Surviving American Queer Media

I’m writing this on the evening of Sunday, June 11, 2017. Today was the Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City. It was the last day of one of the Pride parades on the island. It’s the anniversary of the Pulse massacre.

It’s a lot to take in.

I try to be vocal about trying to nourish these two parts of my identity when everything from my upbringing to the media I consume tell me they should not coexist. I take to Twitter often to express these feelings from deciding to put my puertorriqueñidad before my queerness to having to cater to a mostly white and American lgbtq+ student org as Vice-President.

My queerness has suffered so much that I often question it. I used to strongly identify as bisexual. I came out as bisexual last year. Yet the stigma that surrounds that word has made me recede into queer. That might not be a bad thing, I have found a lot of comfort in queer, and more recently cuir. Still, it has made me think of why.

It’s disheartening to see queer Latinas in media, the very few we get, be so mistreated. The L Word is a light among straight and male media, albeit if a dim one. When Carmen was introduced I was ecstatic. More than anything I wanted her to be happy, to assure me that I could be. She wasn’t. I wasn’t.

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Orange Is The New Black, a show adopted by the queer community, is violently white in its queerness. Only if you’re a white lesbian do you get a happily ever after. If you’re black, you get killed. If you’re Asian you get emotionally tortured. If you’re Latinx you’re best friends. You get nothing. I get nothing.

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Marvel is finally giving us the first book headlined by a queer Latina. America Chavez. Miss America. America. That’s her name. Because a powerful brown lesbian is a threat unless she’s dressed in red, white, and blue and fighting for patriotism. As a comic book and superhero nerd, I’ve been waiting for a character like her for forever.

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But I cannot bring myself to read it. I can’t do it anymore. I only know how to be queer in English, in American. In a language, a culture and a country that has consistently abused me and my country for over a hundred years. We’re supposed to take the crumbs and be not only happy but grateful for it. It’s disrespectful. It’s damaging. It’s sickening.

This is probably why my fiction almost always revolves queer Latinas. I’m currently in the process of applying for grad school and part of that process is figuring out which stories I will submit with my application. I’ve been struggling these past few weeks while trying to write the second one, something about coming back home and change. Something that isn’t queer because the other story is and I don’t want to be pigeonholed as a “lesbian romance” writer. Because people look down on that.

But the more I think about it, the more I feel like I’m restraining myself. I like writing these stories. I’m pretty sure I’m good at it too. It’s what feels most natural to me, most fulfilling. Writing them makes me feel what I want to feel. There’s joy and hope within me whenever I’m typing away the interactions of two women that deeply care about each other.

I feel like I write more about love and want and caring than actual romance. Maybe that’s because queer Latina stories don’t have the happy endings that romance often requires. And I’ll keep writing in the hopes that one day I’ll get to do romance. Not only for the characters here that their writers failed but for the future readers I won’t.