In the process of finishing edits for this article, I watched, mortified, as Brazil’s National Museum burned to the ground. The blaze took with it countless histories, languages, and culture shifting works of art that can never be recovered. Heartbreaking as this tragedy alone was, it cannot be separated from the cultural moment: Brazil currently finds itself amidst a military coup and a centuries long push to erase the Black and Indigenous population by driving them off their ancestral homelands and into favelas. The casualties of this latest wave of state violence have been many. But, the one that resounded throughout the world was the murder of Marielle Franco, a queer Black Brazilian woman who was an unwavering voice for the silenced.
While the state conspired to kill all traces of Marielle Franco, their plan backfired. Thousands marched demanding justice for Marielle and countless posts across social media stated #MariellePresente! The message was clear: you will not erase Marielle; you will not erase what she represented.
Marielle Franco was not the first LGBT Latinx to be taken from us too soon. Frankly, listing the countless brutalities that queer and Trans Latinxs endure throughout the Americas would be an exercise in despair. We know the violence of erasure quite intimately. We fight it in life and in death.
Although family is promoted as the highest principal in Latinx communities, it frequently leaves out LGBT folks. As Michelle covers in their story of queer family bonds: some Latinx families would rather us not exist than to be openly queer. As a result, our histories often exist exclusively in whispers of family shame.. but only if we were “lucky” enough to become chisme, bochinche, or chambre!
Yet, some of us get very lucky. As Victoria covers in their story: sometimes our families are our greatest champions, giving us space to indulge in our queerness despite society’s dirty looks. Then there’s folks like Gia, who have dedicated themselves to build their family from scratch, with only oral histories as blueprint.
There are frequent conversations about the utility of the Latinx identity, but these rarely account for who is even allowed to be part of the “community.” In their story, Cesar highlights the alienating and dissonant messages that queer immigrants receive from the Catholic Church, who simultaneously advocate for the rights of undocumented people while pushing an anti-LGBT agenda. Relatedly, Kayla takes aim at the harm that catholic devotion inflicts on LGBT Latinxs, especially those who survive the unthinkable. Meanwhile, Rubi reports from the margins as an autistic Trans woman of faith fighting gentrification in a community that pretends she doesn’t exist, despite her unending cries for help.
The more we try to unravel the incongruencies of Latinidad the more knotted we become.
Still, one writer in our Cover Story proposes that one answer (read: not THE answer) to the Gordian knot of the Latinx identity is to dive directly into the source of its traumatic foundations. Alan Pelaez, an Afro-Zapotec writer, offers that only by looking beyond ourselves and the margins we occupy, even as LGBT Latinxs, can we begin the harrowing process of healing from the collective and historical traumas that unite all Latinxs.
And, I use “unites” loosely. As there are things that will never fit neatly into an term that attempts to encompass countless peoples, histories, languages, cultures, and places.
This doesn’t mean that many folks haven’t found solace in the Latinx identity. Abigail, a Venezuelan expat living in Qatar, finds that Latinidad has allowed him to rebuild a home within himself since he can never return to his parent’s homeland. Similarly, Andres maps his experience through time and space as he attempts to reconnect to his culture after a lifetime of being denied his roots. The internet has been a valuable tool for both of them to piece themselves together in their search for “home.”
Currently, Brazilians are asking the internet for any photographs, illustrations, notes, online models, or anything else that might help them reconstruct what they lost in the fire. On another corner of the web, the Merriam-Webster Dictionary recently added the word “Latinx” to its online database. Both of these occurrences highlight the immediacy of the internet and the capacities for representation available now that the web has made cultural construction slightly more democratic.
And so, this online collection aims, not to represent the vastness of the LGBT Latinx experience, but to contribute to the work of our queer and Trans Latinx ancestors who fought erasure by articulating their existence on their own terms.
May Marielle Franco’s memory be everlasting, may we learn to center the most marginalized amongst us, and may LGBT Latinxs continue to (re)create culture, heal, and fight on in the memory of those we lost.