Fiesta Youth helps ensure a support system is available to students.
By Tania Flores
AIDS hasn’t gone away just because the severity of the epidemic has decreased, a drag queen and director of Pride San Antonio, said Oct. 25 in Loftin Student Center.
The young LGBTQ community isn’t receiving enough education about HIV and the risk of getting it and developing AIDS, Alfonso Garcia, dressed as the performer “Autumn Summers,” told 10 students and guest at a meeting of the Gay Ally and Lesbian Association.
The presentation is part of the organization’s observation of LGBTQ history month.
Garcia told the group how the drag persona came about.
“Thirty-seven years ago, Autumn Summers was born out necessity during the HIV/AIDS epidemic,” he said.
“During the 1980s, there was little to no education about the disease,” Garcia said. “As a result, I saw several friends die after getting the disease.”
His work began as a volunteer with Robert “Papa Bear” Edwards who later became the founder of the San Antonio AIDS Foundation.
Before Edwards started the foundation, Garcia helped to raise money for his volunteer efforts as he provided care to gay men who were sick and dying, he said.
Garcia started doing speaking engagements eight years ago to educate everyone, not just the LGBTQ community, about safe sex and to give hope for those living with HIV/AIDS.
“I prefer to conduct my speaking engagements as a drag performer because it catches people’s attention to the important issues I talk about,” he said.
Pride San Antonio is a nonprofit corporation. The purpose of the corporation is to install pride, celebrate unity, embrace diversity and recognize the contributions of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community, according to www.pridesanantonio.org.
Summers has served as one of the directors of Pride San Antonio for the last four years.
He said he brings his concerns to the organizations he works with because he believes no one is educating young people sufficiently on the need to practice safe sex.
“I want to cure the stigma that people have about everything to do with being gay and HIV/AIDS because LGBTQ individuals are human beings, too,” he said. “We want equality.”
They want the same things out of life as straight people, he said. They want to love who they want to love without anyone telling them they can’t.
There still is a long way to go to normalize the LGBTQ population, but the speaking engagements help spread the word, he said.
Garcia performs as Autumn Summers at the Silver Dollar Saloon, 1812 N. Main Ave., east of this college.
Marcos Atuna, program director with Fiesta Youth, attended the meeting.
In August, the organization he represents partnered with this college to support the LGBTQ community.
“We support the GALA organization through monetary contributions, by sending volunteers to their events and checking in to ensure their needs are met,” Atuna said.
The organization’s mission of Fiesta Youth is to empower teens, young adults and their allies by building a future where “all people are accepted and loved as they are,” according to www.fiesta-youth.org.
Public administration freshman Adrian Wright attended the meeting as a guest. After his best friend recommended he join a student organization, he started searching and discovered GALA.
He’s been attending the meetings for the last few weeks and likes the organization’s involvement in educating others about the LGBTQ community, he said.
“After learning about the organization, I’m trying to determine what positions are open and what role I can take,” Wright said.
For more information, call GALA at 210-201-4252; Fiesta Youth at 210-802-1373 and the San Antonio AIDS Foundation at 210-225-4715.
For information about Pride San Antonio, visit www.pridesanantonio.org.