Queer Latinas Have Specific Healthcare Needs, This Billboard Isn’t One of Them

There could be a lot of effective ways to say this, but I’m just going to go the quick route: my name is Carmen Rios, I’m Latina, and I’m a lesbian.

As a feminist, I’ve become aware of how my unique identity impacts my experiences. It’s pretty much a no-brainer that Latina women face challenges unique to the intersection of race and gender that they live at, or at least it should be by now. But what happens when you throw in the ‘LBT?’ Or, really, what happens when it comes to sex at all?

The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH) recently released an issue brief on sexual health and LGBTQ Latinas. The outlook was not too bright: the conclusion of the brief was, pretty much, that more research on the unique needs of Latina women on a whole is needed to address their unique sexual health needs. But what the brief also reveals is a handful of problems that LBT Latinas are facing: provider bias and limited access to quality health care, a lack of accommodations for queer women and non-English speakers in health care, higher rates of cervical cancer, and lower rates of regular care for lesbian Latinas related to sexual health.

The report, LGBTQ Latin@s and Reproductive Justice, can be found in full on the NLIRH website. It also explored how trans women face problems related to the gendering of health services and employment discrimination, both having an ugly impact on the opportunity to receive quality health care. Verónica Bayetti Flores authored the report, and said:

What this analysis shows is that finding providers that are adequately competent in and sensitive to the linguistic, cultural and particular health needs and concerns of the LGBTQ community can prove exceedingly difficult. Yet preventive health care is vital for keeping Latinas healthy and safe.

“This report makes crystal clear that we need to be doing more to represent the needs of all Latinas, without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status.  NLIRH is calling on activists in the reproductive health and immigration movements to recognize the critical intersections on theses issues for the people they serve.

The problem facing the Latina community is not just the silence of researchers, but of an entire culture. Latina culture is very traditionally Catholic, and a lot of times discussion of reproductive and sexual health doesn’t get too far with these specific populations, especially if their healthcare provider isn’t aware enough to navigate the cultural values around those discussions. But it is necessary. And Latina populations are open to having a discussion, if the healthcare network is willing to meet them halfway.

So far, though, a significant part of the discussion is this billboard:

Effectively ending the discussion on reproductive justice for Latina women, The Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles got behind the anti-gay American Principles Project to create divisive scare-based ads against reproductive choice. The billboards contain photos of small babies and the text “The most dangerous place for a Latino is in the womb.” Sounds like the Partnership is a great, non-judgemental, and non-partisan source of sexual health information and resources! (In more depressing news, the Governor of Puerto Rico sits on the Partnership board.)

It should be obvious why this is an unproductive and unhelpful “conversation” to be having in light of NLIRH’s report – not only does it render LBT Latinas invisible by centering the discussion on pregnancy, but it tries to make the issue of overall poor reproductive health options for Latinas into the something that’s their own fault. There’s nothing “dangerous” about a Latina’s womb, and her choices about reproductive health aren’t a threat to anyone – what’s dangerous and threatening is a healthcare system that lets women of color remain underserved and overlooked.

The sexual health needs of LBT Latina women are unique, and are being ignored. And the Partnership is using racism, homophobia, scare tactics, and divisive cultural politics to keep it that way. This is, to say the least, not a recipe for high-quality healthcare. The last time these boards were spotted, they targeted black communities. This time, Latinas are being used as bait to attract people to the anti-choice political movement.

There’s now an explicit demand for a conversation on the sexual health and reproductive rights of Latina women in the United States – both documented and undocumented. How can we have this conversation and make sure it’s inclusive? And why can’t our own community work with us to get there?

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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. this billboard was blasted when they first put it up in NYC. ‘Cept then it was a black woman and just as horrifically offensive.

    and it’s just an attack on women in general, as if there could ever be a safer place for a baby than inside of a mother’s womb. (unless of course you’re a crack/heroin/sugar/alcohol/prescriptiondrug addict. then your baby is effed anyway whether you’re black, latina or from outer space.)

    off subject sometimes i don’t know whether it’s just cuz i’m poor that my healthcare is non-existent.

    like what if i was a rich latina dyke? then would my healthcare be as compromised as it is now? prolly not.

    poverty f*cks us all. i haven’t been to a doctor that wasn’t in an emergency room since like 2007.

  2. Are these billboards aimed at Latinas or at misinformed non-Latinas? Are they trying to shame Latina women into giving birth to get rid of this statistic? I don’t understand what the f they’re trying to say.

  3. i spent a little time thinking about it (that billboard isn’t even worded clear enough to send a direct message) and concluded that this billboard is fucking offensive. it translates as latinas are irresponsible when it comes to pregnancy (if you go by cultural tradition, this is far from the truth). it put into mind pregers smoking, drinking, drugging, and excess consumption of super hot salsa.

    is that what they are trying to get at? is all our salsa eating too much for the sea monkey in the womb (high acidity)?

      • it’s should be the other way around
        nothing is more dangerous for the womb of a latina than a fauxhawk babie. that thing looks sharp!

      • Or rather, nothing is more dangerous for a woman’s womb than fauxhawk babies. Hair gel can turn innocent children into weapons of uterus destruction.

  4. i have encountered way too many offensive things today, and this is the worst of them all. fuck.

  5. That billboard enrages me so much I can’t even see straight.

    Shit like this just depresses me so much. It seems like there are so many important conversations we all need to be having about how to serve people’s health needs, but we just never seem to get anywhere because there are too many divisive assholes who jump on any opportunity to take all the attention for themselves and their hateful, harmful agendas.

  6. that or they just decide to let it hang out in the senate while everyone forgets about it and vote it down.

  7. This is so offensive! I spent quite a few minutes just trying to figure out what the billboard is supposed to convey. My conclusion: it is just racist and misinformed. The irony is that research shows that Latino babies born to immigrant mothers are, on average, healthier than Latino babies whose mothers are U.S. born and non-Hispanic white babies. That is part of what we call the immigrant paradox. This is not to say that we don’t need healthcare or encounter very difficult circumstances, but rather, to clarify that in the face of our f*d up circumstances, our babies do better than expected.
    So… this is straight up racism at its worst. People who fund this shit should be ashamed of themselves.
    I’m so freaking angry that I probably don’t make sense.

    Anyway… I was excited to see something on queer Latinas on Autostraddle. Lots of love AS!!!

  8. El gran problema que tenemos no solo nosotras si no toda la comunidad, es el bendito machismo que hay en la sociedad. Una vez que erradiques esa pseudo cultura. Verás como todo empieza a fluir

    The biggest problem that we have not only us, the entire community is that blessed sexism in the society. Once you eradicate that pseudo culture. You’ll see how everything starts to flow

  9. I am so confused by the billboard. Does this have anything to do with anti-abortion tactics, like the fetus is in a perpetual state of threat of being aborted or something? But this still doesn’t make sense! What the fuck!?

  10. A great report and post. I have a comment on one point made: “not only does it render LBT Latinas invisible by centering the discussion on pregnancy”

    LBTQ Latinas DO get pregnant- in the same range of positive and negative circumstances that straight women get pregnant. I think that it is important that discussions of pregnancy include LBTQ Latinas, and it is important that these discussions are not assumed to exclude us/them, and that work on Latina LBTQ health INCLUDE pregnancy.

    I have worked on several projects in which someone raises a voice saying that by discussing issues of family planning and pregnancy that LBTQ Latinas are being left out because that is not their concern. I think that research and public health education can and should create projects that explicitly include us/them in these spaces, but the mere discussion of pregnancy IS a concern for LBTQ Latinas, who want and need resources and spaces to discuss and consider unwanted and wanted pregnancy just like straight women.

  11. Though my relationship with my parents is really cool and both of them are quite open and smart, I know this is not the case for most of my queer mexican peers, some of them can’t get the proper healthcare they need because they are afraid to ask for it and their parents are everything but supportive. I would definetely like to get involved in doing something for my community, maybe designing inclusive accurate billboards?! or something like that, I just don’t want to sit here waiting for something to change

  12. I can’t decide which is more offensive, the anti cis woman tactics of the poster makers, or the gross cissexism of the poster and all the commentors. To me, I certainly know which one is more deadly

    Please stop saying “LBT Latinas” until you are prepared to back the ‘T’ the fuck up.

    Signed, an L *and* T Latina woman.

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