Amigas y Amantes: Sexually Nonconforming Latinas Negotiate Family

By Katie L. Acosta | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 5
INTEGRATING FAMILIES OF
CHOICE AND ORIGIN
GAINING VISIBILITY THROUGH CARE WORK

I interviewed Aurelia at a restaurant in downtown Boston. We had corresponded through email a few times but had no mutual acquaintances. Aurelia is Nicaraguan, college educated, and holds a professional job. She identifies as a lesbian, and at age twenty-seven she has had one serious long-term relationship with another Nicaraguan woman named Pamela, whom she met when she was twenty-one. Their relationship blossomed very quickly, and within a year the couple was living together. Aurelia’s family had a difficult time accepting their relationship. Her father chose to ignore it, her brother was openly hostile in his disapproval, leaving the two estranged, and her mother was inquisitive but also visibly uncomfortable. The lack of support she received from her family of origin meant that Aurelia was forced to distance herself from them significantly after moving in with Pamela. Pamela, on the other hand, was very close to her family of origin, and when her sister and niece needed a place to live, Pamela and Aurelia allowed them to stay in their apartment. Aurelia’s relationship with Pamela lasted six years, during which time the couple was very isolated from a larger LGBTQ community. They interacted very infrequently with Aurelia’s family of origin, and thus what little support they did have came from Pamela’s family of origin, who depended on her a great deal for financial resources. In return for the financial sacrifices they made, Aurelia and Pamela received visibility for their relationship and a great deal of emotional support, which they relied on because of the scarcity of other social ties.1 As one can imagine, the strain of Pamela’s familial obligations and the lack of support from Aurelia’s family eventually took a toll on such a young couple. By the time of the interview they had ended their relationship and dissolved the domestic partnership they had created with one another years earlier.

In their research on care work among siblings, Shelley Eriksen and Naomi Gerstel (2002) note that while often ignored in academic scholarship, care work

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