Amigas y Amantes: Sexually Nonconforming Latinas Negotiate Family

Amigas y Amantes: Sexually Nonconforming Latinas Negotiate Family

Amigas y Amantes: Sexually Nonconforming Latinas Negotiate Family

Amigas y Amantes: Sexually Nonconforming Latinas Negotiate Family


Amigas y Amantes (Friends and Lovers) explores the experiences of sexually nonconforming Latinas in the creation and maintenance of families. It is based on forty-two in-depth ethnographic interviews with women who identify as lesbian, bisexual, or queer (LBQ). Additionally, it draws from fourteen months of participant observation at LBQ Latina events that Katie L. Acosta conducted in 2007 and 2008 in a major northeast city. With this data, Acosta examines how LBQ Latinas manage loving relationships with the families who raised them, and with their partners, their children, and their friends.

Acosta investigates how sexually nonconforming Latinas negotiate cultural expectations, combat compulsory heterosexuality, and reconcile tensions with their families. She offers a new way of thinking about the emotion work involved in everyday lives, which highlights the informal, sometimes invisible, labor required in preserving family ties. Acosta contends that the work LBQ Latinas take on to preserve connections with biological families, lovers, and children results in a unique way of doing family.

Paying particular attention to the negotiations that LBQ Latinas undertake in an effort to maintain familial order, Amigas y Amantes explores how they understand femininity, how they negotiate their religious faiths, how they face the unique challenges of being in interracial/interethnic relationships, and how they raise their children while integrating their families of origin.


I was raised that your family is the most important thing. And it wouldn’t feel
right for me to not have my family around, even though they are the only ones
that cause me pain. —Luisa, a bisexual Ecuadorian woman

I started my field research on lesbian, bisexual, and queer Latinas at a difficult point in my life. My beloved grandmother had recently died, and on her deathbed she told her best friend that she lamented the fact that she would not get a chance to meet the new grandchild whose arrival the family was so anxiously awaiting. The grandchild she referred to is my aunt’s daughter, whom her partner had conceived via alternative insemination six months earlier. The statement that my grandmother made on her deathbed was the closest she had ever come to publicly acknowledging my aunt and her partner of more than ten years as a family. It was the first time my grandmother had ever acknowledged that the child they were bringing into the world, while not tied to her biologically, would indeed be her grandchild. Months after the funeral, I continued to return to this incident in my head. I thought about the tacit relationship my family had with my aunt: the way they never acknowledged her lesbian existence while all the while accepting her partner as part of the family. I had been well trained in these tacit arrangements, never mentioning my own relationships with women to anyone in the family. For them, alternative sexualities was a tacit subject; even when it was understood, it was never discussed, and through the lack of verbalization we maintained familial ties (Decena 2011). These experiences solidified my desire to conduct research on lesbian, bisexual, and queer Latinas. At this point, through my own experiences and those I had witnessed in my family, it had occurred to me that no one was writing about the curious ways that Latinas negotiate sexuality and the family.

Throughout my research, in interview after interview, study participants shared remarks like those provided by Luisa above. As I sat down with the massive amounts of data I had collected through both participant observation and in-depth interviews, it became clear that the study participants shared a collective . . .

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