Born March 30, 1951
City Council Member, District 2
New York, New York
Elected Female Democratic District Leader, 63rd Assembly District (B) September 1995
Elected to the City Council November 1997
In this photograph, Margarita Lopez is leading a rally on the steps of City Hall to protest U.S. bombing exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques. In 2006, Mayor Michael Bloomberg appointed López to a seat on the board of the New York City Housing Authority.
Interview with Margarita Lopez for Out and Elected in the USA
Q: Tell me about your philosophy on issues and organizing.
A: I have a global view of issues that affect human beings. And based on that understanding is how I have conducted my life. I think that has something to do with coming from an island were everything is so small and so isolated that you think that an island is the planet (chuckling). I think growing up on an island created that kind of impact in my mind, and my analyses always tend to be global. Understanding that whatever you do is interconnected and will have repercussions and consequences, positive and negative.
My view of working on issues has been always understanding that Gay/Lesbian/Transgender issues are not issues that are isolated in one part of the planet. There is a connection between the homeless population. And maybe some people when I say this open their eyes and say, “What the hell is she talking about?” But to me, the homeless woman in Central Park, and I worked many years in there, is clearly having the same kinds of problems and the same kind of oppression – the same kinds of enemy who is exercising the oppression – that the Gay/Lesbian/Transgender community has.
And due to that understanding of mine, I came to be involved from the beginning of my political involvement with issues that affect people in general. But, those issues that I saw that affect people in general, they were viewed as I am a lesbian on this planet who is affected by what is done to my brothers and sisters – the homeless, the women, the elderly, the differently abled. And my connection with them is not absent of the reality that I am a lesbian, who in connection with that is Puerto Rican, who in connection to that is also a woman. For me, I couldn’t see issues without that entire glass.
Now, always, my participation in numerous movements was with the projection of who I was. Meaning I am here. I am a part of this struggle. I understand that your struggle is my struggle, but please understand, that I am a Lesbian. And my struggle as a Lesbian, believe it or not, is your struggle. I must confess to you that my involvement with the Gay/Lesbian/Transgender movement was the last struggle that I became involved with. Isn’t that funny? I am saying this to you to tell you that inside of the structure where I always was, I was fighting my fight internally for my own rights, but I never understood that I needed to go and fight for my struggle in an organized fashion for my own rights. You did not see me try to organize a Gay/Lesbian/Transgender organization, which ordinarily, I did that like a no-brainer for everything else. Now, sometimes I wonder if that has something to do with internalized homophobia. Anyone can look at me from the outside and say, “Oh, no. She did not have internalized homophobia at the time because she was out of the closet very early. And she was not afraid to challenge the structure in which she was involved.” I’m telling you right now, it was not easy. In many of those organizations I was not given membership, thought I solicited membership. And I was never told why not. Years later I learned why the membership was not granted. And it was because I was a Lesbian. The organizations were afraid of granting me membership although they considered me an asset, and I was a part of the leadership, but my membership was never granted.
Q: How do you feel about that – you seem to have a very balanced approach to taking things in stride.
A: I try not to let things embitter me. I think that when you let something embitter you, then you are taking things personally, and when you take things personally, you have a lot of unresolved issues as an individual and everything is going to be tainted by your unresolved issues and your analysis of the reality is going to be incorrect. Therefore, I’ve developed what is maybe a mechanism of defense – I don’t know but maybe that is what it is – but I have developed this understanding that as soon as I let things go personal, they are not going to be resolved because I am not going to be objective. So, try not to let things go personal. And try to see objectively if this is something to be bitter about. As soon as I do that, then begin to understand whoever has a problem with Gay and Lesbian issues, it is their problem, it is not my problem. You see? So when I did that then I kept moving forward.
For information on a touring exhibit version of Out and Elected in the USA: 1974-2004, contact Ron Schlittler at firstname.lastname@example.org.