There is a lot to celebrate about César Chávez, the noted labor and civil rights leader whose birthday we celebrate Saturday. But what many don’t know is that Chávez was also an ardent advocate for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality.
Marc Grossman, the Chavez Foundation’s communication director and César Chávez’s longtime spokesman and personal aide, says that for Chávez, support for the LGBT community started early. A long-time friend of the Chávezes from the ’40s on, who was a lesbian, baptized the Chávezes eldest son, Fernando.
“By the late ’70s, he would go to gay rights parades,” Grossman said. “I was with him when he met Harvey Milk.”
And Milk, in turn, was an early supporter of the United Farm Workers grape boycott.
“This was not a position that was popular,” said Grossman, referring to Chávez’s support for LGBT equality. “But César didn’t care about what was unpopular. He came out strong against the Vietnam War, something most other labor organizations wouldn’t do. He believed you couldn’t lead by following the crowd.”
Grossman shares the anecdote of a young aide who had left Chávez to move to San Francisco, and who later came out. Chávez came to San Francisco for a labor rally and went to a gay pride parade. The aide recognized him and said, “I’m surprised to see you here,” and Chávez replied, baffled, “Why would you be surprised?” Read the rest of this entry »