Coming Out Queer and Brown

by Naomi Littlebear Morena

In For Lesbians Only: A Separatist Anthology edited by Sarah Lucia Hoagland and Julia Penelope (1988, Onlywomen Press) pp. 345-347.

Clara: Now why is it i hear so many people ask me, 'Why are there not very many Latina Lesbians involved in the feminist movement?' Well one thing for sure, if i was in the barrio right now i'd be scared to 'come out.' Not too many cultures i know of approve of their kids goin' queer, especially Catholic ones, altho' i seem to have met a big percentage of uppity presbyterian dykes.

In the barrio you have straight brothers and sisters quoting that now famous line about the women's movement being a white woman's trip filled to the armpits with bulldaggers and castrating bitches and of course no self-respecting, 100% Mexican will have jackshit to do with that unless you don't mind being called a vendida, sellout; and if shaming you into the closet doesn't work, thank the Virgin Mary for good old-fashioned guilt. 'The Raza will simply perish,' if you're not there to have 1/2 dozen babies and who wants that on their conscience? The only way out is to walk hand in hand with your man and together battle the white devils of oppression.

Let's face it, if you've got the bucks together, it's easier to leave town, unless you're lucky enough to live in a big city; i wasn't. i ended up here by accident; i thought Oregon was somewhere near New Mexico. What did i find when i stumbled into the women's community? A gauntlet of white women on one side and straight leftists (ex-boyfriends) on the other.

'Welcome Sister of Color (east L.A. i corrected). So you want to be a lesbian? Well never mind about that, that's a bedroom issue. First brown sister let us tell you that we're right here to support you and your brown brothers in your fight against right racist imperialism. By the way do you speak Spanish.' Look I said, i wanna do C.R. and come out brown and proud, you know get down and get angry about the truth about brown macho in the barrio loco, and i want a bumper sticker and a mother nature is a lesbian button. Well forget that shit. Here's your script sister and here's how it reads: 'Woman of Color becomes Mascot at Meetings, Woman of Color meets Karl Marx, Woman of Color becomes politically correct, Woman of Color decides who to boycott and call racist in the community, Woman of Color brought to you live from Dammasch State Hospital, Daughter of Woman of Color Part II' and don't it seem that the only other women of color you meet are all either marxist, communist or middle class.

There is encouragement to 'play up' the oppressed minority image; you'll get a lot more mileage in the community, not to mention respect and maybe fear. And when i didn't make friends with Maria Gomez, the only other Chicana in town because she was so straight and uptight about her boyfriend getting bad vibes when he walked into a Lesbian Rap Group at the women's bookstore, they called me an isolationist. It's bad enough that they think we're all distant relatives without assuming all women of color think alike and should get along. To my sisters i say, either you have a short memory or no memory left at all. And to the white sisters i say my colorful and oppressed brothers would just as soon run over me in their cool chevrolets if they knew i was a dyke.

Don't tell me that i don't understand these 'poor angry young men, starved for personal power'; take a look at what the white man has done with all that personal power. Do you dare think people of other races lack ambition? Behind every angry young man, regardless of his color, is a repressed angry woman with no power at all. Oh it's fine to dump on the white man; everyone dumps on the white man, even white men. It's almost a fad. White lesbians can down rap their oppressors and denounce their class background, but for a brown woman to denounce her brother/ oppressor, it's a political crime. Clara: i am pissed at this double standard, it ain't too far in my memory that those guys were lowriding down the passing lane of my life, following me down the streets, leaning over to shout 'Hey esa, chake it but don't brake it,' a half a block later filled with slurps and whistles 'Ay mamacita, i got something that could split a woman in half.' Oh yeah sucker, if i had a propane torch i'd fry your huevos rancheros.

But you know i never said it too loud and i still can't or someone would say i was racist or you must be hanging out too much with those man-haters who wanna kill little boys and dios mio how did i get involved in all this name-calling, get me to the confessional. i think i'm gonna go back to being catholic.

It's a hell of a lot easier to call someone racist than for a chicana to call her 'brother' a sexist jerk. Bureaucratic bullshit, but it works; it keeps us all safe and out of the way in a double deadbolt closet.

i agree, me and my 'brother' both been screwed by the system, but when he starts screwin' me he is the system and when white liberals start telling me to 'take it but don't shake it' they're the system too.