Rosa Yadira Ortiz

It happened when I was traveling in 2001.  

That summer, I was in the Bay Area as part of a research program.  During that time, I went to my first queer women space and realized that this felt like home.  There’s no other way I know how to describe it.  It just felt like home.  Before packing once again and returning to Chicago,  I went to my first Dyke March. I inquired as to why such a march was necessary when the Pride Parade occurred the next day.  Ironically, I have now helped organize Chicago’s Dyke March for numerous years.  [But that’s a story for another time.]

I returned to Chicago for a few weeks.  I was studying abroad in Madrid that fall and was excited and nervous.  Being in the Bay Area for just a few weeks had confirmed what I thought was a mere speculation—I was not straight.  The weeks home were hard.  Stiff.  I wasn’t ready to share these new found queries with my family and I was nervous about their response.  After all, if I wasn’t straight, then what was I?  I only knew ONE queer Latina.  And well, that wouldn’t be enough to make it “normal” for my immigrant, singly-mother, Catholic family.  

So off I went to Madrid.  During those months I decided I wanted to see what a queer bar was like.  I had asked about gay places to visit.  Yes, gay.  It was 2001 and academia hadn’t yet popularized ‘queer’.  

As I disembarked from the Metro, I turned to my friend and roommate at the time and blurted out, “I have something to tell you.”  She turned my way with a quizzical look.  “Oookay.” Weirdo.  That’s what her look meant to say.  In her defense, I was acting weird, so much so I asked her to stop looking at me.  

I took one breathe and said what I had been questioning.  “So I think I may like girls. And I want to go to a lesbian bar but I don’t want to go by myself and I want to you to go with me.”

She shrugged her shoulders and said sure.  We agreed on a time and date and headed to a bar called Chueca later that week.

As we approached the bar, I told her I was very nervous.  She said there was no need and it would be fun.  We got lost but finally found the place that had been recommended.  As my friend opened the door, I sprinted in the other direction.  I was too afraid of confirming what I thought I knew and feeling like an oddball at this place.  She let the door slam shut and came after me, pulled me by the hand, and we went inside.  I once again felt at home.  

After that, I headed to Chueca regularly.  A young queer Latina…nervous and excited and with no clue what to do.  In retrospect, being away from home provided the feeling of being safe to come out without any fears of what would happen.  

I have been part of this other home space for well over ten years now and am super proud to know numerous queer Latinas.  And my friend?  She has been part of my chosen family ever since.