I am a queer non-binary person. The labels I use to describe this queerness are always changing and hardly ever stay static, but I am undoubtedly queer.
I also come from a Mexican household. Both of my parents were born in the state of Jalisco and migrated to the United States when they were a young newlywed couple. I exist in the intersection of these identities as a queer United States-born Mexican who was raised Catholic.
Existing within this intersection of identities often feels like an oxymoron since there is no space for queerness to comfortably exist within Mexican Catholicism. Because of this, my existence often feels like a radical act in itself.
By existing in these identities, here are five ways I have come to realize that Mexican queerness is a radical act.
1. Mexican queerness disrupts heternormative gender roles
Gender roles are so ingrained within Mexican culture that I spent my childhood believing it was my duty to learn how to cook so I could eventually make a good housewife for the invisible man I was expected to someday marry. I believed I had to perform femininity in the way Mexican culture taught me: by cooking, cleaning, and planning my life according to non-existent children and a non-existent husband. Because I was raised as a girl, I was in the mindset that my life revolved around these future events and that everything I did would be to better my chances of being a good wife and mother.
The expectation of heteronormative gender roles affects everyone negatively, yet also differently based on gender. It affected me by making me believe that the pinnacle of my happiness would revolve around a supposed future marriage with a supposed future husband. For many of the men in my family, it translates into performing hypermasculinity.
The men in my family exhibit a fear of being seen as weak, fragile, and unable to provide for their families. This translates into a toxic pride that psychologically hinders them and creates a gendered power struggle between family members.
Queerness dismantles these expectations by creating a counterculture that does not rely on gender roles. As a queer person, I can engage in relationships (especially romantic relationships) without feeling like I have to live up to pre-approved standards. Queerness allows for a better sense of equality in partnerships, partnerships that rely on ability and communication instead of rigid gender roles.
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2. Mexican queerness dismantles the gender binary
Mexican culture relies on the gender binary because it upholds the belief that women are inferior to men. By allowing the inferiority of women to exist within a culture, it makes it easier to control women by keeping men in a position of power that women are not allowed to easily question.
But queerness does away with the gender binary as a whole. By doing away with the gender binary, the beliefs that sustain the culture become disrupted and these arbitrary rules begin to lose their power.
When non-binary, genderqueer, and transgender folks demand a space for ourselves in a culture that heavily relies on our erasure, we are putting a wedge in the belief that only men and women must exist. This then puts a wedge in the belief that men are inherently superior to women.
When I first came to terms with my genderqueerness, it felt as if years of conditioning had washed away from me. I was able to live authentically as myself instead of feeling a need to always fit into a predisposed “girl” mold. Existing within my non-binary gender identity was a radical act because I was actively choosing to demand a space for the parts of me that are neither man nor woman and which can’t be controlled according to the standards set in place by the existing gender binary.
3. Mexican queerness de-centers heterosexuality
Compulsory heterosexuality is expected within Mexican culture. As a child, I never expected myself to be otherwise. I didn’t experience a childhood fearfully stuck in the closet; I genuinely believed I was heterosexual because I was never given a space to explore outside of it. Because of this, I didn’t experience my “queer awakening” until I was in my late teens, and that involved a lot of self-hate and confusion I had to overcome.
Exploring queerness as a young queer was not only crucial for my mental and emotional health — it was also an act of bravery. It went against compulsory heterosexuality, which was all I had known up to that point. Actively exploring my queerness went against everything I was taught.
I could have lived my whole life rejecting the notion that I was queer. I could have forced myself into only having relationships with cisgender men to hide the fact that I believed I was queer. But instead, I chose to explore the possibility of experiencing attraction towards people who didn’t fall into this pre-approved category.
By doing away with compulsory heterosexuality for ourselves, we are deviating from the social norms. Living as our authentic selves and accepting our queerness is a radical act in a society that conditions people to believe that deviating from the social norms is punishable and that fear of punishment should be enough to get us to comply and pretend to fit into heterosexuality.
4. Mexican queerness creates space for “non-traditional” attraction
Within our culture, the most commonly accepted type of attraction is heterosexual romance and sexuality. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the only attraction that can exist. Queerness de-centers dominant assumptions about attraction by creating a space for polyamory and the many ways that romantic, sexual, and platonic attraction can be experienced — the fluidity of attraction.
Because there are countless gender identities and ways of being platonically, romantically, or sexually attracted to someone, queerness creates a space for non-traditional attraction by taking all of this into account.
Practicing non-traditional attraction is radical because it allows for different types of relationships that don’t need to be forced into the mold society expects of us. Relationships can instead be built around the needs and wants of the people engaging in them instead of around societal expectations.
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5. Mexican queerness goes against Catholicism
Catholicism has historically been used as a tool of colonialism and still continues to be used as a tool of compliance and oppression. Fear of sin, eternal damnation, and prosecution has created a culture where queer folks have repressed our queerness as a survival mechanism within Catholic culture.
The majority of the self-hate I experienced as a young queer was heavily related to my Catholicism. No one in my family or church ever actively told me that being queer was a sin. Nobody had to; I was taught to internalize the fear of deviating from heterosexuality.
The first time I had romantic feelings for someone who wasn’t a man was damaging, because I felt I had to hide it from people who claimed to genuinely care for me. Because of Catholicism, I felt like I couldn’t share this information with people who had always claimed to have my best interests at heart. I felt marginalized and ashamed of my “deviance.” I didn’t have a safe space to communicate with people because I was afraid I would encounter their judgment and anger instead.
To demand a space for all of what I encompass as a queer, non-binary Mexican, I am disrupting a culture that was born out of colonialism and which demands machismo and heterosexuality at its core. Accepting my queerness is a radical act as I continue to denounce shame and fear, choosing instead to live my best, most authentic life.
[Feature Image: A light-skinned person with long dark brown hair swept to the right smiles slightly at the camera. They are wearing bright pink lipstick, a necklace, and a sleeveless top as they pose outdoors against a wooden gate. A tree and a street with a car on it are blurred in the background. Source: Flickr.com/theUdødelig]