Faith, Family, Latino, LGBT, All 'Before God'

By Ben Sutter 10-11-2013
Screenshot from 'Before God: We Are All Family'
Screenshot from 'Before God: We Are All Family'

As a boy growing up, Joanna Maria Cifredo wasn’t like her brothers.

“My brothers looked at females because they wanted to be with a female,” Cifrado says, in new video resource by the Human Rights Campaign that premiered Oct. 1. “I looked at females more like, ‘Oh, I wish I was her.’ ”

Now, Joanna has decided to physically identify as a woman full time.

Her voice joined many others in Before God: We are All Family, a new film focused on the experiences of Latina LGBT people. She also participated, along with her mother Maria Vega-Cifredo, in a discussion panel that included the filmmaker at the first public viewing of the resource at the GALA Hispanic Theater in Washington, D.C.

Focusing on the important role family and faith play in Latino communities, the video resource is the newest component to a bilingual discussion guide produced by the HRC and the National Latina/o LGBT Human Rights Organization, among others. The organizations developed the guide with the aim of helping Latinos have a conversation about faith and LGBT inclusion.

The guide, written by Rev. Dr. Miguel A. de la Torre, with help from Rev. Dr. Ignacio Castuera and Lisbeth Melendéz Rivera, gathers 14 testimonies into six chapters, each with stories, questions, and exercises focused on what it means to be LGBT and Latina. Inside the guide, created in 2011, are sections on family, the gift of our bodies, the Bible, and solidarity.

“A spirit of love and hospitality is what this whole program is about,” said Sharon Groves, director of the Religion and Faith program for the Human Rights Campaign.

Filmed across the United States and Puerto Rico, Before God is truly a bilingual film; it effortlessly moves between Spanish and English, always offering the other language in subtitles. In its 22 minutes, the film tells distinctive stories of trying to balance personal identity, familial trust, and communal faith.

“As we as LGBT people came out, it was the beginning of our families’ journey on coming out,” said Lisbeth Melendéz Rivera, National A la Familia Coordinator. The goal of this video was to find families who were a long ways down that journey, she said.

“The families were very open and honest,” said Alex Gómez, the film’s director. Gómez praised the families involved in the process, saying that the transparency was raw and noting that some of the filmed family conversations were happening for the first time.

 “[At first], I tried to find sports, et cetera, to try to change him,” Joanna’s mother, Maria said in the film. It has been a journey, she said, but the family is a long way from where they started.

“I know that God made all things and he made them good,” Maria said. “Today, I feel proud of my daughter.”

View the trailer here.

Ben Sutter is online assistant for Sojourners.

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