“Portrait of A Feminista” was born from AnaYelsi Sanchez’s desire to to see herself and her story reflected in others; an unwillingness to settle for a feminism that doesn’t reflect Latin@s shared history and experience. It began in November 2013 as the #SecretLivesOfFeministas twitter conversation addressing the absence of Latina voices in mainstream feminism and the unique struggles faced by feministas and is on it’s way to becoming a published anthology. Read about the twitter movement that led to this series.
Trigger warning: sexual content, rape
I became a feminist about 5 years ago – I’ve started reading feminist blogs and facebook pages, and I’ve finally understood why the things that bothered me were in fact a tip I was a feminist. I come from a very conventional household, and unfortunately I’ve reproduced the sexism I was taught through almost half of my life. You know, calling “the girl who slept with all the boys in class” the slut, repeatedly saying how better than them I was because I read books and played video games, slut-shaming my sisters because of their clothing choices. The only thing I’ve never done was reproducing homophobic behavior, because I’ve learned since I was little – by having a gay uncle -, that love is beautiful, no matter in what shape it comes.
When I got into college, I realized that all this bad-sexist-misogynistic behavior was wrong, and through the years I’ve became familiar with the term feminist and what it really meant. The majority of my friends are from the LGBT community, and they also explained a lot to me.
I’ve had the chance to live in America for 2 years, and blimey, how eye-opening that experience was. For the first time, I was free from the “cage” my parents put around me and was able to be myself. Because the thing that slowed me down, unfortunately, was them.
When I was about 12 years old, my mom sat me down and told me that “it would be disappointing, but she would get over the fact if I became, I don’t know, a robber or a burglar. But the biggest disappointment of her life would be if I turned out to be a lesbian. She obviously doesn’t remember this, but I’ve never forgotten. My best friend (we’ve known each-other for 13 years, so our friendship started really early) is bisexual, but throughout our teenager years, she dressed and looked like a boy, so my mother thought she was a lesbian and actually forbade me to hang out with her. Then when I was 18 I started to go to the psychologist, to sort out my “I’m a creep, I’m a weirdo, what the hell am I doing here? I don’t belong here” feelings. At that time, I was in college already, hanging out with my “gay gang”. My mother called my psychologist from behind my back, bribing him to find out if by “hanging out with those fags”, I was becoming a lesbian myself. She also told him she was reading my AIM conversations, that her and my dad had my computer hacked for that. At the time I didn’t say anything, but before leaving for the US, I’ve told her and she denied completely.
Anyway, this was a hell of an introduction, but I believe knowing where I came from (and actually, typing it for the first time) makes things easier, and maybe is the answer for a lot of questions I have. Living in the US made me realize that there’s no such thing as sluts, and that women are free to do as they please, just like men. I’ve slept around, and reproduced all that behavior I used to condemn for so long. And it was the best thing I’ve ever done, because by doing it, I’ve discovered myself, I’ve learned what I like and what I don’t, and I’ve raised my standards about my future relationships. I’ve had several abusive relationships, and at the time, I didn’t realize that. I thought I was my fault, that I was too rough and that I “always had to be right”. The difference is that now I know I was only speaking my mind, and by not doing what my partner wanted, I’d made him mad.
I also discovered, while I was abroad, that I’ve been raped – and I didn’t know at the time. I’ve thought it was my fault, that by not saying “no”, I was saying “yes”. That by going to the guy’s house, I was giving him unspoken permission to have sexual intercourse with me. That by letting him pay for me, I’d given him the entitlement to have sex with me. Today I know it wasn’t my fault. And by thinking over all those things, I’ve learned that even though I slept with several men before, I’ve never had pleasure – for god’s sake, I’ve never had an orgasm. And I never knew if this was because I was so sexually repressed, or frigid, and the fact I’ve been abused reflected on that, or if maybe, a tiny part of me didn’t actually like men.
I’ve never had attraction for a woman before – even though the only type of porn I watch is lesbian porn. The only thing that turns me on is thinking about women, and even when I was like, 9 or 10, and started to “hump” my pillow, I’ve only thought about women. When I came back home, I started working at a place and immediately felt attracted to a woman who works with me – and she’s a lesbian. And I’ve never felt this way about anyone before, and for the first days, I’ve became so confused about my feelings, and labels, and what if I was always like this but I was scared to face it. Now I’m more comfortable about the fact that yes, I like a girl. And she likes me too, and I’m terrified that if our little relationship turns into something bigger that I will have to face my parents, and give them their “biggest disappointment in life”. I’ve had a thousand scenarios running through my head for when they find out, and none of them ends well. At least I know my arguments and I also know I’m not doing anything WRONG. I’m moving out by myself soon, and I keep thinking that they won’t have to be a part of that part of my life, but then I also know that by excluding myself from the family, I’ll make my partner sad, because she’s out and she obviously wants me to bring her with me at parties and stuff. And I don’t want her to think I’m “hiding” her or ashamed of her or anything like that. I’m just very scared, but I know I’m stronger than I was 5 years ago, and I give feminism my big thank you for that empowerment.
Larissa, better known as Lari, is a 23 year old Brazilian woman. She self-identifies as genderqueer. Lari has been a feminist for approximately 6 years now; and her life got way better after that. She is studying Literature and plans on focusing on Gender Studies. “I’m an intersectional feminist, and I don’t protect only my cis-ters, but also all sisters.”
Are you a feminista and want to add your portrait? Know a feminista whose story needs to be heard? Contact AnaYelsi at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t forget to use #secretlivesoffeministas when sharing this series on facebook and twitter. Help to keep us connected.
Portrait of A Feminista: Brenda Hernandez – Browneyedamazon.com
Portrait of A Feminista: Ondine Quinn – Browneyedamazon.com
Portrait of A Feminista: Ynanna Djehuty – Browneyedamazon.com
Secret Lives of Feministas – browneyedamazon.com
Latina feministas unite at #SecretLivesofFeministas – feministing.com
The Color of Toxicity – vivalafeminista.com