Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Gay Hispanic vs Queer Latino

When I started first grade, I remember one my barriers from full play pin games was being to communicate and understand the rules from my fellow classmates. Although I only knew scarce bits of Spanish, English quickly became my primary language and I became the master of the "'you're it" line. At the beginning, I was only identified as Mexican where most of my classmates, regardless of race, were Americans. By the time I reached the third grade, I was my own blend of American-of-the-streets and Mexican-at-home. I identified with my classmates and teachers much more than my own parents, whom regularly worked beyond the time the school buses returned us home. When I started taking standardized test, I began to identify by the bubble option that I was told to fill with my #2 pencil.

Standardized exams were being pushed by the US Department of Education, backed by the Clinton Administration, to use blanket exams to compare the education and progress of students. These "End of Course/Grade" test became a standard by states to see if students were unqualified to advance to next grade. The Bush Administration later used these same test to punish "under-preforming" teachers and schools. The basic information of these test also used race as a comparison between students. Of the options, there were African-American, Asian, Pacific Islander/Eskimo, White or Hispanic.

So, I became Hispanic after my teacher came by and made sure the seven year old students were bubbling correctly and not drawing ducks and horses on the paper exams. Although there was no "Other" option, my classroom had three other kids that looked similar to me, also with Spanish last names; together, we began our trip on the Hispanic train. We were all of Mexican nationality, but the diversity of Latin American became more ubiquitous at our Catholic Church, which the other four Hispanics attended, when he had visiting pastor from Costa Rica.

Later in the years, there was the evident racial clicks limited to whites, blacks and Hispanic that comprised of descendants of Mexico and Central-America. This continued till I attended a historically black high school and my identity was, simply, other. Similarly, I began to wondering how much "other" I was when I began to notice that I was more different than I was willing to let on.

After I was outted as gay by a flamboyant opera singer, I began to be part of a circle of gay boys. I later attended a safe space where I met other girls and I saw myself as part of something more than just gay.

The rest of these kids were also more than just gay or lesbian. There was diversity in shapes, bodies, colors and personalities. While many of them did not want to be called gay, they expressed that they were simply different. I later saw this identity with another name, queer. Queer became a form of expressing complete inclusion yet difference from heterosexuality. All non-gender abiding straight folks were foreign in my own identity. I identified and saw my linage connected to transgenders, lesbian, butch gay men and genderfucks. Queer sometimes has a progressive connotation, it also seemed different from lgbt and gay labels. Hispanic also didn't seem to fit in my name tag any longer.

Hispanic originally had meant, for me, a connection to brown faces with Spanish-speaking parents. Bring Hispanic no longer matched when languages was blurred and faces came from too many colors. The "Spanish" label was also unfavorable in my family because of our inherited despised. I easily preferred Mexican/Mexican-American/Chicano as a specific culture and historical base of my family, but when I lived in Florida, it only separated me from others. Puerto Ricanos and my Caribbean classmates were astonished that I was of Mexican nationality, many had never met a Mexican so pale skinned. I knew much of this cultural shock was due to an exposure of Latin American diversity yet I also connected to them better than some of my past Mexican community members. Latin America, which I saw as anything south of Canada and the US, was the vast land that connected us. Latin America had historically hosted European migrants, slave trade and indigenous.

All that historical baggage watered the seed of a diverse colors and accents. In the same way queer had separated me from heterosexuality, Latino also was what separated me from a different history of transnational migration. These identities are more water than soil, they change and adapt to where I am, whom I speak with and in what language I speak. Sometimes, it is intended to show my different shade and sometimes it is intended to show my place in a spectrum of colors.

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