Welcome back to 30 Days of Pride on Ace Of Bens! Today, Megan is going to talk about two of her favorite characters who are queer and Latina and how seeing that representation has had an impact on her life.
No matter who you ask, they’ll always have different terms to describe their identity. If I were asked this question, my answer would be something like “book nerd, literary agent, queer, Latina,” and so on. Each term holds its own weight and place in my life. For the longest time, I felt like being queer and being Latina were entirely separate from one another. Often, I felt like I was one and not the other. It took a long time to accept the two could coexist and most importantly: there is nothing wrong with being a part of both cultures.
Growing up, it was difficult finding queer Latinx role models. Media didn’t often show this representation. When I dove into the publishing world, books by authors like Adam Silvera and Anna-Marie McLemore were essential. They explored these identities and said to readers of all ages that queer Latinx people exist. What added to this message was seeing these characters make it on television.
I’ll admit that I was late to watching Brooklyn Nine-Nine and One Day at a Time, but these shows grabbed a hold of me and didn’t let go. Brooklyn Nine-Nine is a sitcom on NBC dedicated to a group of detectives who solve crimes in Brooklyn, New York. What makes the show compelling is the deviation from typical sitcom roles for each character. None of the main cast feels like a sidekick to Jake Peralta’s story. Rather, they all have their own value and knowledge to bring to the table.
One Day at a Time (now canceled on Netflix and something I’m still upset about) is a sitcom that follows a Cuban American family. Penelope Alvarez navigates living with her mother, raising two children, and dealing with PTSD as a veteran. This show is one of the few I know to center around a Latinx family and get it right. Whether it was cheering for Max at one of his games while waving the Cuban flag, to strict rules about dating and hanging out, to the smell of homecooked meals filling the kitchen each time more than four people were in the same room. So many scenes reminded me of my heritage and the dynamics within my own family.
These shows did more for me than I could possibly imagine.
In season five of Brooklyn Nine-Nine , we find out Rosa Diaz is bisexual. The first utterance is a private moment between Charles and Rosa after he hears her talking to her girlfriend on the phone. By the beginning of the next episode, she comes out to her entire squad. And by the middle of that episode, she wrestles with deciding if she should come out to her parents. Ultimately, she does, but not without confusion from both and the conclusion that as long as she marries a man, it’ll be fine. The episode ends with her dad doing his best to understand and her mom needing more time. This hurts Rosa despite her being the type of person to bottle up her feelings. Her squad sees behind Rosa’s mask and shows up in solidarity at her apartment when she hosts a family game night.
As the credits rolled, there were tears down my face because Brooklyn Nine-Nine not only addressed stereotypes bisexuals face but wove in the complexities of Latinx families. Speaking from my own experience, there was always this underlying expectation to marry and have a family. Rosa explicitly states to her family that she may fall in love with a woman and decide to marry her, and they had to come to terms with that. Never once does Brooklyn Nine-Nine make Rosa a joke or make her compromise her heritage. Rosa being bisexual is just another part of who she is. She’s a detective. She’s a Latina. She’s bisexual. She’s badass. And no one can take those facets of her identity from her.
One Day at a Time follows a different exploration of queer identity and that’s through Penelope’s teenage daughter Elena. We are shown with an adorable conversation between Elena and her little brother Max, that Elena may not like men. She dates one for a short while but ultimately realizes when she imagines falling in love, she envisions a woman. Elena finally comes out as gay to her mom and abuela. We then see how they take some time to process the information but encourage Elena to be herself. When Elena’s father comes back into the picture and believes her being gay is a phase, Penelope tells him that being a good parent means taking the time to understand and loving them anyway. He doesn’t get to choose who Elena is or who she grows up to be.
What made me once again weep on my couch was the immediate outpouring of love for Elena when her father walked out during her Quinceañera. They didn’t believe it was a phase. They didn’t think Elena was too young to know who she was. They supported her and said they’d be there for her no matter what. Never once does Elena apologize to her father. Later, she stands up for herself and says she’s proud of who she is and if he chooses to not come back into her life, then he’s the one missing out because she’s going to do amazing things. One Day at a Time crafts an uncompromising teenager whose heritage and sexuality make her stronger than she ever has been.
Brooklyn Nine-Nine and One Day at a Time showed me pieces of myself that had been missing. They gave me two different narratives behind being Latina and being queer but with the same underlying message: who you are is valid and beautiful. These shows could have helped my younger self come to terms with my identity, but I’m beyond glad they’re around now to lend a helping hand to anyone looking for themselves on television.
As Captain Holt from Brooklyn Nine-Nine says, “Every time someone steps up and says who they are, the world becomes a better, more interesting place.”
Megan fell in love with reading and writing from a young age. She grew up to receive a BA in English with a minor in philosophy; eager to stay as close to books as possible. She has and continues to wear many hats in the publishing world: freelance editor, writer, marketing manager, Pitchwars 2018 mentor, and now a Literary Agent Apprentice at Corvisiero Lit. Top that with blogging and reading, and it’s a miracle her brain hasn’t exploded yet.
In her spare time, she’s traveling, hiking, or binge-watching television shows. If you can’t find her, offer to show her pictures of your pet, especially if it’s a dog. It works 100% of the time.