Clarita recalls that all of Mexico and California were paralyzed when a left-handed pitcher played, wearing a Los Angeles Dodgers uniform, striking out batters nonstop. Although he does not like baseball very much, he has always felt a special relationship with the Dodgers, the team where that pitcher, the Mexican Fernando Valenzuela, made history in the eighties.
"Everyone wanted to see it. And it was phenomenal that this Latino triumphed in the sport of a first world country and that he represented us all, "he explains with emotion.
Members of the 'Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence' at an event held in Orlando, Florida. Spencer Platt/Getty Images
That's why Clarita says she couldn't believe it when she learned on May 17 that the Dodgers had decided to withdraw the invitation to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an LGBTQ organization to which she belongs, to participate in the team's annual Pride Night. It was planned that, at that event, the team would award the organization the Community Hero Award.
"That happened because of the attacks and manipulation of intolerant groups that want to discriminate and separate us. The Dodgers were pressured and made a mistake by making a quick and unfair decision. But I'm glad they included us again and we're going to work together," explains Clarita, who is known in the organization as Sister Loose Clarita, in an interview with Noticias Telemundo.
That happened because of the attacks and manipulation of intolerant groups that want to discriminate and separate us. The Dodgers were pressured and they were wrong."
clarita, member of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
The Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence first met in San Francisco in 1979, in the Castro district, and consisted of three men dressed as nuns protesting local and LGBTQ issues.
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Over the decades, the organization has grown into a series of affiliates organized around the world that carry out charitable and protest work for minority rights.
Children's story reading activity in Redondo Beach, California, on July 26, 2022.Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence
"We always generate reactions, sometimes we receive hatred but in general they are positive. A lot of people think we're joking, but our job is to help people and raise money for charity," explains Sister Unity, who also belongs to the organization.
The group says that, in its first three decades of operation, it has raised more than a million dollars for LGBTQ causes. But it's not the first time the sisters have been the subject of controversy and accusations.
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The group led the first Pride Parade in Reno, Nevada, in 1999, and Republican Kenny Guinn, who was then the state's governor, said he had heard complaints about their activities and refused to sign the parade proclamation.
"There are always people who play at creating fear of what is different, like us. They use our image to attack, without recognizing that what we do is help people. That's our job," says Clarita.
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"An extremist minority that wants to exclude us"
After multiple criticisms at the national level, in addition to the decision of some LGBTQ organizations that announced their withdrawal from the team event, the Dodgers returned to include the organization in their event.
In a statement, the team said it will continue to work with "LGBTQ partners to better educate us, find ways to strengthen the bonds that bind us, and use our platform to support all of our fans who make up the diversity of the Dodgers family."
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This controversy is part of a series of recent incidents that are linked to the LGBTQ community, when there are only days left to celebrate Gay Pride Month in the United States.
On May 23, retail store Target announced that due to reactions from some customers who knocked down windows, angrily complained about workers, and posted threatening videos on social media, they had decided to remove LGBTQ-themed items from some of their stores.
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"This is a campaign brazenly organized by groups with extreme positions. It is a time when all companies that support the LGBTQ community and benefit from our symbols, from our dollars, must show that they are with us," explains Mayra Salazar Hidalgo, who is one of the directors of the National LGBTQ Task Force, an organization that fights for freedom, justice and equality of the LGBTQ community.
All businesses that support the LGBTQ community and benefit from our symbols, from our dollars, must show that they are with us."
Mayra Salazar Hidalgo, National LGBTQ Task Force
In addition, beer brand Bud Light continues to grapple with backlash from customers angered by its association with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney. The beer's parent company announced it will triple its U.S. marketing spending this summer as it tries to recoup sales it lost after the brand partnered with Mulvaney.
"This is a symptom of what's happening in the U.S. In the eighties and nineties, we learned to get along as a society and LGBTQ people's lives began to improve. But an extremist minority emerged that wants to exclude us," explains Unity.
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Why did the Dodgers decide to exclude the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence from their event?
The organization was pulled from the event after Marco Rubio, a Republican senator from Florida, wrote a letter to Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred in which he claimed the group "intentionally mocks and degrades Christians, and not just Christians, but nuns, who dedicate their lives to serving others."
In addition, the conservative advocacy group CatholicVote, one of the LGBTQ's fiercest critics, accused the sisters of "anti-Catholic hatred," and demanded that the Dodgers exclude them from the awards.
"The people who are leading these movements against the LGBTQ community, and specifically against transgender people, know perfectly well the damage they are doing. They create conflict with very intimate things of citizens such as their gender identity," says Clarita.
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On its website, the group states that "we are not anti-Catholic, but an organization based on love, acceptance and celebration of human diversity."
The Dodgers issued a statement saying that due to "the strong feelings of individuals who have been offended by the sisters' inclusion in our event, and in an effort not to overlook the great benefits of Pride Night, we have decided to remove them from the group of honorees."
"Tactics that seek to make invisible and intimidate"
In recent years, the LGBTQ community has been at the center of political and legal debates in the United States. According to the American Civil Liberties Union, by March 3, at least 385 anti-LGBTQ laws had been introduced in most states across the country.
That shows a considerable increase compared to 2022, when lawmakers proposed 162 anti-LGBTQ bills. In April, a Florida state board approved the extension of the "Don't Say Gay" law, which prohibits school instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity at all levels of education starting in third grade. Another state law prohibits transgender minors from receiving gender-affirming treatment.
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They are tactics that seek to make our community invisible and intimidated."
MAYRA SALAZAR HIDALGO
"This is happening within a political context in which LGBTQ people are being criminalized by various anti-LGBTQ legislations, tactics that seek to make our community invisible and intimidated," says Salazar Hidalgo, director of the National LGBTQ Task Force.
In addition, conservative lawmakers and activists have banded together to limit the teaching of LGBTQ issues in schools, the display of queer symbology in classrooms, and the participation of transgender athletes in school sports.
In its annual report on book censorship, the American Library Association documented 1,269 challenges to more than 2,500 books in 2022, the highest number of book ban attempts since the association began tracking in 2001. It was a 75% jump from 2021, which held the previous record.
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"What I fear most is for our LGBTQ youth who are in high school and college. Because they already know what their gender identity is going to be. And, while faced with the decision of coming out or not, many feel that the world hates them and that is serious," says Unity.
In June, Pride Month is celebrated in the United States, as a tribute to the Stonewall uprising that happened on June 28, 1969 in New York City, an incident that helped boost the modern movement for the struggle for gay rights.
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"I think this year we will celebrate as usual with our parades and events, but it is also a time to remember the legacy of the protests. Many people in the community feel demoralized, but I think we're going to underscore our power. Fear will never win," says Salazar Hidalgo.
In the meantime, the sisters say they will continue their work helping minorities and hope to celebrate Pride Month in style.
"We are afraid because of all the threats we receive, but that fear will not prevent me from dressing as I like, and painting my face with crazy and beautiful colors to go out and celebrate. I like to make other people smile and cheer their hearts, and that gives me strength to keep going," says Unity.