28 septiembre 2010

What I love most about being Latina

This is a surprisingly complex question for me, because I often wonder if I can really attribute what it is I love about who I am to the fact that I am Latina, or if I simply associate certain aspects with latinidad.

Either way, I suppose what it means to be Latin@ varies from person to person though we tend to come across many similarities.

One of the things I most value is access to women with strong voices. Having a strong voice does not mean you can avoid being hurt or subjected to injustice, but the women in my life have always fought. My mother and her sisters have each been married and divorced, all partners of men who left them for other women. You would think that knowing this I would have had a rather fatalistic approach to all of my relationships, but I remained hopeful. This is because each of those women knew how to move forward and my mother always emphasized to me the importance of being able to stand on one's own two feet. Always make sure that you have a back up plan, she would tell me. Always be able to take care of yourself, because you never know what could happen.

Recently I read an excerpt from
Lesbians Talk Transgender in which a member of a women-only hiking group discussed their exclusion of trans women. She had said specifically that trans women had long benefitted from male privilege and as a result had the tendency to try to direct the conversation, were aggressive in communicating or overbearing. I personally thought this was a load of transphobic garbage and that it was yet another way of degendering trans women by implying (or flat out stating) that they were men. But that was not the only thing that struck me, it struck me that exerting one's voice was associated by this women with men exclusively.

In her reality, I guess women are regularly silenced even in their interpersonal relationships. This just is not true for me. Are we on the losing end of an oppressive system? Yes (though I would argue that there are no winners in oppression) but I do not think that all women have the same voices culturally. To be honest, this seemed like a White (not Latina) Feminist problem much like previous issues with regard to voting and the work place. Women of Colour have not, historically, had the class privilege that allowed them to stay at home while the male spouse worked (I am not trying to imply that class is solely tied to race, by the way).

In communicating with many different women, I can admit that I have had a tendency to be more aggressive. I do this with men as well and I am accustomed to it. My mother & her sisters have this same tendency which is why we have all been called bulldozers or something of the like. This is both a flaw and a wonderful trait to have and while some have found me too assertive or argumentative, maybe even stubborn, I've rarely felt that my voice was silenced within groups of men or women.

This isn't to say that Latina women are living in matriarchal society or anything similar - not at all. I would be blind to deny the machismo to which we are subjected that is tied to Catholicism, colonialism, racism, etc, but I do think that in general we have had more space in which to participate and be heard. I simply cannot imagine feeling the need to seek out a group for women because men have often dominated conversations in which I was involved or tried to be involved.

Again, I think that the comment by the woman in this particular excerpt has more to do with degendering trans women, denying them womanhood, and transphobia.

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