Woodhull Sexual Freedom Alliance

Affirming Sexual Freedom as a Fundamental Human Right

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Carmen Vázquez

Carmen Vazquez

2011 Vicki Award Winner - Carmen Vazquez

The oldest of seven children, Carmen Vázquez was born in Puerto Rico and raised in NYC. She attended the City University of New York, earning a Bachelor’s in English and a Master’s in Education. Vázquez lived and worked in San Francisco for almost two decades, becoming a seasoned activist and movement leader in causes ranging from immigrant rights to lesbian health. Vázquez was the founding director of the Women’s Building in San Francisco, the Director of the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights, and the Coordinator of Lesbian and Gay Health Services for the San Francisco Department of Public Health. She was also the co-founder and co-chair of Somos Hermanas, a Central American Women’s Solidarity Network.

Vázquez returned to New York in 1994 as the Director of Public Policy for the LGBT Community Center, where she worked until 2003. At the Community Center, she was the primary author of “Causes in Common” and founded the LGBT Health and Human Services Network. Carmen has continued her activist work as Deputy Director of the Empire State Pride Agenda (2003-2007) and in her current position as Coordinator of the LGBT Health and Human Services Unit of the New York State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute.

In 2005, Carmen received an honorary law degree from CUNY.

Carmen’s papers are part of the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College, and her history is included in the Voices of Feminism Oral History Project.

In her oral history, Vázquez describes her early childhood in Puerto Rico and growing up in New York City, first on the Lower East Side, then in Harlem. Vázquez is forthcoming about her personal life during this time and covers issues such as racism, family dynamics, religion and sexuality. Vázquez describes her political awakening and early activism, beginning with student protests at City College and Puerto Rican independence efforts. She describes in depth her movement from antiracism and socialist activism into the women’s movement and then queer politics. Vázquez’s interview is particularly strong and nuanced around issues of classism, racism, and sexism in social change movements. She offers keen insights into the successes and failures of these movements and an uncompromising vision for meaningful coalition building.

In her work and in her life, Carmen embodies the affirmation of sexual freedom as a fundamental human right.

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