5 Latine LGBTQ+ Game Changers

Graphic design that highlights 5 queer Latina Activism: Arely Westley, Jamie Margolin, Pili Tobar, Isa Noyola, and Chris Melody Fields.

Our Third Installment of the “Latinas Who Lead” Series

Luz Media

Every June is Pride Month, and what better way to continue with our summer series, “Latinas Who Lead,” than with 5 Latine game-changing LGBTQ leaders who are pushing change forward despite the increasing violence against the LGBTQ community. These queer Latina activists are fiercely advocating for critical social issues like climate justice, immigrant rights, reproductive justice, and more, in addition to bringing attention to important queer Latino issues.

They are inspiring figures within the LGBTQ+ Latine community whose work positively affects everyone, regardless of anyone’s orientation or identification. That selflessness is what Pride is all about. Love and empathy without boundaries.

Arely Westley

Portrait of Arely Westley

Photo by arelywestley on Instagram

Arely Westley is a trans-Latina activist originally from Honduras whose work has made her an important figure in the fight for LGBTQ+ and immigrant rights in Louisiana. Recently, she received the 41st annual Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Award, and serves as the Campaign Director at BreakOUT!, a New Orleans-based organization dedicated to empowering Black and Latinx transgender and gender non-conforming youth.

Through BreakOUT!, Westley helps young people work towards ending the criminalization of LGBTQ+ youth. She’s also building a strong base of youth leaders who receive intensive political education. Westley’s work at BreakOUT! addresses systemic factors leading to health inequalities and focuses on helping young activists develop their leadership skills.

Of course, Westley’s work goes beyond empowering the next generation of activists. She’s also a member of the Southeast Dignity Not Detention Coalition (SDND), which fights for immigrants' rights through legal and community support services.

She’s been a tireless advocate against abuses in ICE detention facilities, having personally experienced the harsh realities of these centers, including solitary confinement. Her firsthand experiences lit a fire in her to shut down abusive detention facilities and advocate for more humane treatment and better access to resources for detainees.

Westley also collaborates with Home is Here NOLA as a detention visitation project coordinator. Home is Here NOLA provides vital support services to newly arrived immigrants. Home is Here NOLA also serves on the boards of the Southeast Immigrant Rights Network and Asheboro Latinxs Services.

Her passionate activism highlights the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ rights and immigrant rights and emphasizes the need for solidarity and support within these movements. She emphasizes the need for all people to support trans leadership of color, vote against discriminatory policies, and provide employment opportunities to trans individuals, guided by the belief that community plays a major role in achieving social justice.

Jamie Margolin

Portrait of Jamie Margolin

Photo by jamie_s_margolin on Instagram

Jamie Margolin is a Colombian-American climate justice activist who at only 22 years old, has made significant strides in advocating for environmental issues. Margolin also uses her platform to discuss her experiences as an LGBT individual openly. Margolin is the co-executive director of Zero Hour and has been one of the leading voices in the youth climate movement, fighting for action against climate change.

Margolin’s activism is deeply rooted in her personal experiences and she’s proud of her identity as a Latina Jewish lesbian, something that fuels her passion to fight for marginalized communities. She’s also been an outspoken voice against the unprecedented level of violence Israel has waged against Palestinian people.

Her journey as an activist started when she was 15 years old when she witnessed the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the 2017 Washington wildfires. This moved her to action, and she co-founded Zero Hour that very same year. In 2018, she organized the first Youth Climate March in Washington, D.C., and in 25 other cities around the world.

Since then, Margolin has organized many different campaigns, strikes, and summits to raise awareness about the climate crisis. Her activism goes beyond organizing. That same year, Margolin was one of the plaintiffs in the Aji P. v. Washington case, suing the state of Washington for its inadequate action on climate change. The lawsuit argued that the state's failure to address the climate crisis violates the constitutional rights of Margolin's generation to a livable environment. In 2021, the Court of Appeals of the State of Washington dismissed the claim, but the point was made, despite the courts striking the claim down.

In 2019, she testified before the United States House of Representatives on a panel alongside Greta Thunberg, raising her voice in the global conversation about climate change. She also writes on climate change and activism, with articles featured on HuffPost, CNN, and Teen Vogue. Margolin also authored the book “Youth to Power: Your Voice and How to Use It,” which offers practical advice and inspiration for young activists who want to make a difference in the world.

Chris Melody Fields

Portrait of Chris Melody Fields

Courtesy of Chris Melody Fields

Chris Melody Fields is a Venezuelan-American activist serving as the Executive Director of the Ballot Initiative Strategy Center (BISC), an organization making big strides in the progressive movement. She has led BISC since June 2018, guiding the organization’s vision, strategic planning, and fundraising efforts to harness the power of ballot measures. Fields' work at BISC is driven by her commitment to social justice and her desire to ensure that democracy serves everyone, especially marginalized communities.

Under Fields’ leadership, BISC has become crucial in organizing people, organizations, and resources around ballot measures. These measures have proven to be highly effective tools for passing progressive laws to balance the scales, particularly in states where right-wing politics dominate government. For example, every ballot measure related to abortion rights introduced in recent years has succeeded, with two more anticipated on the ballots in Arizona and Florida this year.

Looking at Fields’ career, her dedication to creating collaborative spaces and building movements that advocate for social justice and equity is crystal clear. As a pansexual, queer woman of color who immigrated to the U.S. at a young age, Fields brings a unique and deeply personal perspective to her work. She believes that ballot measures can be powerful tools for liberation, capable of dismantling oppressive systems and empowering communities that are most affected by them. Fields has been proving that point since 2018 with her work at BISC.

Before joining BISC, Fields held a variety of strategic roles across progressive political and issue-based campaigns nationwide. She developed messaging and communication strategies at ReThink Media, led national programs to expand and protect voting rights at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, campaigned to end the influence of money in politics at Common Cause, and advocated for quality education for DC’s children and families at DC ParentSmart.

Fields has an impressive 20-year career background in political campaigns, grassroots advocacy, coalition building, strategic planning, communications, and fundraising that’s not easily found among Latina impact leaders. She’s known as a charismatic and dedicated leader with a lifelong commitment to advocacy, equity, and transformational change.

Isa Noyola

Portrait of Isa Noyola

Photo by @muxerisa on X

Isa Noyola is a trans Latina activist of Mexican descent who is recognized as one of the national leaders in the LGBTQ immigrant rights movement. Noyola was the Deputy Director at the Transgender Law Center until 2019. She then moved on to Mijente, where she served as Deputy Director until early 2024, organizing Latinos and Chicanos for racial, economic, gender, and climate justice. It’s exciting to see what project she’ll focus on next to continue her long career in activism.

In exploring that career, many highlights stand out. In 2015, she helped orchestrate the first nationwide protest against transgender violence, a groundbreaking event that rallied over 100 activists, mostly trans-Latinas and women of color. The protest was a response to the violence that transgender communities had been experiencing and focused on highlighting the urgent need for systemic change in how transgender people, particularly immigrants and detainees, are treated.

Noyola is a fierce advocate for the release of transgender women from ICE detention centers and campaigns to end deportations. Her efforts include educating politicians about the specific issues faced by transgender individuals and confronting oppressive systems directly. She also founded El/La Para TransLatinas, an organization dedicated to supporting trans-Latinas in the San Francisco Bay Area. The organization focuses on violence prevention, advocacy, leadership development, HIV prevention and PrEP navigation, and community building by facilitating safe spaces.

Isa Noyola's activism isn’t just focused on addressing immediate injustices for the LGBTQ community, it’s also focused on building sustainable and empowered communities for all women. She served as a member of the Women’s March board, where she helped expand the organizing footprint of the organization beyond an annual march. During her time on the board, she pushed for the Women’s March to focus on immigration, climate change, and reproductive justice.

Through her diverse work, she challenges the systems that attempt to oppress the expansion of intersectional feminism to include all people who identify as women. She advocates for a world where everyone can be free to define who they are and take their own paths as they see fit.

María del Pilar “Pili” Tobar

Portrait of Pili Tobar

Photo by Pili Tobar on X

Last but certainly not least, Pili Tobar is a well-known communications strategist and activist of Guatemalan descent. She’s celebrated for her extensive contributions to political campaigns, government communications, and advocacy work, particularly in support of immigrant and LGBTQ+ rights. As a queer Latina identifying as lesbian, Tobar has consistently leveraged her background and expertise to ensure diverse voices are heard.

Tobar earned a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master’s in Public Administration from the University of Miami. This higher education gave her the skills to start her career in political communications as the Hispanic Media Director and Western Press Secretary for the Democratic National Committee during the 2014 midterm elections. There, she proved her knowledge in managing media relations and outreach to Hispanic communities.

In 2015, Tobar served as Communications Director for Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), where she sharpened her skills in strategic communications and legislative advocacy. Two years later, she became the Hispanic Media Director for Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). She also played pivotal roles in various advocacy organizations like America’s Voice.

In 2020, she joined Biden’s Presidential campaign, where she further honed her expertise as Communications Director for Coalitions. In that role, she was responsible for outreach and communication strategies across a variety of media outlets and communities. Including Latino, African American, AAPI, and LGBTQ+ communities, among others, shaping Biden’s inclusive messaging during the campaign.

After that successful campaign, she became the White House Deputy Communications Director. She oversaw communications about domestic policy, immigration, and more, and held this role until 2022. Tobar recently transitioned out of the White House as a partner at Conexión, a consulting firm that specializes in Latino outreach and multicultural communications.

Founded alongside Colin Rogero, Adrián Saenz, and Marsha Espinosa, Conexión advises political campaigns, corporations, and nonprofits on communication strategies to engage diverse audiences. No matter the job title, Tobar continues working towards more inclusive political communications and inspiring leaders in the Latino and LGBTQ+ communities with her deep understanding of how Latinos deserve to be talked with, not at.

Check out the Latinas who Lead first and second installments to discover more Latina leaders who are leaving their mark on a country deadset on erasing them.

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