the voice and vision of a new generation
Graphic credit: Rommy Sobrado-Torrico

Ni de aquí, ni de allá: On being a Latinx non-binary person

November 16, 2018

In third grade, we had a hermit crab as a class pet. His name was Herman. I was fascinated by him. I loved how as he grew, he collected a new shell and left the other behind. He stayed the same, but changed. 

Sometimes when I think of my gender(s) as a non-binary trans femme person, I think back to Herman. 

Throughout my life, I have made so many stops all along the gender and sexuality spectrums. Each one felt like home until it didn’t. I’d stumble across a new shell and try it on. If it fit, I’d keep it, and leave my old one behind. 

So I’ve been gay. I’ve been gender non conforming. I’ve been queer. I’ve been genderqueer. And now I’m non-binary. And sometimes a demiwoman. 

Sometimes I feel non-binary trans people exist like Herman. We exist in a binarist world. The language for who we are continuously erased by colonialism and cisheterosexism. We are continuously crafting new language to understand who we are and where we sit in society. Like Gloria Anzaldúa says, we give it a handle. We come across a new term or new way of understanding the complexities of existing beyond the binary, and we try it on. 

But for Latinx non-binary trans people (and other non-English speaking non-binary trans people) we face the additional barrier of navigating not only binarist social expectations but binarist language restrictions. From pronouns to names, nearly everything is gendered as male or female—never male and female, never male nor female. 

Sometimes we concede. 

I wonder if Herman ever walked around uncomfortably with his shell, patiently waiting to find a one large enough to encompass all his possibilities. I wonder if his body ever carried callouses from places where his shell didn’t fit and instead rubbed and rubbed until he was raw and in pain. 

I know I have. 

Many times I’ve settled for “Ella” when I wish it had been “Ey” or “Elle.”  Many times I’ve settled for “mujer” or even “hombre” when “género queer transfemininx” just seemed too cumbersome for a tongue already clumsy and struggling from lack of practice. 

How do I explain to my mother, a Mexican woman who never truly understood or embraced my queerness, that though she thinks she gave birth to a jaundiced coneheaded baby boy, she actually gave birth to a gender mystery? How when the language I’d use for “child” is binarist to begin with? How do I correct my cousins, who call me “primo” on Facebook posts, when neither primx nor prime contain the sweetness the prickly pear “primo” does? 

How do we find home when we must constantly build it for ourselves? 

I don’t know. I don’t know if Herman ever found the one shell that stayed feeling like home. I don’t know if I ever will either. I suppose that’s the fun and challenge of existing adentro y afuera; ni de aquí, ni de allá. 

Karari Olvera Orozco is an amp Contributor and the non-binary trans femme first born of Mexican immigrant parent. A writer, activist, public speaker, and makeup aficionadx, they sit on the boards of United Latinx Pride and the TransLatin@ Coalition and on the production team of America in Transition. You can catch them IRL in Chicago on the Hoodoisie, a live and live-streamed news show disseminating block-optic and radical perspectives on culture and politics, or hosting at DURO, Boystown’s only night centering and celebrating queer/trans femmes of color of all sizes and shapes.

Rommy Torrico is a queer, trans, undocumented artist born in Iquique, Chile, raised in Naples, Florida, and currently based out of NY. Along with infusing their art with powerful stories from their own life, Torrico's work consistently uplifts the experiences and identities of their communities. Torrico is a designer with passion and intention, authentically delivering striking, illustrative pieces that support messages of hope, resistance and creating new worlds. Their work has been exhibited in California, Washington DC, and NY.

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