Bilingual, Bicultural, Bisexual

Current

10/18/16

I’m proud to be a bi Latino man. It is true that I did not choose to be bisexual, nor did I chose to be Latino, but I do choose to be proud of who I am. None of us get to choose our race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation. But we do get to choose whether to be proud of who we are. I am proud. I am not ashamed.

Hispanic Heritage Month just ended. It was also recently Bi Awareness Week and National Coming Out Day. For all three occasions, my Facebook feed was flooded with posts from my friends and family, celebrating who they are as Hispanic, as LGBT, as human. All of this made me think about how I relate to my own heritage and to my own sexuality.

Being Latino and bisexual isn’t a walk in the park. This is, in part, because my culture has deep rooted problems with misogyny and homophobia. So, at times it can be hard to allow myself to feel proud of my hispanic heritage and upbringing, while also being proud of my bisexuality. Ultimately, though, I feel that I can with all sincerity do both.

There are many things about Latino culture that I love. We have great music and great art, both pre and post colonial. I think I really learned to appreciate Latino culture after I moved to the United States, because it gave me a base for comparison. Latinos really know how to enjoy life to the fullest. We work very hard, but we also party hard (nobody parties like we do). We have a strong sense of community. People are friendly, even to strangers, even in big cities. Family is incredibly important in Latino culture. Even though there is more poverty in Mexico, there is less homelessness. Because families take care of their own. There is much to be proud of as a Latino man.

Of course, much of this is dramatically undermined by being LGBT. A generally friendly community and close-knit family only mean so much in a society riddled with homophobia and misogyny. While things are getting better, they are far from acceptable. Much progress is still needed.

Being LGBT and Latino in the United States is also challenging; we are a minority within a minority. Latino LGBT people often feel misunderstood and even excluded by America’s predominately white LGBT culture. And, as I’ve written about before, bi people often feel misunderstood and excluded from LGBT circles. So, here I am, potentially rejected from mainstream Latino culture for being bisexual, and rejected from mainstream LGBT culture for being bisexual (and not white).

So, herein lies the rub: How do I reconcile pride for my hispanic heritage with pride for my bisexuality?

Here’s how. Every culture has its pros and cons. No group’s history is squeaky clean. Regardless of how I was raised, I am proud to be myself. I am, in the end, an individual, made up of many parts. It’s my individuality that makes me feel proud of myself. I have struggled with it; it took me some time, but I learned the importance of self-love and self-respect. This means not worrying so much about what other people think of me. If someone is biphobic or racist, that’s their problem. Not mine.

Teen in OregonIn my experience, most bi Latino men never come out. They are surrounded by toxic, homophobic, misogynistic energy. They are pressured to conform to stereotypes of the “manly man.” Well, I am bisexual, and that doesn’t make me less of a man. In fact, I think coming out shows strength (not that strength is a uniquely masculine quality anyway).

One problem bi people face everywhere is invisibility. Lots of bi guys are afraid to tell their girlfriends that they are bi, because they don’t want to lose that relationship. I understand this. I’ve been there myself. But, in the end, I’m glad I came out. The more visible we bi guys are, the easier it will be for others to come out. Acceptance starts with accepting ourselves.

By coming out, we challenge others to think differently. We force our community and our families to confront the fact that someone they know and love is bisexual. Individual examples are the strongest evidence against negative stereotyping.

Most of the bigotry in Hispanic culture toward LGBT people is based on ignorance, which results in intolerance. This makes it easier to forgive individuals for their shortcomings. A community is, after all, just a collection of individuals. I prefer to focus on ways to shift the cultural paradigm, rather than worrying about what this or that individual thinks about me.

Writing for Bi.org is one way I am working to shift people’s perceptions of hispanic LGBT people. I also translate Bi.org’s content into Spanish, which helps us reach more people in the Latin world. I’m very proud of this, and it helps me focus on the positive. The articles I wrote before received so many inspiring comments from people who said that my story helped them accept themselves.

The way I see it, I inherited so many wonderful things from my culture. In return, I’m giving something back. I’m doing my part to help hispanic culture discover the pro-equality side of itself. Because it was always there. Any culture that values community and family as much as we do must know deep down that this requires us all to show love and respect to our LGBT brothers and sisters.

As Latino LGBT people, our challenges are unique, but so are we to overcome them.

So, yes, I couldn’t be any prouder as a Latino bi man. I mean, many of us Latinos are already bilingual, binational, bicultural, and, yes, even bisexual.

 

 

 

Damian Emba
at
Damian Emba is a Mexican/American artist, activist, translator, and writer. A contributor for Bi.org, Damian also coordinates Spanish Language & Youth Outreach for amBi, the world’s largest bi social community. You can follow him on Instagram @dmntial.