The Gender Bend: Culture, Sex and Sexuality - A LatCritical Human Rights Map of Latina/o Border Crossings

45 Pages Posted: 20 Feb 2009

Date Written: October 1, 2008


In the course of studying and theorizing about Latinas/os and their location in law and culture, critical theory has been simultaneously liberating and restraining, confining, and coercive. Critical theorists have made substantial inroads in recognizing the intersectionality, multidimensionality, multiplicity, and interconnectivities of the intersections of race and sex. These paradigms are central to an analysis of the Latina/o condition within the Estados Unidos (United States). However, much work remains to be done in other areas - such as culture, language, sexuality, and class - that are key to Latinas'/os' self-determination and full citizenship.

Cognizant of, and notwithstanding such limitations, this essay will explore the condition of Latinas within the fronteras estado unidenses (United States borderlands), particularly concentrating on issues of culture, gender, sex, and sexuality-grounds upon which Latinas are subordinated, oppressed, and marginalized by racialized and gendered normative majority mandates as well as by gendered cultural strictures. As the piece will develop, Latinas embark on daily border crossings. Their journeys are defined and imposed on them by the myriad territories they inhabit. Latinas may be multiple aliens: in majority communities by virtue of many degrees of separation-sex, ethnicity, culture, language, and sexuality; within their own culture, Latinas are "others" simply because of their sex or, even more distancing, their sexuality; and within the sexual minority community because of their sex, race, and ethnicity. These multiple barriers within and outside group fronteras are definitional in the formation of, access to, and expression of Latinas' identity(ies).

Gender identities are rigorously and authoritatively defined, delineated, and enforced within la cultura Latina (Latina/o culture). These narrowly drawn parameters are heteropatriarchal mandates used as a tool to retain conformity to traditional strictures as well as to control those mujeres (women) - and hombres (men) - who cannot, or refuse to, agree or harmonize with or adjust, obey, and conform to culturally designated roles and norms.

Part I is a prelude that stages the plot by presenting the reality of Latinas' lives in society, in the family, at home, and at work-revealing the expectations and the embeddedness of norms based on sex. Part II, Culture and Gender, maps Latinas' locations - their complicated amalgam of social and cultural dimensions and intersections resulting from their existences both outside and inside the majority culture and la cultura Latina. Next, Part III, Sexuality-La Ultima Frontera (the last frontier/border), explores sex as a location in which Latinas experience multiple oppressions from both inside and outside la cultura Latina. In Part IV, the atomization of identities is rejected and a paradigmatic shift to a LatCritical Human Rights construct is proposed as a powerful foundation for an emancipatory project that centers on multiply "othered" persons, such as Latinas. This critical vision is informed and transformed by incorporating the human rights concepts of indivisibility and interdependence of rights into identity discourse, particularly when focusing on matters of cultural expression - a status protected as a human right but not generally considered in our legal system. Such an approach, which poses the culture question along with the woman/women's question and the race question, is of great utility in and to an anti-subordination movement; it maps a route that enables full personhood for those who are multiply "othered." This construct develops, expands, and transforms the articulation and language of critical theory to include and embrace the cultural multidimensionality, intersectionality, multiplicity, and interconnectivities of Latinas' (and other multiply-othered persons') lives.

Keywords: Gender, Hispanic, Latina/o, Lesbian, Language

Suggested Citation

Hernández-Truyol, Berta Esperanza, The Gender Bend: Culture, Sex and Sexuality - A LatCritical Human Rights Map of Latina/o Border Crossings (October 1, 2008). Indiana Law Journal, Vol. 83, p. 1283, 2008, University of Florida Levin College of Law Research Paper No. 2009-04, Available at SSRN:

Berta Esperanza Hernández-Truyol (Contact Author)

University of Florida Levin College of Law ( email )

P.O. Box 117625
Gainesville, FL 32611-7625
United States

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