often than their straight counterparts. Furthermore, research by the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network showed that among LGBT students in New York state secondary schools, over 80% reported experiencing verbal harassment and approximately 30% reported experiencing physical harassment at school based on their sexual orientation.
A ¡libérate! public service announcement (PSA) will be debuted at clubs, lounges, and bars throughout New York City, in addition to the official launching party.
I recently sat down with Bolivar Nieto, staff member from the Commission and Director of Juntos Construyendo, for some insider insights into the initiative.
AB: Can you give a brief overview of the campaign?
BN: ¡Libérate! (Free yourself) is a call to action social marketing campaign urging the local NYC community to let go of the heavy burdens that accompany homophobia through film and fashion.
AB: Where did the idea come from?
BN: We started thinking about creating a week of events leading up to the International Day Against Homophobia & Transphobia (IDAHO) on May 17th. Healing wounds was the initial concept which eventually evolved. The theme relates to the perspective not just of being gay but also being Latino or undocumented or other perspectives, and aims to address the community by saying there’s no need to carry around these negative feelings. Pedro Julio Serrano, one of the honorees at the Commission’s upcoming Cielo Latino annual gala, was a leader in proposing the idea to do some activities relating to IDAHO.
AB: What is one of the main goals?
BN: One of my main goals is to perpetuate the campaign and build upon the initial concept of freeing yourself. It’s not just limited to homophobia, but can be applied to sexism, racism, freeing oneself from stigma. It’s also about celebrating yourself, your uniqueness, which is what the fingerprint symbolizes in the logo. It’s important to be able to say I’m gay and that’s ok.
AB: How can people get involved?
BN: We’ll be inviting people to develop their own messages against homophobia, to tweet, and submit photos on our Tumblr page. We will invite select participants to be part of the Healthy Identities Leadership Institute, which is an initiative that builds up leadership among Latino gay men in NY state through the use of film, fashion and art. Material will be available online and we’ll have stickers and limited edition t-shirts showing support for the campaign.
AB: What aspect of the campaign are you most excited about?
BN: Its potential and its adaptability. It aligns well with the holistic prevention work of the Commission as a way to let go of stressors which can lead to better health outcomes.
Catch the premiere of the ¡libérate! public service announcement!
Participate in the ¡libérate! campaign by:
1. Creating your own ¡libérate! picture or video and posting it on your Facebook or Twitter profile
2. Liking our Facebook page and posting your pictures and videos at
3. Following the ¡libérate! Tumblr page at
4. Mentioning the Twitter handle @gaybi_Latinos and tweeting #liberate to help spread the word!
Written by Aleise Barnett