GLORIA ANZALDUA: From Borderlands (1987)
Half and Half
There was a muchacha who lived near my house, La gente del pueblo talked about her being una de las otras, “of the Others”.
They said that for six months she was a woman who had a vagina that bled once a month, and that for the other six months she was a man, had a penis and she peed standing up. They called her half and half, ‘mita y mita’, neither one nor theother but a strange doubling, a deviation of nature that horrified, a work of nature inverted. But there is a magic aspect in abnormality and so-called deformity.
Maimed, mad, and sexually different people were believed to possess supernatural powers by primal cultures’ magico-religious thinking. For them, abnormality was the price a person had to pay for her or his inborn extraordinary gift. There is something compelling about being both male and female, about having an entry into both worlds. Contrary to some psychiatric tenets, half and halfs are not suffering from a confusion of sexual identity, or even from a confusion of gender.
What we are suffering from is an absolute despot duality that says we are able to be only one or the other. It claims that human nature is limited and cannot evolve into something better. But I, like other queer people, am two in one body, both male and female. I am the embodiment of the hieros gamos: the coming together of opposite qualities within…
For the lesbian of color, the ultimate rebellion she can make against her native culture is through her sexual behavior. She goes against two moral prohibitions: sexuality and homosexuality. Being lesbian and raised Catholic, indoctrinated as straight, I made the choice to be queer (for some it is genetically inherent). It is an interesting path, one that continually slips in and out of the white, the Catholic, the Mexican, the indigenous, the instincts. In and out of my head. It makes for loqueria, the crazies. It is a path of knowledge, one of knowing (and of learning) the history of oppression of our raza. It is a way of balancing, of mitigating duality.
“The year 1987 was also a pivotal one for queer Chicanxs, marked by the publication of Gloria Anzaldúa’s groundbreaking Borderlands/La Fronterathat gave us an intersectional analysis of the “borders” between cultures, genders, and sexualities. It was against her own Chicano community’s sexism and homophobia that Anzaldúa asserted her determination “to stand and claim my space.” In her “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” she declared: “I will no longer be made to feel ashamed of existing. I will have my voice: Indian, Spanish, white. I will have my serpent’s tongue—my woman’s voice, my sexual voice, my poet’s voice.” In doing so she helped to open spaces for other queer Chicanxs. Chicana Lesbians: The Girls Our Mothers Warned Us About, for example, was published in 1991, and in 1995 Galería de la Raza hosted Mi corazón me dió un salto: A Queer Raza Exhibition.“