When people meet me, I often get confused for a white boy. Which, hey, on the accidental privilege scale, it could be worse. But in fact, I’m a gay Colombian woman. Das right ladies! I shop in the little boys’ section of H&M, watched the original Ugly Betty series in Spanish, and eat fríjoles. So, when potential girlfriends find out, they don’t usually care about any of this. They aren’t interested in my career as a professional soccer player, that coming out to Colombian parents was difficult, yet not impossible, or that my Spanish accent sounds like I’m Spaniard. At least not at first. Instead, I get asked a standard set of questions to test my level of “Spanishness”:
“Are both of your parents Colombian? “Yes.”
“Well, do you even speak Spanish?” “Yes.”
“But you look Jewish?” “…Yes?”
As a result of all of this social awkwardness, I’ve created a guideline for anyone interested in dating their future Latina, gay or otherwise.
“But you don’t look Latina.”
Well, you don’t look like what I thought you did 100 feet ago, so I’m going to go get another drink at the bar. I get it, you’re talking to someone for the first time, and maybe you’re caught off guard. Your experience with Latinas is Sofia Vergara, when I look like Ellen and a mop had a baby. The reality is my father has more indigenous features, like a deep hook nose and darker skin color, whereas my mother is blonde and blue eyed. I have super curly, light hair, my Chilean friends pass for Asian. Put 10 Latinas in a line and chances are there will be more physical differences than similarities. And you, as my future partner, need to be okay with the fact that reality and fantasy can be inconsistent.
We’re not all Carmens.
When Latinas dress up, everyone imagines stilettos, long, flowing, dark hair, and salsa music playing in the background. And that’s great, plenty of my friends dress like that, salsa music included. But when I dress up, I put on oxfords, a shirt buttoned to the top, and jam out to (insert quirky band featuring an oboe). Presenting our diverse queerness extends past our wardrobe, though; it’s about our political ideals, how we express ourselves artistically, or if we choose to watch Season 4 of The L Word, which we all know was awful. As Latinas, we dress our queerness in diverse ways.
Spicy Mama Syndrome
If your girl is passionate, it’s because she has worked all her life as a woman, fighting every step of the way to get where she is. By calling her “spicy,” you’re merely perpetuating the stereotype that that’s just how Latina women are naturally without considering individual circumstance. My mother worked hard to bring my sister and me to America. She started as a cleaning woman and is now a personal trainer at a very successful gym. While the Russi women may yell at the computer in varying levels of English (who hasn’t?), all of our passion comes from the fact that we have struggled and still struggle to this day. We fight for these rights not because our blood is muy caliente, but because we feel they should be intrinsic. And it goes without saying, if you enjoy sex with your girlfriend, it’s because you have deep communication, trust, and understand what is pleasing to her. But yes, I also did receive tips from the Mayan gods, so there’s that.
Yo Tengo un Gato en mis Pantalones
Although I now speak Spanish fluently, I had to study incredibly hard in order to do so. I took classes throughout high school and even moved to Spain for half a year. That being said, several of my friends can’t speak at all. Some of their parents didn’t want to teach them so that their English accents wouldn’t be affected or, similar to me, felt shame in learning/speaking a language that was different from their peers. By not being able to speak, it does not make us any more or less of anything, it just means whoever cheated off of you in Spanish class was probably really confused when they got their grades back.
If the girl says she’s Latina, damn, believe it. Whether she’s Femme, Butch, speaks Spanish, “looks” Black, Asian, Native American, or White, being Latina does not mean that, naturally, I am your plaything. I reserve the right to speak in Spanish when I want to, dress how I want to, dance how I want to. Whether they’re characters in a movie or your friends, Latinos, like any group of marginalized people, are going to be unique, three-dimensional beings. Ultimately, it’s about asking questions genuinely, being open about your lack of knowledge, and not acting as if you deserve all of the answers.