Your Name:

Your Email:

Friend's Name:

Friend's Email:

Creative Commons License
Powered by Movable Type



Notes Towards a Transformative Masculinity

Daniel E. Solís y Martínez

By Daniel E. Solís y Martínez
Daniel E. Solís y Martínez is Master of Arts in History student at Claremont Graduate University. The gay son of Salvadoreña/o immigrants to Los Angeles, Daniel has lived his life in spaces of contradiction. Daniel is interested in the excavation of marginal peoples' buried histories in the greater Los Angeles region. Currently, his research centers on multiracial community organizing in Los Angeles - both historically and in the present day - as well as tracing the trajectory of Latina/o immigrations to and within Los Angeles. Daniel hopes to be a university professor one day.

This in-between homosexual gender is centered on the matter of penetration: he who is penetrated is a homosexual. By being the receptive partner in anal intercourse, Latin American homosexuales give up their claim to masculinity. Instead, they enter into a gender space that borrows and claims much from femininity but that is decidedly different from woman-ness. This articulation of homosexuality as a different gender, which essentializes it as a biological trait, creates spaces for Latin American homosexuales within Latin American societies and families. These spaces are often created not by the overt presence of homophobic discourses, but instead by their silent operation. Queer Puerto Rican sociologist Manolo Guzmán, in his critical examination of scholarship on homosexuality in Puerto Rico, describes this further:

…this absence of speech, no longer talking about things like marriage, represents a suspension of the assumption of heterosexuality. There is enormous amount of room for the expression of homosexuality under this absence of speech about homosexuality. [ 10 ]

It is in those spaces of absent speech in which Latin American homosexuality rests. My own parents’ response to my budding gender deviance and homosexuality was shaped by this system of homosexual gender. My family’s acceptance of my queer impulses was predicated on its safe containment in the traditional queer gender space of the Latin American family structure. So long as my homosexuality was not explicitly named it did not threaten the traditional supremacy of my father over our family.

Despite the impossibility of drawing neat divisions between different cultures’ configurations of homosexuality, there are important differences between the Latin American homosexuality system of my childhood and the U.S. gay identity system that I encountered as a teenager coming out as queer. Central to American gayness is the individual and her/his choice: a person becomes gay through a public declaration that is an expression of their will to identify as gay. While gender deviance is often vigorously labeled as gay by heterosexuals, it is only through the individual person’s declaration that gayness becomes real. The intimate relation between American gayness and individual identity is a product of the historical circumstances in which gayness in the United States emerged.

Queer historian John D’Emilio, in his path-breaking investigation of the origins of gay homosexuality in the United States, firmly ties the emergence of gayness with the supremacy of the individual that is only possible under capitalist ideological and material conditions.  D’Emilio argues that the rise of the individual laborer system of capitalism in the latter part of the 19th century replaced the family with the individual as the primary economic actor. This shift created the material conditions in which individual men could financially support themselves and be free to explore their personal desires, whatever they may be. It was this economic emancipation that led to the coming out of American gayness. [ 11 ]

Unlike my family, the teachers and students at my schools presented me with a homosexuality that was based on clearly defined lines between sexualities and genders. In the world of the elementary schoolyard you were either a boy or a girl and if you deviated from either of these strictly defined categories, you were harassed. As a boy child that hung out with the little girl cliques, other boys called me a “fag.” I had never experienced such rejection before in my life and it was because of that rejection that I began to question my sexuality and gender. As I grew older, I understood that to be different from the normal script of heterosexual boyhood meant loneliness. So to avoid isolation, I attempted to pass for straight and put away the gay. My attempts to be straight failed and as I entered adolescence I struggled for a language that could define the feelings that I felt inside. Only seeing the world of gay and straight around me, I chose to call myself gay.

When I was 16 years old, I came out. My life-long attraction to boys and affinity for feminine things could no longer be contained in the quiet space my family offered. Nurtured by classical gay discourses of personal liberation and empowerment, I militantly claimed an identity of gayness in opposition to my family. I demanded that my deviance be named and recognized by not only my family, but all who knew me. Rainbow flags blazin’, I flaunted my new found American gayness for my own personal fulfillment regardless of its affects on my family. In doing so, I ruptured the life-long unnamed place in my family that had contained my deviance.

As I struggled against homophobia, I sought to create spaces at home and school that nurtured my growing oppositional queer identity. The challenge I presented to my family’s containment of my gayness caused numerous battles between every member of my family and me. In particular, I remember a brutal shouting match between my mother and I that was triggered by a garland of hickies around my neck freshly-given to me by my then boyfriend. Again and again, my mother yelled at me that I was selfish, out of control and ungrateful. I skillfully deployed against her the new language of gay empowerment I had mastered. She was a homophobe, ignorant, and oppressing me.

Those clashes were fundamentally about how I would be part of my family. Would I be a private gender deviant containable within the structure of the family, or would I be a public individual American-style gay?  Sadly, my dichotomous thinking led me to cast my family as a site of oppression and the world outside as a place of liberation. In a perverse reversal of my childhood understanding of the world, the familiar had become terrifying and the unknown comforting.

Despite all of my seeming certainty that my gay individuality was better than the queerness my family had long nurtured, inside I felt a nagging uneasiness. Despite knowing that I was empowered, I felt isolated. The embracing connectivity I had felt as a child within my family was no where to be found in the gay bars and clubs that I so desperately searched for community. It was that growing emptiness that led me to question some of the assumptions I had made when I came out. I now asked myself whether empowerment and liberation had to wear the mask of white American gayness? The asking of this question has propelled me towards what I hesitantly call a mestiza/o gender... (continue reading)


[10] Guzmán 2006 p. 88

[11] D’Emilio 1993 p. 468

Navigate:  << Previous Page |  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5  |  6  |  7  |  8  | Next Page >>


Andy said:

Great essay!Very proud of you for writing this.

Posted at: May 19, 2008 2:44 PM

Ray said:

GREAT ESSAY!!! good work.

Posted at: May 19, 2008 11:35 PM

Lauren H said:


Posted at: June 1, 2008 3:38 AM

lecia said:

i'm so very proud of you, Daniel.

Posted at: July 18, 2008 11:15 PM

Daniel Mang said:

hello daniel

i was wondering, is there maybe a spanish version of your article?

(i would like a spanish/french friend of mine who's lived in latin america for some years to read your piece, and english is difficult for her)

daniel mang


Posted at: September 4, 2008 7:10 AM