Language and Coming Out Issues for Latinas and Latinos
The Spanish language is spoken by many LGBTQ Latinas/os, and even if they don't speak it in their daily lives, it may still be spoken when they visit home, go to church or attend community events. This presents two challenges for LGBTQ Latinas/os: The Spanish language itself is limited for discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity issues, and there's a lack of LGBTQ resources that are printed in Spanish.
"Before I could come out to my folks, I had to first figure out how to say it in a way that wasn't all negative. The words that were in our language weren't exactly the kind of things you'd use to describe your son!" said Ricardo Rivera of La Casa.
Although "gay" has the same meaning in Spanish as in English, the word "lesbiana" still has negative connotations. Many Latina women who love women, however, are purposely using the word to reclaim it from those who would use it against them.
One way around the problem with the Spanish language is to simply avoid use of any LGBTQ-related words, negative or positive.
"The fact that I'm a lesbian seemed to have been conveyed without my using any words to describe my orientation," said Sandra Telep. "I've spent every summer in Mexico with my mom's family since I was born, and one summer I took my partner with me for the first time. My aunt made it a point to take me aside and tell me that my partner seemed very nice. She never said the words, but didn't need them to show me her acceptance."
As more LGBTQ Latinas/os decide to be open and honest with others, the awareness of straight Latinas/os increases.
Latinas/os who know someone who is gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or queer are less likely to believe the stereotypes and misconceptions they may have, and the words they use to describe LGBTQ people become more positive. The more this happens, the easier it will be to come out to others, especially family.