It’s Latinx/Latine/Hispanic Heritage month, so I asked some Latines what messages and lessons they wanted to share about sex and sexuality and it’s giving all the feels.

It’s OK to be curious and explore

Alex Rosado-Torres (he/they), a queer Puerto Rican from New Jersey, wishes that he had known earlier that it was “okay to be curious, to want to explore, and to be unsure of your sexual identity.” There is a harmful narrative perpetuated that everyone knows early on who they are (and aren’t) attracted to and what their gender identity is. This makes it difficult for those of us who need to try things to help us decide. Take it from Alex (and me) that sexuality “deserves just as much exploration as other parts of ourselves” There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that.

You are valid, whole, and incredible 

Many Latines grow up in loving and community centered homes (and some don’t) that can still simultaneously destroy one’s self-esteem through hypocritical religious and cultural teachings. Luna is a bisexual American Chicana who grew up in a sexually repressed space that upheld gender roles. She wants her younger and current self to hear and believe “you are not broken, you are not a freak, you are not behind.” This message is important whether it’s because you were taught that there was something wrong with your sexual orientation, gender, or the way you do or do not fulfill expectations related to Latinidad.

Be creative in expressing your true you

 Whether this is exploring gender presentation, letting your inner chonga live out loud, embodying your sexual energy, or something else – let your inner baddie shine! Artist Cindy “Cindita” Macias, adorns her body using items like body chains “as a form of embodiment to reclaim the erotic as power.” She sees “jewelry as a ritual for self-care and to be present in one’s body.” Some of my family and I just got matching Taino coqui tattoos as a physical representation of our connection to one another and the island Borikén (Puerto Rico). What would it look like to intentionally shift something in your life to better represent who you are right now?

Be the representation you want to see

This is a big one for me personally. I grew up feeling like I wasn’t Latina enough or queer enough. Media (and community) representations of Latinas looked different from me and queer folks were not represented at all beyond stereotypical effeminate gay men. Rosado-Torres’ message for younger Latines that, “just because you may not be represented, does not mean your experience is any less valid” is vital. We all come in different packages and no package is better or more correct. I know it took me years to find confidence in claiming my identities but now I’m loud and proud. When we live as our authentic selves, we give others permission to do the same.

You are more than your body

Latinas receive messages about being sexy (with specific expectations of what that means) from much of the outside world, as well as our own communities. As a kid, Macias was teased as a kid for not having the developed butt and boobs. But my family regularly celebrated me for being a skinny girl with a big butt. Macias describes how these messages mess with our relationship to our own sexuality saying, “I’m navigating the thin line between wanting to express my sexuality but then feeling ashamed to do so for fear of being oversexualized.”

Some of us also receive regular messaging from family that emphasize our bodies as baby making machines or sites of pleasure for men, rather than for ourselves. As a Chicana mother, Araceli Esparza, Latina/Chicana diversity, equity, and inclusion speaker and poet, challenges this notion by seeing our bodies as mothering beyond the traditional sense. Esparza reminds women “we no longer have to raise our daughters to be mothers of children but of corporations, to be presidents, to mother in the math, and sciences.”

The pressure from family in whatever direction they are pushing can be suffocating. Luna offers an affirmation to help us push back: “despite the words of your parents, you are more than your body.”

You can love your community and want better

Our pride in our nations, and sometimes the pan-ethnic label of Latinidad, is strong. Sometimes, like with any group, pride and care for our community can keep us from speaking about the faults.

Rosado-Torres shared that as he has gotten older, they’ve “realized how deeply entrenched” their “upbringing was within a machismo culture.” Also, religion played a role where “‘God’ was used as the logic behind a lot of rules and expectations” limiting his gender and sexuality. There is a lot of toxicity that comes from colonial religions and the patriarchy (both colonial and precolonial) that we can call out and fix while still loving our people.

Let them walk away

Growing up in a conservative Christian home, as many Latines do, Colombiana Luisa Salcedo, COO for hire, found the topics of sexual activity and empowerment somewhat traumatic because there was never a safe space to have those conversations. She learned to navigate having conversations about sexual health history and protection on her own despite how intimidating it felt and the lack of media representation of having these difficult conversations with men. Stick to taking care of their needs. She says, “if they don’t want to sleep with you, it’s more of a sign of where they are than you.” You don’t need to accept behaviors from others that make you feel uncomfortable. That may even mean walking away or letting them walk away.

Find a community that feels good for you

Looking for a community that fits us when we are used to being on the outside can be scary. But as Luna warns, “don’t convince yourself that you like being alone simply because it’s more comfortable that way.” Latines are a very large and diverse community. There are spaces for all of us to exist authentically. Rosado-Torres realized conversations around their sexuality can be more difficult in Spanish. They have found community in U.S. born Latines where the opportunity to “communicate openly, and in a culturally authentic way, is invaluable.”

Find culturally relevant mental health support

It’s also really helpful, if you have the privilege to access it, to find culturally relevant mental health support. Luna offers some fabulous advice, “dear God, you can’t be your own therapist – talk to someone! Don’t let that good ol’ Latino mental health stigma further your own misery.”

I was blown away the first time I had a Latina therapist. She was immediately able to name and explain the cultural battle I was internally experiencing that, as a person who had lived it for three decades, had missed. Take Luna’s advice ya’ll – we’re not meant to go at this alone. Check out my list of 15 Latine/x sex educators you ought to know if you’re looking to delve deeper into sex, sexuality, and gender topics!

Don’t be limited by boxes (yours & those of others)

Part of what’s so important about representation is that we can feel limited to exist within the parameters of what we see. My out loud existence as a Jewish, queer, polyamorous, kinky, neurodivergent Nuyorican gives others permission to dream and explore beyond the status quo. Rosado-Torres, who is in a happy ENM (ethnically non-monogamous) relationship with a same sex partner offers, “don’t let the limits of religiosity/politics/patriarchy/culture/etc. limit your ideas about love and relationships.”

These limitations can also impact who we can see ourselves sharing community with. Melvin Rahonel, a friend of mine, realized how important it is to be open to new people and new ideas after we met. My identities and personality clashed with what he had been taught to believe. Coming from the Dominican Republic, he had a bunch of ideas about sexuality and what was good or right. These were actually culturally informed misconceptions. He shared that “it was really difficult for me to get out of that box, that mind frame, and get to know people with different ideas and sexual orientations.” New York gave him a crash course in identities different from his own that he had been taught to judge and stay away from. These interactions have helped him become closer to his own true self. He became more accepting and open to others.

And finally, el placer es poder

I’m going to mic drop a message from Ana Lopez, a Latina Sex Coach that pays homage to Audre Lorde’s, Uses of the Erotic, by recognizing the power in pleasure:

“Pleasure is something the individual creates, not some external force (i.e., penis, toy, finger, etc.). Pleasure is an emotion, a visceral feeling in the body and is; therefore, generated by the individual. Individuals of Latin descent, and particularly those who have been socialized as women, are kept from this powerful knowledge. As a result, they are left looking to external sources for pleasure. We spend years on this unsolvable scavenger hunt because the pleasure, the power, was inside of us all along. Once we truly embody the concept of pleasure being in the power of the individual, we are unstoppable. El placer es poder.”

Which of these powerful messages most hit home for you? Share them with me and Pure Romance on social media!

Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez

Yael R. Rosenstock Gonzalez

Sex Educator, Researcher, Author, Speaker
Yael R Rosenstock Gonzalez is a sex educator, researcher, author, speaker, and curriculum developer. As a queer, polyamorous, white-presenting Nuyorican Jew, Yael has always been interested in understanding the multi-level experiences of individuals. This led her to found Kaleidoscope Vibrations, LLC, a company dedicated to supporting and creating spaces for individuals to explore and find community in their personal identities. Through her company, she facilitates workshops, develops curriculum, offers Identity Exploration Coaching, and publishes narratives often left out of mainstream publishing.

Yael has been engaged in workshop development and facilitation since she joined the New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) as a teen peer reproductive rights educator at 15 years old. Since then, she has served as an educator with children ranging from 10 months old to adults in their 70s with different organizations and communities. In her work as first Program Coordinator, then Director of Programming, and finally Associate Director of the Center for Ethnic, Racial, and Religious Understanding, Yael developed and led events, workshops, and programs with an intersectionality lens.