Being Latin and LGBTQ+ in Hollywood: 'Our Latinx Culture Has Leaps and Bounds to Make'

“We are not a monolith, that’s why it’s important to have these discussions,” said Stephanie Beatriz during the Mi Historia: Our Experiences Being Latin and LGBTQ+ panel on Thursday

Stephanie Beatriz, Robin de Jesus, Johnny Sibilly
Photo: getty (3)

Being part of the Latin and LGBTQ+ communities, these three actors feel a responsibility to speak up and represent.

Stephanie Beatriz of NBC's Brooklyn Nine-Nine and the film adaptation of In the Heights, Tony-nominated Broadway actor and star of the upcoming Tick, Tick…Boom! film Robin de Jesús, and Johnny Sibilly of television's Pose and Hacks joined Entertainment Weekly executive editor Patrick Gomez in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month and to kick off LGBTQ+ History Month.

"We are not a monolith, that's why it's important to have these discussions," said Beatriz, 40, during the Mi Historia: Our Experiences Being Latin and LGBTQ+ panel on Thursday.

"[That's] why it's important to talk about these parts of ourselves, whereas it used to be: cross your fingers and hope they think that you fit in this world somewhere," the Argentine-American actress added.

With a large majority of people in the Latin community making up movie and television audiences, Beatriz explained, it is "vital for audiences to see themselves the hero of the story, as well as filling in the world around the hero — but us being the hero is vital."

Though each of the actors noted that there has been progress in recent years when it comes to Latin and LGBTQ+ representation, they all feel that there is so much more to be done.

"Specifically, when it comes to media, I feel like our Latinx culture has leaps and bounds to make when it comes to represented LGBTQ+ people, especially trans and non-binary people within the community," said Sibilly, 34, who is of Cuban and Dominican descent, adding that "when it comes to colorism on a lot of these Latinx-specific channels and brands, you just don't see the mezcla that we all have within our communities."

"Whether it be dark-skinned Cuban women or, you know, lesbians," he added, "you don't see it. You just don't."

Beatriz, who identifies as bisexual, has at times not felt seen and spoke about the harms of bi-erasure, both in entertainment and everyday life.

To close the gap on erasure of any kind, Beatriz urged audiences to not buy "into the stereotypes that we've been fed for so long — the dumb, lazy jokes that we see on TV and badly-written storylines, just not buying into it."

Instead, she said, audiences should be "buying into the new era, which is a celebration of the entire spectrum of sexuality."

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De Jesús, 37, who is of Puerto Rican descent, also said that actors themselves have a responsibility when it comes to inclusion and representation, especially when it comes to the roles a performer chooses to audition for and ultimately take on.

"When I say responsible, what I'm saying is: I want to make sure that when I get in the room, if I get a scene that is one-dimensional, I go, 'Mm-mm, that's not gonna do it. I need this to be a full-bodied character,' " explained De Jesús.

"I want to be entitled to empathy, sympathy and compassion, and if you don't write this in where I get all three of those things, then I can't participate because if you want me to be an accessory or just give you the punchline, and rep my people, it just feels icky to me," he added. "I need a more important, valid reason to be there."

Sibilly echoed his statements, admitting that he used to get auditions to play trans women, despite not being transgender. "I remember having that moment where I was like, 'I should not be taking on these roles, one: because trans women should be playing trans women, trans people should be playing trans people because of the dangers that they face in a different way,' " he said.

"It's about removing yourself and your ego from what tells the story the way it needs to be told, what the world needs to see," he added. "I think we have power as artists to say, 'No. I'll wait.' Because what's meant for you will be for you."

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