More than Enough: On Being a Queer, Immigrant Latinx
Enough. This is a word that has followed me my whole life. As we celebrate Pride and Immigrant Heritage Month, those complicated feelings around identity and being enough come up for me. A lot. For the majority of my life, I didn’t feel queer or immigrant enough.
Yes, I was born in Venezuela. My mother and I came to the United States with my father who was a U.S. citizen when I was just 3 years old. But if I am being honest, I haven’t felt connected to the word “immigrant”.
I have felt connected to the country of my birth–mi gente y mi cultura. It was all around me even if I wasn’t raised there or we couldn’t afford to visit often. As a kid, I was proud of my Venezuelan heritage and thought speaking two languages made me special. But I was told to assimilate to the United States. That is when I allowed people to make me feel small and ran away from who I am.
My own mother told me I wasn’t an immigrant because I didn’t live in Venezuela long enough (there is that word again), speak with an accent or struggle like her. I wasn’t Brown enough because my father was white and “American.” No one questioned if I was “American” unless I was with her. They didn’t think I was white enough because I was a part of her.
The feelings of being queer enough was part of my struggle of coming out. For a significant part of my life, I thought you were gay or straight. That is it. So I assumed I wasn’t queer enough because I wasn’t only attracted to women. I also grew up in an incredibly conservative area. In high school, a friend was beaten when he came out. I feared for my life to even begin to explore any feelings I had.
When I learned about bisexuality in college that also didn’t fit. I wasn’t attracted to people because of their gender. So again, I assumed I wasn’t queer enough. It wasn’t until my early 30s that I even learned about pansexuality. Finally, something fit. Being able to understand my attraction regardless of gender was so freeing.
But explaining it to others was hard because of people’s binary and limited understanding of sexuality. So I thought, maybe I am not queer enough. I only felt comfortable with a few friends knowing as I explored my queerness. I didn’t have to prove my level of queerness to them. I was just Chris.
My struggle with identifying as queer or immigrant centers around allowing others to define who I am. When I took on the role as executive director of BISC, I knew it was critical to come into this role defining who I am. In order to execute my vision of ballot measures being a tool for liberation, I had to free myself from allowing others to decide whether I am enough.
One of the reasons I love ballot measures is they allow us to define the solutions we need for our communities. We get to determine the outcomes and define justice for ourselves. We claim that our people are worthy and they are more than enough to be invested in.
So this Pride and Immigrant Heritage month, I cast off the remaining feelings of unworthiness and doubt. I am claiming space in a place that wasn’t built for me. I am more than enough.
Chris Melody Fields Figueredo
Executive Director, Ballot Initiative Strategy Center