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Latina/Latino Americans  
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Latina and Latino Americans must contend with multiple cultural and political histories, including colonization, imperialism, and migration patterns, as well as their status as non-Anglos in the United States, as people of color, and as people in their respective racial and ethnic communities.

In general, the lives of glbtq Latinas and Latinos in the U.S. require constant negotiation: as members of minority ethnic communities in conversation--and often in conflict--with the dominant community and with white glbtq culture; and as glbtq people in their own racial and ethnic communities, where they must constantly explain their "non-traditional" genders and sexualities. Thus, while glbtq Latina/o-Americans may encounter racism, exclusion, or relative acceptance in the former, they may simultaneously face , family opposition, or understanding in the latter.

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National, Racial, and Generational Differences

Accounting for "Latina/o Americans" in the U.S. is no easy task. While there are dominant Latino groups in the country--Mexicans and Puerto Ricans, for example--there are also smaller national populations, such as Salvadorans and Colombians, who complicate further the definition of who is a "Latina" or "Latino." In addition, different migration waves over more than a century have added great complexity to the patterns of ethnic identification, English and Spanish language proficiency, and rates of assimilation into the dominant Anglo culture. It is very difficult to generalize about so heterogeneous a group of people, whose experience differs according to a number of variables, including race, economic status, citizenship, language, politics, and length of time in the United States.

The differences in national origin and time of arrival can be critical in shaping the attitudes and comfort levels of glbtq Latina/o Americans. The degree of assimilation in the United States and within glbtq communities may vary a great deal according to these variables. In addition, while earlier immigrants may not have had direct knowledge of glbtq culture in their countries of origin, many of the more recent ones have some knowledge of their home countries' decades-old lesbian and gay liberation movements (especially those in Argentina, Brazil, and Mexico); for others, their home nations are still in the initial stages of developing open, non-stigmatized glbtq politics and cultures.

The transnational quality of Latinas and Latinos in the United States can also complicate their lives in terms of glbtq identities. For example, Puerto Ricans are legally U.S. citizens, yet they are not entirely "at home" outside the island. Their bi-national experience means that their immigrant identity itself is often in flux: they are not at home entirely either "here" or "there." Coupled with their multi-racial origins, ranging from lighter- to darker-skinned, they can occupy racially stigmatized positions both in mainstream glbtq culture and in the racially-stratified Latina/o culture as well.

Cubans and Cuban-Americans in the U.S. similarly include racial differentiations, however unacknowledged these may be. Moreover, the political stance of many glbtq Cuban-American may differ significantly from that of many other Latina/o Americans. The inhumane treatment of homosexuals, particularly gay men, and female-to-male people in Revolutionary Cuba has caused a large proportion of glbtq Cuban-Americans to support anti-Castro policies, while many other glbtq Latina/o-Americans, desiring the U.S. not to interfere in the internal political life of their home nations, support the normalization of relations between the United States and Cuba.

The transnational identities of glbtq Latina/o Americans thus can have a splintering effect, separating Latina/o Americans according to their cultures and countries of origin. As a consequence, there is no single glbtq Latina/o American racial, political, or economic block. Moreover, once they migrate to the U.S., not all Latina/o Americans regard life in their home nations as of primary concern or directly relevant to their own lives.

Mexican-American Sexualities

Mexican and Mexican-American--or Chicano/Chicana--glbtq sexualities have varied historically in the U.S., reflecting the cultural and political traditions of Mexico. Rigid male/female, dominant/submissive roles have been the norm. According to this tradition, the male has the freedom and privilege to conquer sexually, while the female must remain passive and virginal.

As early as during the period of the Mexican Revolution of 1910, however, when many women took active roles in the armed struggle, culturally typecast female and male roles have not always followed the traditional line. Similarly, the Catholic Church and the state in Mexico have generally repressed and policed glbtq life; yet same-sex and alternative gender and sexual cultures have nevertheless found alternative spaces for expression in literature, music, and film. Mexican glbtq cultural expression has in turn influenced glbtq Latina/os in the United States and Europe.

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Members of Bienestar, a Latino community services organization, at Long Beach Pride in 2005. Photograph by Angela Brinskele.
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