Parental Guidance: We must be united

I love YOU, Orlando!

As many transplants to Central Florida, when I chose UCF in 1996, I unknowingly chose my new home. There’s a uniqueness that I can’t put my finger on. I’m not sure if it’s your historic downtown with craftsman style houses, cobblestone, tree-lined streets, the endlessly thrilling theme parks or the majesty and serenity of your lush, green palm trees and huge old oaks. Regardless of how you seduced me, your magic turned months into years and years turned into decades.

You were here when I came out, terrified, alone and lost. You gently guided me to a loving, colorful and growing community — my people. You were here when I met my wife and we embarked on our life’s journey, raising our first generation Orlandoans, who have never seen snow. Your endless, sticky summers, short winters, dense humid air, torrential thunderstorms and native wild black bears and alligators are all part of the package. You are my City Beautiful!

As executive director of Come Out With Pride, I have the unique opportunity to serve you, to host you and to represent you. 2022 Pride was bigger and better than ever! It seems every year, more and more LGBTQIA+ community members and our allies turn out, making us the largest single day event in Central Florida. We are the longest parade in Orlando’s history and one of the biggest Pride celebrations in the southeast. WOW! As an internationally recognized city, it fills my heart to call you home.

A few weeks ago, I joined a delegation to represent you in Mexico. We proudly invited the world to Orlando, submitting our bid for WorldPride 2026. Unfortunately, we didn’t win the bid but it wasn’t for our lack of effort. I will always sing your praises Orlando, yet as any family, unfortunately, I see some cracks and a growing divide in our LGBTQIA+ community, which simply saddens me. We are increasingly being attacked by politicians proposing and passing discriminatory and life-threatening legislation. Plus, the escalated activity by more organized anti-LGBTQIA+ and transphobic hate groups threatens our safety. Instead of using this opportunity to stand together, some members of our own community choose to pick us apart. Like other nonprofit organizations, Come Out With Pride is a work in progress, ever evolving and developing, and constantly aiming to do better.

As the only paid staffer, I recognize our shortcomings and I’m actively working towards closing those gaps. However, despite my efforts, it’s an interesting feeling being told by members of my own community that I am not diverse enough, I am not Brown enough, I am not Latin enough, I am not handicap enough. Basically, I am just not enough nor doing enough. All this while most have never spoken to me, know nothing about me or have ever walked a day in my shoes. It may be easier to brush them off, not to read the comments or ignore them all together; but guess what? I am enough. I am a lesbian, Latina community leader who is most times the only female in the board room, trying to shatter the glass ceiling. I am an immigrant from South America and English is my second language. I am living with an invisible disability. I am a wife and a parent of a special needs child. Most importantly, I am creating progress and change, which I recognize is slow acting, yet the needle is moving and ther’’s always room for more improvement because I am not done yet!

Strongly believing in accountability, I ask you, Orlando, to keep me honest while having constructive conversations. Historically, the LGBTQIA+ movement has had internal bickering and conflict from its conception. If we pick each other apart, who will be left standing?

To move forward, we must march together. Based on our diverse lived experiences, I recognize we may not always be aligned, but that adds to our depth, to our communal culture and keeps us challenged to grow and move forward. Orlando, let’s refocus our energy and please join me in these efforts. Let’s do better by intentionally seeking collaborative opportunities. Let’s actively support our LGBTQIA+ youth. Let’s be more than allies, let’s be co-conspirators in fighting for basic human rights such as access to healthcare for our trans, our immigrant, our indigenous and all our community members who are living in the margins and are disenfranchised. Let’s stand in true solidarity for our Brown and Black community members. Most importantly, let’s lessen our egos, remember our common goals and priorities, and let’s constructively and effectively communicate and plan progressive action steps.

United we stand, divided we fall. In our darkest days, we showed the world our resilience, our unity, our strength — let’s remember we are the City Beautiful, where our largest celebration is a colorful explosion of Pride! We are unlike any other city. We are #OrlandoStrong and #KeepDancingOrlando!

Tatiana Quiroga is the executive director for Come Out With Pride. She is a proud mother, wife and LGBTQ advocate in Central Florida.

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