The conversation about erasure in the Latinx community cannot be centered on white Latinx voices.By Mariana Viera Latina magazine recently published an article titled “Here’s Why You Shouldn’t Question My Latina Culture.” The piece details the frustrations of Alexis, a U.S. born-Latina woman who feels that her light skin robs her of Latinx authenticity in the eyes of the Latinx community. She claims that white Americans exoticize and tokenize her, while other Latinxs see her as “just una blanca.” In a world where white Latinxs are already overrepresented in Latinx media and white Latinx voices are magnified at the cost of black and brown Latinxs, Alexis feels it is critical that her “struggles” as a white Latina woman be given a major platform. She begins, “What you don’t understand about being a light-skinned Latina is that my ‘legitimacy’ is always being questioned by both sides.” In some ways, white Latinxs’ frustrations with having their identity “denied” do speak to an important issue. There is such a thing as white Latinxs. Latin America is not a racial monolith, and there needs to be discussion around that. It is not the racially homogenous, post-race society that people like to imagine it as (nobody knows this better than black and indigenous Latinxs). But if there is a proper way to discuss this issue from the perspective of a white Latinx, this isn’t it. For reasons beyond the scope of this piece, mixing between black, indigenous, and white groups did occur in Latin American countries more than in the United States. But by no means did this result in the expiration of a racial hierarchy that continues to place white Latinxs like Alexis at the very top and black and indigenous Latinxs at the very bottom. “Latinx” is not a race, and Latinxs are not a unified group. White Latinxs exist. Indigenous Latinxs exist. Black Latinxs exist. The racial makeup of countries like Brazil, which has one of the largest afro-descendant populations in the world, and Argentina, a 90% white country, speak to this reality. At one point, the article boldly remonstrates, “When people give me a skeptical look when I say ‘person of color’ or puertorriqueña in reference to myself I want to be able to hand them a pre-made list of all the things I know and do that ensure my acceptance into this culture — my culture.” Alexis can claim Latinxness, but she is gravely mistaken in her claim to a “person of color” identity. To equate being Latinx with being a person of color is to erase the centuries-long, unabated violent oppression experienced by black and indigenous people at the hands of white Latinxs in Latin America.
I feel that it’s my duty to use my experience to create a better world for queer and trans youth.[TW: discussions about abuse and drug and alcohol usage] This December marks an important achievement in my transition! After 17 years of waiting, I’ll be undergoing my orchiectomy. This surgery, the first and potentially only genital surgery I’ll have, is something I’ve wanted since I was a scrawny little brown boy. In honor of something this big, I’ve been reflecting on my experiences in my childhood and teenage years. Specifically, I’ve been reflecting on what it means to have been a queer and trans person in a Latinx family. Growing up in a Latin household, simply being sexually attracted to men (something that I’ve known since kindergarten) was not something that was even entertained as a thought, let alone being a boy who know she’s really a girl. Latinx culture strongly emphasizes masculinity and heterosexuality as being the most important qualities that a person assigned male at birth should have. This often comes in the form of toxic masculinity and abuse for people who don’t appear to comply with this picture of manhood. This strangles the life out of trans women and queer boys, emotionally, psychologically, and sometimes literally. In my family, there was such a strong emphasis on heterosexuality and masculinity. Uncles and cousins emphasized and tried to drill into my head their macho ideas of manhood. I had to act like a boy but being around mostly women — in their eyes — had made me soft. So what they did was send me to be with men in my family to toughen me up and make me a man. Needless to say, they didn’t make a man out of me and I wasn’t comfortable or happy with these attempts to make me one at all. I had to perform masculinity for them, because the idea of me being feminine, enjoying feminine things, and rejecting masculinity were so unconscionable that they weren’t options for me. The emphasis that was placed on me to look (sexually) at women, even as a child, was symbolic of how unconscionable it was to be any sort of queer. I’d known, by kindergarten, that I was sexually attracted to men. Simply to look at a man made my heart flutter and my body tingle, but I could never describe these feelings to anyone.
Related: DON’T BE A TERF: TRANSMISOGYNY 101
Unrealistic storylines do not justify the unrealistic representation of Latinx communities.By Ruby Mora Telenovelas, or Latin American soap operas, are and have been incredibly popular within the Latinx community for decades, with millions of viewers watching hundreds of different ones that normally center around subjects like forbidden love, a la Romeo and Juliet, complete with betrayal, lust, deceit, acceptance, and family values. Unlike their U.S. counterparts like General Hospital and One Life to Live, new episodes of telenovelas aired every weekday and end after only a few seasons – compared to the ever-long U.S. soaps – giving Latinx families a daily tradition, as well as conversation fodder. Growing up I watched them with my grandma, and even when we got to the end of one, there’s always at least one other one that we ended up watching right after. However, around my early 20s, I began to notice how white-passing the majority of the actors are, outside of the very few actors cast in minuscule roles that actually represent the diversity of the community.
Being Brown and queer in counterculture spaces can be challenging enough, even with the “perfect” body. But San Cha bares it all. https://www.instagram.com/p/BS0F9nIDy-I/?taken-by=el_sancha To hear her without seeing her is to learn she is a force. Yet feasting your eyes on San Cha
To close out National Poetry Month and honor May Day and Cinco de Mayo, check out these eight Latinx poets and prepare to have your mind blown. Latinidad is often represented as a monolithic set of values steeped in white supremacy,