Oct. 11 is National Coming Out Day, an annual awareness day to celebrate the act of “coming out,” or publicly sharing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. It’s often a joyful celebration, but this year’s Coming Out Day is happening at an uncertain time for the LGBTQ community, as the balance of the Supreme Court may tilt toward the right if conservative judge Amy Coney Barrett is confirmed for the empty seat.
Alberto Mendoza, founder of the Latino LGBTQ organization Honor 41, derived the “41” from a 1901 Mexican scandal, in which a private party attended by 42 men – a clandestine way for gay men to socialize at the time – was raided by the police. Forty-one of the men were detained, arrested and even disappeared for their participation. Since then, the number 41, or “cuarenta y uno,” has been invoked as a derogatory term referring to LGBTQ people – but Mendoza’s nonprofit organization Honor 41 is working to reclaim the number by spotlighting the contributions of 41 LGBTQ Latinos each year.
Mendoza says that as we approach National Coming Out Day, his focus for Honor 41 is “for us to be able to help youth come out knowing that there are role models out there, to make a process that’s usually a challenging one a little bit easier.”
Among the 2020 inductees is Antonio Santos, director of the Gage Park Latinx Council on the Southwest Side.
Gage Park is “92% Latinx, and there wasn’t a lot of queer representation here growing up,” Santos said. “So to be inducted and to be named as a role model and show folks that come from communities like mine that you can be visible, you can be authentic, you can live your life, is really important to me.”