When I walked into the Wilton Manors office for Gaymer Night, I settled in at a folding table behind one of the couches with a view of projection screens. An ongoing battle of Super Smash Bros played out on one, and an abandoned Persona 4 Arena select screen looped on the other. An eight- or 10-person round of Cards Against Humanity was already in progress.
Latinos Salud provides a safe space and resource center for gay, bisexual and transgender Latinos. They host a game night every third Thursday in Wilton Manors, and every third Friday in Kendall.
The event was started by Obed Caballero, as a meet up for the center’s SOMOS – Spanish for “we are” -- social group. A gamer himself (his all-time favorites are Kingdom Hearts and Xenogears) Caballero said he started Gaymer Night as a way for LGBT gamers to have fun in a setting where they can open and be themselves.
“It's hard sometimes for LGBT people in general, especially in the game or even geek culture, to intersect those different aspects of their identity,” Caballero said. “I’ve talked to people who come and a lot of time they feel that their gaming friends don't really get their sexuality. And when they come out to the gay community, a lot of time they don't understand their interests in the gaming community or in geek culture.”
Caballero said a typical game night may have 20 to 30 people, sometimes upwards of 40 to 50. About two-thirds of the group are usually regulars, and a handful of new faces each month.
“I’ve talked to people who come and a lot of time they feel that their gaming friends don’t really get their sexuality.” - Obed Caballero
“Every time there's a new face they're surprised that we even exist as a group, but they’re always very impressed, or very happy that a place like that exists,” Caballero said. “It’s liberating for them to come to a safe space like that and geek out.”
The March 17 meet-up had over 20 men and several women in attendance. Everyone was welcome, like the guy who invited me to play King of Tokyo — Thomas, who was neither Latin, nor identified as gay or bisexual, but was there to game.
Caballero is the Navigation Services and Social Media Coordinator for Latinos Salud now, but he started off in SOMOS — the ages 18 to 30 empowerment group that makes up the bulk of game night group. He said there are a couple of staffers now, who were introduced to the center through Gaymer Night, and he’d like to see the organization build on their community outreach and involvement from there.
“The people who come are very committed to the group, Latinos Salud, they feel very comfortable coming here, they're appreciative of the Gaymer Night existing, and having a place where they feel comfortable, so they always want to give back.”
Besides the game nights hosted at the resource center, the group also spends time meeting at locations around town like Wilton Creamery. To keep up with game nights, meetups and events check out the Facebook Group at https://www.facebook.com/LatinosSalud/.
The next Latinos Salud Gaymer Nights are happening Thursday, April 20 in Wilton Manors and Friday April 21, in Kendall, both run from 7 to 10 p.m.
SOMOS is just one of Latinos Salud empowerment groups, outreach services, and HIV support services. Here are some others:
JUNTOS is an all ages peer leadership group that meets on alternating Fridays at 8 p.m.in Wilton Manors.
MiamiGO for Latino guys of all ages meets alternating Fridays in Kendall at 7 p.m.
Broward and Miami locations offer additional HIV and safe sex services and resources, and even certified Life Coaching services.
To learn more about Latinos Salud, groups, events, programs and services, visit www.LatinosSalud.org/.