By Nohemi Rosales
The very first time I was confronted by my family about the content on my Facebook was my freshman year in college. I was not yet out, and had posted a photograph of my girlfriend at the time and I kissing. Early the next morning, on my way home from her house, I got a phone from my mom. She had seen the picture, and told me if it was some sort of joke. “Women kiss men, not other women. Don’t post those things on Facebook.”
Then a year later I was confronted again by my brother. At that time, I identified as lesbian, and he was completely supportive. Regardless, he told me that I should censor my Facebook posts about my gayness/queerness in general. Apparently my mom had come to him the night before, worried, because one of my tias had seen an article I shared about Pride and same sex marriage and asked my mom if I was gay. He told me it wasn’t so much that my mom had a problem with it, but that she had no idea, because I’d never talked to her about it.
“I know you’re proud of your identity, as you should be,” my brother told me, “but you have to understand where you come from. You have a very large, very old school Mexican family.”
Before that moment, I hadn’t fully understood why I couldn’t be open about my queerness. It was my Facebook, afterall. It was my identity, my life. But now, I understand something I didn’t before; that instead of hiding my queerness from my family, I was actually hiding my family from my queerness. I didn’t know how at the time, but I wanted to bring my family into my queerness, to include them in it so that they could come to understand it and accept it - but how?
Ever since that day, I’ve started noticing where my family's fears and anxieties about queerness came from.
The most evident example was the media, or more importantly, the media that is accessible to Latinx families who don’t speak English. For most my life, my parents have relied on the same three TV news shows - Aquí y Ahora, Primer Impacto, and Noticiero Univision - for an understanding of things happening around them.
It is said that ignorance + fear = hate. And if I’ve learned anything from those news shows, it is that they are not only ignorant about news coverage, but that they also instill fear in their audience. Their news coverage is often so dramatized and violently exaggerated for entertainment value, so much so that to anyone who had never seen it before it could be considered satire. It’s so intense, that if my mom has nightmares one night, it’s most likely because she watched one of those shows before going to bed.
But above all, what is most damaging, is that they don’t take the responsibility of educating. I remember watching trans rights segment on Noticiero Univision with my parents one day while I was in high school. I’ll never forget when the reporter said the word “transgénero” and my parents looked at each other confused until my dad said “I wonder what that means.” At the time, I didn’t have the language to be able to explain it to them in English even, much less in Spanish.
So now, as I write this, I think about how understanding and patience goes both ways.
How could I expect my parents who were working full time, from sunrise to sundown, who only had an hour in the morning and an hour at night to themselves, to access the most progressive media available to them in their language, to fully understand the advanced vocabulary, and to fully understand queerness? It’s unrealistic, and honestly, unfair. But through carefully navigating my Facebook content, progress has been made.
During my most recent trip home at end of May, I sat in the back seat of my parent’s car and patiently awaited what I already knew was at the top of the list on their agenda.
“I’ve already told you, don’t post photographs of Brian wearing makeup or skirts on Facebook,” my mom said to me as we got on the highway. Ironically, it was my dad who stood up for me and said “it’s not that we have a problem with it, but you know how the family is, you know people, they’ll talk and we don’t think it’s any of their business.”
Just a few months before I had called them to let them know Brian was my partner, and was coming home with me for Spring Break. She told me she wasn’t sure, that my dad didn’t want my partner to come home because they’d seen pictures of Brian dressed up on Facebook, and that didn’t understand it. Despite being on the verge of tears, I tried to calmly explain that it’s about pushing past gender roles/norms, and tried to give her the best definition of what it means to be gender non-conforming without using language that would be too intimidating.
Eventually, they opened up and welcomed Brian, with a bit of uncertainty, but in the end everything worked out fine. It’s still evident to me that my family doesn’t understand queerness completely - which is more than okay, because it takes time (god knows it’s taken me 21 years to understand my own).
So, one day while I was home, I was updating some things for my mom on her Facebook (I basically manage my parent’s Facebook's when I go home) and I realized the content on her newsfeed was very, very different from mine. So then I got an idea; I looked up all the progressive/radical organizations’ pages I follow, such as We are Mitu, Latina Rebels, Pierna Cruzada, Latina Feminista and liked them for her.
When I’m not home and unable to engage in full conversations with my parents (or hack their Facebooks) I try to manage my Facebook posts in a way that is true to both sides of me, in order to bridge the gap between them. By posting things in Spanish, such as TimeOut Mexico’s LGBTQ glossary or a children’s trans rights video from an organization in Chile, as well as maintaining a relationship with my family members on Facebook, I can feel them slowly coming into my queerness and understand what it means to me.
I hope that within the small amount of time my family has for themselves to scroll through their Facebook newsfeed, they can access Latinx based content about queerness, race, capitalism, feminism, etc. I don’t think they’ll get it perfect any time soon. This is just the start. But I hope that they can continue to grow to understand me, my partner, and queerness in general. Not just because it benefits me, but because it would bring my family a lot of relief. I don’t want my mom to have nightmares, to worry about what it means for me to be queer, I just don’t want my family to live in fear.
The way I manage my Facebook is without a doubt not just for me, though I’ve been told many times to just be myself and block the people that don’t agree. That would be easy, sure, but that would distance my family from my life. As difficult as it is for me to have conversations surrounding queerness, race, and class, I think it is the work I must do. That’s why my Facebook is about sparking new ways of thinking and talking. But more than anything, it’s about transgressing education from the current inaccessible areas such as academia and mainstream media in English, into the cell phones in my parents hands at the end of a long day of work.
Additionally, here’s a list I’ve compiled, thanks to my Facebook friends, of radical/progressive Facebook pages that have Latinx based content or are in Spanish. Enjoy, and please share!
Remezcla, Mijente, Xicanisma, Gozamos, Estudios de Género en América Latina, Antipatriarcales, Diario Ciudadano de Puerto Rico, Flama, teleSur English, Nalgona Positivity Pride, Mujeres De Maiz, El Huateque, Conrazón, La Liga Zine, Voto Latino, UndocuMedia