FORT WORTH, Texas — One thing Rachel Moreno knows for sure is that she is always going to love her child.

“God gave her to me and I’m gonna love her until I can’t love her anymore,” Moreno said. 

This was true even when she did not fully understand them when they first came out.

“I would shut her down really quick and I would tell her, you’re going through a stage, you’re going through a phase, you’re confused,” she said.

At that point, it was easier to be in denial and wait for something to change.

“Any time I tried to really even sit down and mention the community or explain the community, it was one of those, 'No, it’s not right,'” said Lysa Alvarado.

According to Moreno, this was because in the Latinx culture, factors like religion, family, tradition and machismo can make it very difficult to accept or support individuals who identify as LGBTQ+.

“Growing up Latina, I was always told being gay was wrong. I was never told why it was wrong, so it was so ingrained in me,” said Moreno.

For them not having their mother’s support during the teen years led to mental health issues. They understood it was not intentional, as it was hard for their mom to change lifelong beliefs and be open to their family during that time.

“Especially in the Hispanic community, being gay is not right, so I don’t blame my mom,” said Alvarado, who identifies as pansexual and non-binary.

However, seeing them struggle gave Moreno the courage and strength to step outside of the norm of their circle. It made her brave to be transparent about the way they identified without looking back.

“It was a relief that I was okay and the she could finally breathe and tell me, 'Mom, this is what I’m going through, this is what I’m feeling, this is who I am,'” recalled Moreno.

They were always close, but that made them closer than ever, taking every opportunity they can to bond.

“I think that’s beautiful because you can’t change the world overnight, but you can start by changing yourself,” said Alvarado.

Using their experience for a higher good, Moreno decided to become an advocate for the Latinx LGBTQ+ community in Fort Worth, helping mothers who struggle with becoming allies for their children due to fear of the community shaming like she once did.

“I don’t want other Latino families to feel like they’re embarrassed to come out and talk about it. I don’t want parents to feel like there’s nowhere to go. If I’ve got questions, who do I ask? What questions do I ask?” said Moreno.

She is one of few Spanish speaking advocates in the Fort Worth area who helps organizations like LGBTQ Saves offer resources that educate Latinx families, but most importantly save lives.

“You know, coming forward and asking for resources and saving their own child’s lives, that’s all that matters,” said Sharon Herrera, founder and executive director of the organization.

According to Herrera, in more recent years, Latinx mothers have reached out to the organization and the number of Latinx LGBTQ youth who have reached out has increased up to three times (from about 5%-27%) since the start of the pandemic in 2020. Most of the parents who reached out during that time were also looking for assistance in Spanish. 

"The biggest struggle for them is the language,” shared the military veteran, who recently received a Pride Proclamation from the city of Fort Worth on behalf of the LGBTQ+ community, acknowledging her work with LGBTQ Saves and advancement of the LGBTQ+ community in Tarrant County.

Herrera is a military veteran who founded the organization in 2010 because she struggled with coming out herself during her teen years, and that led to a suicide attempt she said was triggered by a priest she spoke with about what she was experiencing. 

Her main goal is to provide safe spaces and prevent youths from feeling like there is no hope for them if they do not have support around them.

“I’m doing this because of what happened to me and I don’t want another child to suffer like that, to think that’s their only choice, that their world can get that dark and they have to take their life. So yeah, I’m just trying to save lives,” said Herrera.

However, the number of fathers involved is still a number she hopes to see improve.

“In our community, a lot of mothers that have reached out are struggling with that piece, or the child, you know, like my dad, ignores me or my dad doesn’t accept me. I’ve had some children eventually like two or three years later saying dad is finally coming around, but the child is so much older. So I’d like to say there is a glimmer of hope,” she added.

Moreno agrees that one of the biggest reasons some Latinx families with LGBTQ youth are not as open or educated on the topic is the lack of resources in Spanish available to them.

“We definitely have a community that is very limited because of those language barriers,” she said.

This is why Moreno is glad to be a madre (mother) who became an ally. Yet, she looks forward to and is working towards seeing the day when race or background is not an extra barrier for LGBTQ+ youth to break, so they can focus on their talents and living their best life, being proud of who they are.

More information on LGBTQ+ Saves and resources can be found on their site, including their recently added tab with information in Spanish. 

CORRECTION: A previous version of this story misidentified Lysa Alvarado with the wrong pronouns. It has since been updated.