Fierce

As The Family Morena, I Am Used To Colorism At Home But Was Not Prepared To Receive It From My Husband’s Family Household

Yo soy la morena de la familia, and it became an issue with my husband’s family.

Ever since I can remember, my skin tone has always been a popular topic of conversation among people who barely knew me and my family members. In my mid-twenties, I overheard my own grandmother and her sisters commenting on the color of my skin. They were sitting on the deck by tía Yolanda’s pool. I was getting them beer from the kitchen

“Such a pretty girl,” I heard one of them say.

“Morenita,” said another.

I stood by the fridge listening, waiting to open it to get their drinks.

“Cheryl’s not that dark?”

“Oh, no,” said my grandmother, “Michelle gets her color from her father.”

It was easier to attribute my dark skin than to acknowledge the Afro-Cuban, grandparents that they shared on their mother’s side of the family, and to not notice that each of them was a different shade of tan, and each had curly hair, some with tighter curls than the others.

My marido is the moreno of his family too, and like mine, his family also doesn’t know how to discuss their family’s obvious African roots, but he and I loved our own dark skin so much that we fell in love with each other and married twenty-one years ago.  

Our dark skin, him a Mexican National, me a third-generation Xicana—it freaked a lot of people out.

Photo provided by author

“Are you sure that he doesn’t have a family somewhere in México?”

I was at my tío again in West Covina, preparing for our Mexican wedding, getting ready to travel with my mom, tía Yolanda, an eighty-year-old grandmother to Colima for our big ceremony. My uncle Rick, (the formerly racist uncle) who is Greek, Italian, and Mexican, asked the question. Ines and I were already married, having had a civil marriage two years before at our local city hall. They liked Inés too, but still felt compelled to ask if I was sure that he didn’t have another wife, and children back home in México.

“I’m sure,” I said not terribly surprised at the question since I already knew that my family’s sense of self sometimes relied on looking down on “other” kinds of Mexicanos.

My tíos are light-skinned, and I got the impression that my uncle wouldn’t have thought to ask this question if Inés wasn’t moreno, as if to imply that his skin-tone and his immigration status made him desperate enough to lie and fool me into marrying him.

Two years in, we had already experienced a range of reactions about our marriage, from weird assumptions to out-and-out disbelief or racism.

Even our immigration counselor, Nelly, didn’t quite believe we were a real couple, in love, hoping to make a life together. She thought I appeared younger than I actually was with my “alternative look,” and him two shades darker, looking like the cross between a Mexican Idris Alba and the Indian actor Irfan Khan, and assumed ours was just an immigration marriage. She stressed to me, over and over, that I would have to support him for up to ten years if we divorced too quickly. Perhaps, Nelly’s confusion about our relationship had to do with how rare it is for American-born Latinx to marry Mexican nationals. In the US, according to a Pew Research Center study, U.S.-born Latinx do tend to marry other Latinx, only about 12% marry Latinx born in a Latin American country. But it wasn’t the only time that my union with Inés confused people.

“Tu eres la esposa de Inés, de veras?”

I was on the dance floor at a wedding reception in Coquitmatlan, Mexico where my husband is from, dancing with the groom, the childhood best friend of my husband, Enrique. The wedding had been in Colima just ten minutes away in an ornate church on the plaza. A professional singer performed the most beautiful rendition of Ave Maria that I’ve ever heard. The reception was in the outdoor courtyard of Enrique’s family home across the street from Ines’ very humble family home that still had a dirt floor in the kitchen.

My Spanish isn’t great, but Enrique made it pretty clear that he couldn’t believe that a woman like me was married to Inés. Was it because I was lighter than Inés, or did he think I was too young? Pretty güero himself, I got the impression Enrique’s disbelief had something to do with his expectations about Ines, his dark-skinned friend from the poor family across the street. Inés, in fact, had to leave México to find work even after finishing secondary school and getting two different industry certificates, a problem that could be explained by the relationship between skin-tone and wealth in that country. A Vanderbilt survey in Mexico found that people with light skin fall in the 70th percentile for wealth on average, while people with darker skin are concentrated in the bottom 50 percent.

I used to soothe my annoyance at people, including those in my own family, who were fooled by the false superiority of lighter skin by making a list of songs in my head that celebrate morenas:

Photo provided by author

“Piel Morena” by Thalia

“Esa Morena” by Ozomatli

“La Morena” by Ilegales

“Morena Ven” by Rosario

“Nina Morena” by Gipsey Kings

There are many great morena playlists, but it’s worth mentioning that there is a certain type of exoticization that happens in some of these songs, a certain type of essentialism, like ideas that all morenas are shapely, sexy women with dark long hair, who shake their hips – mueve las caderas, mueve la cintura. However, ideas in many of these songs that morenas can be pretty, not fea, or a saltapatras is a cause for celebration, in and of itself, when many of us grow up being told to stay out of the sun, encouraged to lighten our hair, sold lightening creams, and colored contact lenses.

But we need more than songs.

We need tías (and other family members) who don’t buy into the idea that lighter skin is better than darker skin, family members who don’t make snap judgments about anyone based on skin color. We need tías who praise children for working hard in school, achieving goals, tending to their mental health, respecting elders, reading books, and exercising, and we need tías who love their own dark-skin too.

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Latinas Shared The Movies And Shows That Made Them Feel Seen

Entertainment

Latinas Shared The Movies And Shows That Made Them Feel Seen

Nickelodeon

It’s no secret that over the past few decades, people of color worked to fight for equal representation on screens both big and small. While, of course, there have been great POC and LGTBQ relationships on television there’s really been a spike in the spectrum of representation since our early years watching television and learning about relationships.

Recently, we asked Latinas on Instagram what shows and movies featured their favorite most diverse couples.

And the answers threw us for a time loop!

Check them out below!


“Maria and Luis on Sesame Street.”- melissa_phillips71


“Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner is The Bodyguard, they reminded me of my parents and they loved to play the soundtrack.” –millenialmarta


“The leads in Someone Great, Jane and Michael the virgin and the lesbian relationship Gentrified. It’s been 30 years and I finally found characters I can relate to.” –allyss_abyss_

“Most definitely, “Brooklyn 99”: two female Hispanics as regulars and a white person playing a Hispanic (Andy Samberg’s character’s last name is Peralta, which is a Spanish surname).” – seadra2011

“Holt and Kevin(and Rosa Diaz) have changed the way people have perceived gay couples and gay people. Nine Nine!” –chaoticbiguy


“The first on-screen presence that made me feel seen/represented period was @justinamachado ‘s character on One Day At A Time. A Latina veteran struggling with her mental health while trying to juggle school, work, love, and family? And as a main character? Whew….“-vieja.metiche

“Taína! It was on Disney if I remember correctly?? Then @americaferrera in sisterhood of the traveling pants as Carmen. 😭❤️ her life was like mine. Growing up in suburbs but never really having a place culturally.. but my girlfriends still had my back no matter our background.” –chessy__a

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People Are Sharing Their Personal Experiences Of Feeling Shame Over Their Bisexuality And It’s Pretty Heartbreaking

Fierce

People Are Sharing Their Personal Experiences Of Feeling Shame Over Their Bisexuality And It’s Pretty Heartbreaking

mitu

It’s no secret that more than most sexualities, the bisexual experience is often invalidated and largely stigmatized. Often times, people who are bisexual are forced to shoulder the social stigmas from partners, friends, and family who believe that they are hiding their homosexuality, are sexually promiscuous, and or more likely to spread sexually transmitted diseases.

Curious about the effects of the stereotypes, we scoured Reddit for personal experiences with the sense of shame some people feel attached to their bisexual identity.

Check out what we found in one thread below.

https://www.reddit.com/r/bisexual/comments/4r4ha4/does_anyone_else_feel_shame/

So, I’m bi and finding some videos on the youtubes about bisexuality and started watching videos of people saying being bi doesn’t exist. I also noticed on some apps like grindr and a few others who seemed to have a ‘problem’ with my being bi for some reason. Which makes me feel bad about being bi :c

“I was really insecure about my sexuality for a long time… I still kinda am but I’m mostly ok with it Now. Sometimes I even love it. I’m not really ashamed of it anymore, I’m just incredibly introverted and very private so I’m not open to most people about it. It took me several years to come to terms with my sexuality and accept myself and I still struggle with it sometimes. I used to wish I could just be straight. But now I feel like if there was something I could do to make myself straight, I wouldn’t do it.”-Strawbeerylemonade

“No I don’t feel bad about who I am. If someone doesn’t like me for who I am, I don’t want to date them.”- EnLaSxranko

“There is a lot of misconceptions about us in the gay and straight community. I don’t feel shame but I feel awkward. No matter who I choose to be with I feel I need to explain. I’m currently in an amazing opposite gender relationship with a queer woman who I adore and we encounter bi-phobia. Today I kissed her at Pride. We are in love and queer.
I hold my relationships with my male partners in high regard and will never be ashamed that I loved them (because of their gender). So like it or not, as queer people my love for my girlfriend will be political. oh well. I’m used to it and so is she.”- torontomammasboy

“Kinda. I find it embarrassing for some reason, kinda like if I had a skin condition or something. I actually came out to my parents yesterday and they haven’t disapproved or anything but I feel really weird that they know now. Kinda exposed feeling. It’s weird. I also get the whole shame part. I don’t want to be public about my same sex attractions in the sense that they are almost purely sexual in nature. I would probably not date a guy. I’m ashamed I have sexual feelings for men but really wouldn’t date them (I could do a BFF with benefits thing but it wouldn’t be romantic at all and I don’t think I’d ‘fall in love’).”- CompartmentalizeMyBi

“I’m 25 and am currently having my homophobic mother staying with me until she finds her own place. I’ve came out to her a couple of years ago, but she dismissed it as “foolishness” and has basically been in denial about it ever since. I basically have to tip-toe around her if I want to have another guy in my own apartment. That combined with my own internalized homophobia and biphobia makes it hard not to feel ashamed of my own attractions.” – acethunder21

“No I do not feel any shame. Mostly because I actually don’t give myself any label at all. And why I don’t give myself one is because honestly, I hate labels. For jobs, for relationships, for sexuality. It all is just not something I want to deal with. Now I’m not saying that any of the the labels you give yourself aren’t any real to you. You’re reality is just as personal to you, as mine is to me. And I don’t want to get in the way of how you want to live. And that’s how everyone should really treat each other about their sexuality. I’m nearly 17, (6 days from now) and male. I’m in love with my first, and 7-month boyfriend. A lot of my friends and family know this, and I didn’t feel any different coming out about it to them than when they did not know. When wondering about your sexuality, learn it like you would playing an rpg game. Go out and explore, and find what you like, and make it yours. Hopefully my tired 1:30 am rant meant something. Have a happy night and 4th if your in the good ol’ U.S. Of A like me.”-PopsOnTheRox

“I stopped giving a f*** about what people think eons ago. Opinions are like assholes, everyone has them. Yours is the only one that should matter to you. Make yourself proud and you’ll find people respect and admire it.”-StroppyMantra

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