Finally, A Study On Queer Latinas

Do Hispanic queer women exist? We haven’t, not for a while. I mean, we were here, right here, eating Ramen noodles in our apartments and listening to Claude Debussy songs on Pandora, all along. But you wouldn’t know that based on our representation in the media or social sciences. For example, women comprise almost 60 percent of all Illinois same-sex couple households, and Hispanics are the largest minority in that state; but nobody ever talks about queer Latinas there.

Until now.

“Latina Portrait: Latina Queer Women in Chicago” is a comprehensive project sponsored and supported by Mujeres Latinas en Accion and Amigas Latinas. Together, the two groups represent Latina advocacy and support for LGBTQ Latinas, respectively. And together, they have produced a study on Hispanic Latinas that proves two things: we exist, and we’re kind of in trouble.

The study covered a broad range of queer Latina experiences, having surveyed a diverse group:

Aside from sharing a Hispanic heritage, 50 percent of respondents identified as lesbian/gay/homosexual; 9 percent as bisexual; 6.5 percent as queer; 4.5 percent as uncertain/questioning, and 10 percent didn’t use any of those labels. In terms of identity, 9.1 percent identified as “butch”; 26 percent as “femme,” and 29.2 percent said they don’t use these types of labels.

The report reveals that Latina queers are facing problems at home and in their own respective communities. They’re enduring violence in their intimate relationships, facing discrimination from the LGBTQ community on the basis of race, and struggling to find acceptance as queers in the Hispanic community.

By the numbers:

+ 48 percent note racism in the LGBT community, and 17 percent feel discriminated against on the basis of race in spaces servicing white LGBTQ people.
+ 9 percent see racism as one of their biggest stressors / problems.
+ 25 percent feel discriminated against in places servicing the Hispanic community, and 54 percent feel Latinos, as a whole, aren’t accepting of queer women.
+ 43 percent reported physical violence from a partner, and 45 percent reported perpetrating violence against a partner.
+ 31 percent had a female partner threaten to kill them, and 23 percent threatened their own partners with death.

The report could be hugely beneficial to queer Latina populations. It will give members of various communities the knowledge to better support Latina queers, and it will highlight issues affecting their community for the future. The study also found that these women have support from people in their lives and, overall, are out and proud; the co-authors hope it can become a resource for improving the lives of LGBTQ Latinas by using the participants’ positive experiences as guidelines for what helped them overcome these challenges, and how to provide that support to others.

A life at the intersection of race, gender, and sexuality is difficult – and someone has finally recorded some of it in a way that the whole nation has to take seriously.

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Carmen spent six years at Autostraddle, ultimately serving as Straddleverse Director, Feminism Editor and Social Media Co-Director. She is now the Consulting Digital Editor at Ms. and writes regularly for DAME, the Women’s Media Center, the National Women’s History Museum and other prominent feminist platforms; her work has also been published in print and online by outlets like BuzzFeed, Bitch, Bust, CityLab, ElixHER, Feministing, Feminist Formations, GirlBoss, GrokNation, MEL, Mic and SIGNS, and she is a co-founder of Argot Magazine. You can find Carmen on Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr or in the drive-thru line at the nearest In-N-Out.

Carmen has written 919 articles for us.


  1. We for exist! I think it’s incredible that it’s never really been documented. Currently my gf and I are having to face our families and dealing with the negative views that people in our culture have to being gay. It’s been extremely challenging & it’s really hard to know that your own people don’t stand beside you.

    If anybody is dealing with this as well just remember to stay strong & find the support you need in other people. Eventually everything will work out.

  2. Oh wow, the parameters of this survey look good! I like that they have multiple labels and options for using none, rather than just the standard “homo/bi”. I don’t think I’ve seen even “butch/femme” used in any surveys, and they’re not the only options!

  3. We do exist! Though apparently, according to the media, we’re like the unicorns of unicorns.

  4. Also, those numbers regarding domestic violence are shocking…but at the same time sort of expected. I think this may have a lot to do with some of the more systemic issues within the hispanic and/or queer communities (i.e. lack of acceptance, lack of support networks, lack of educational programs, etc) Hopefully, studies such as this one will be conducted more often, as it could be of great benefit to queer Latinas. Thanks for sharing this Carmen!

    • Yeah, I was really shocked by those domestic violence numbers as well. This is a major problem. I think domestic violence as a whole is something the LGBT community needs to investigate and tackle, since the dynamics in same-sex relationships are different from those in opposite-sex relationships, you can’t just assume the structures put in place for straights will work just as well for homogays.

  5. Seen as I am both a lesbian and Mexican, hearing about this issue saddens me deeply. Now that I will be spending more time in Chicago where I got to school, I hope to have an opportunity to help change the situation!

  6. We do exist. We’re rarest of the unicorns, we’re mother fucking rainicorns.

    I can completely agree to the points of this study as I’ve seen both sides. My Dad’s side is caucasian (mostly British Isles) and my mom is Hispanic/Native American.

    I could honestly care less about my Dad’s side of the family knowing I’m gay. I could come out tomorrow and beyond initial curiosity (asking me if I have a girlfriend), there’d be no reaction.

    Mom’s side of the family, is entirely different. They range from ‘No Longer Catholic But Still Religious’ all the way to ‘Catholic Youth Minister Who Studied in Rome and Met The Pope.’

    Gay is not an option, and it’s certainly not natural. I was in a conversation with some tias, tios and a cousin and even the most progressive of them agreed how it was not only unnatural, but that GSAs should not be allowed in schools because it that just confuses kids. One of them lives in the LA area, is college educated and works with non-profits, and her mindset is STILL that traditional hispanic one in regards to homosexuality.

    The hispanic community really pushes traditional gender roles as well as family being above all else (blood is thicker than water is a common phrase) . Pride and bringing shame to your family is also another big deal over here. It’s better to hide your ‘faults’ than let anyone know. Same sex attraction is so taboo within the community that it’s I think for a lot of girls it’s just not even an option to talk even to their family because it can bring shame and possibly being disowned. In return they keep quiet and feel like outcasts within their own culture, while at the same time go unnoticed in the LGBT community.

    • Ok so your comment is fascinating, but when I saw it on the side of the page all I read at first was “unicorns fucking” and I HAD TO READ THE REST OF IT.

      Thank you both for your perspective and an interesting visual.

  7. We do exist! We do exist! Though if you ask my mom or my partner’s mom we don’t…
    I am so glad to see that Autostraddle is covering issues pertaining to ethnic minorities. As a queer Latina, I’ve always been hungry to learn more about my community but have felt the divide of being part of these communities as if they existed in separate categories. In fact, try googling Latina lesbians, or any combination of those two words, and the results are, to say the least, not what I was looking for.
    I’ve experienced racism among the LGBT community and homophobia among Latinos and frankly, I’m tired of it. We do exist, we do have a place, I can be all the things I am.

    In any case, I’m rambling, it’s been a long day and it’s late…

    Thank you Carmen for finding these resources!

  8. Very interesting study and responses here, sad this piece isn’t receiving a lot of comments but that goes to show how unfamiliar the Latina lesbian/queer story is to most. I think to understand the dynamics more pieces like this one and studies are needed for exposure. Hopefully support groups will form and discussions/solutions will follow.
    …maybe that made sense, heh i tried

  9. Frida!
    I loved your comment I can totally relate. I agree with Aggie as well. Autostraddle I think it would be amazing to just keep reaching out to the Latino community.

    Maybe having Natalie Hornedo interviewed or something :P

    I think it’d be awesome to just have a few interviews of latina lesbians giving out positive advice & sharing there experience!

  10. 45% admitting they’ve been violent? 23% admitting to threatening to kill their partners?


  11. Hey– I just wanted to put this out there since there seems to be a fabulous amount of interest in this topic–

    I recently completed an extremely comprehensive study through the Northwestern Gender Studies department on Latina lesbians that won an award for the best thesis in Latina(o) Studies in 2011 @ Northwestern University. It is on gender presentation and community aesthetic expectations in the Miami community of Latina lesbians. I surveyed and spoke to over 250 women throughout Miami-Dade county over 2 years; several of whom are prominent figures in the Miami lesbian community and lesbian nightlife all over the country.

    My study featured an even rarer voice in studies of Latina lesbians– non-Chicana Latina lesbianas. Though it is not mentioned above, Chicago’s community is predominantly Chicana and Puerto Rican, as are the majority of Latina lesbian communities throughout the United States– however, luckily for Mexican and Puerto Rican lesbians, there have been a group of scholars and academic departments (USC, University of Arizona, and several others) that follow and trace changes and trends within the queer Latina/Chicana communities throughout California, Arizona, New York, Chicago, and within areas of Mexican/American border crossings.

    Up until my study, there had been nothing written on Latina women who are either Cuban or South American based Latina lesbians. This community, having immigrated to the United States with their own unique set of concerns and circumstances regarding gender, discrimination, and community expectations, has its own array of unique characteristics that have taken shape and cultivated a community of Latina lesbians in Miami that has established its own aesthetic and trends in behavior and gender dynamics.

    The differences between the communities are both interesting and important. Though my study does not concern discrimination, relationship violence, or internal racial discord, labeling and self-presentation, as well as gender dynamics and embodiment as affected by a community environment, are the central themes in my work.— These themes, if investigated further, could easily relate back to the issues confronted in the study discussed above.

    Anyway, if there is interest, I would love to share my study as well— It would be a lovely addition to this article and shows yet another facet of an underrepresented community of women who deserve just as many articles, studies, and commentaries as those done on and produced by straight, white men.

    • Speaking as a Cuban lesbian living in Miami, I’d love to see this!

      Also, we have a lesbian nightlife?

    • I would love to read your article! I’m working on a paper for a queer theory class I’m taking and your study would be awesome to cite!

    • I realize this post is very old, what 2011? Yet, I am very interested in reading the report. By any chance did you capture images of queer Latina’s of various cultures? I have a need for images of young queer Latina’s for a Indigenous/Latina curriculum.

      Let me know how to connect.


  12. Jsav,

    You hit the nail right on the head! I am from Miami, and everything you said is true. The latina lesbian commmunity here is very different from that in other places around the country.

    I would be very interested to read your study!

  13. Thanks Jsav, I would be very interested in reading about other latina lesbian communities.
    It’s important to understand that the latino/hispanic community is not homogeneous one.

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