by Mike Rodriguez & Brad Veloz
When we met in 1977, we shared many similar commonalities. We were both from large families, our families still spoke Spanish at home, our mothers were our first priority and we loved disco music. After moving to Washington, D.C. in the fall of 1978 we found ourselves alone, no family, no friends and no place to stay until a co-worker offered his home to us. We stayed with a co-worker for a couple of months and then found our first apartment together. It snowed a lot that first winter in D.C. and we enjoyed being stranded at home. It also gave us a chance to really get to know each other better. We formed a strong bond and began building our lives together that established a solid foundation early on.
We have been in a committed relationship for over 37 years. During those years we witnessed the deaths of many of our friends lost to AIDS. We made a commitment to each other to always take care of ourselves and each other. We have had our ups and downs just like many couples.
Although we both have excellent organizing skills, as a couple we didn’t start our LGBT Latino activism until 1987. We helped organize the first Latino LGBT organization in Washington, D.C. called ENLACE and later with the formation of LLEGO, the National Latino/a Lesbian & Gay Organization. We organized and helped with a “buddy system” for our brothers with AIDS.
And, together we organized and served as elected officers of LGBT Latino organizations in Houston and San Antonio. Before 1987 march on Washington, we never really talked about who we were as gay men. That changed after the 1987 March and we came into contact with other Latino LGBT brothers and sisters.
Organizing has been in our blood since high school and college years. Brad began organizing high school students in Corpus Christi, while Mike began organizing during his college years in San Antonio. For us, organizing as a couple has strengthened bonds between us in terms of our relationship. We believe that it is important for couples who choose to organize together, that they have the support of each other. We have experienced the victories, the joys and sorrows as a couple. While we may share common visions and aspirations of what equality should be, we are not monolithic in our thinking. While there is a nine year difference in our ages, we have different ways of looking at things and different approaches but as a couple we can bounce of each other’s ideas and energies and learn to come together and comprise on our position. Organizing as a couple has taught us how to perfect comprise. Organizing as a couple has also expanded our familia in that we have met other Latino organizers who today remain in our circle of friends.
In November, 2013 we returned to Washington, D.C. and were married in Historic Lincoln Park across the street from where we lived for many years. As we approach our 60’s and 70’s, aging has been a process we witnessed our parents endure and are blessed with the loving support of our families and friends. We also continue to advocate for LGBT equality in our City and State.
We recently became members of the first San Antonio LGBT LULAC Council and helped with the passage of a Non-Discrimination Ordinance that brought protection from discrimination to the LGBT community.