Why not both?

by Paola Bedolla Garcia

All my life I’ve fumbled and tripped over these two things: my identity and the labels used to describe it. I am a Cuban-Mexican bisexual girl. 

“No, you’re American.”

Okay, I guess I’m American.

“No, you’re Mexican.”

Okay, I guess I’m Mexican.

“No, your accent in Spanish is weird, you’re definitely Cuban.”

Okay… I guess I’m Cuban.

“No, in the ‘States you don’t talk in Spanish, you talk in English.”

Why not both?

I am a half Mexican, half Cuban girl that lives in the U.S. This offers some weird confusion, where I feel like I belong with neither Mexicans nor Cubans, nor Americans. It was as if I was half their people, or like them, but with a strange mutation. Flan de chocolate, if you will. Ashamed of my Spanish, I kept it away. Ashamed of my English and the accent that comes out sometimes like a beast I keep at bay. 

It’s as if I am three identities in one, but my brown skin tells of history. I wonder if my people were conquerors or the conquered. I wonder where my family would be if we didn’t migrate. Would I not exist? Am I a Chicana-Cuban? Is that even possible? 

“What does being bisexual even mean?”

Oh it means you like two or more genders, so for me it’s guys and girls…

“You’re just confused”

What’s wrong with both genders?

“You’re just trying to get attention”


“This is just a phase, you’ll get over it”

I’m the only one that can know that…

“Are you secretly gay?”

No, I’m not.

The first time I asked a guy out, someone said “I thought you were gay.” 

It was cold that day, after a soccer game. I was still in my schools soccer uniform, and the smell of fresh paper lingered in the hallway. She stood about seven feet away from me, and looked like she meant it as not a big deal. In denial to have heard those words, I yelled “shut up!” at the top of my lungs. I yelled as loud as I could, as if I could try and drown out the sound of it as it resonated through my memory. Those words felt like a stab through my being. Why am I so mad? I remember thinking. I think I understand now why I was so angry. 

As a Cuban-Mexican I’ve gotten comments about what that means and where I belong all my life. But realizing that I also didn’t fit into a box with my sexuality made me feel even more like a person wandering aimlessly, trying to find “belonging”.

I have been raised in a cis-gendered, heteronormative society. I rejoice when I actually see healthy LGBTQ+ representation, and will even watch an entire show just because it’s there. I was angry because I was in denial; this label would put me even farther apart, it would make me the only one underwater, drowning, while everyone else is afloat, laughing together. It also didn’t quite sound right, as if it hit my ear wrong. Am I gay? Am I straight? Am I aromantic? Do I even like the box of a girl? 

My heart tells me my sexuality, because you can’t choose who you love. Do you think she likes girls too? I don’t think he minds that I’m bisexual. Would they accept me? Oh, please don’t use gay as an insult.

I am sick of people telling me where I belong.

As if I am the puppet, and multiple people are pulling the strings, I’m being pulled in many different directions. I feel as if I am forced to choose one or the other. But in my identity, as well as my sexuality, I wonder: Why not both? 

In movies, people are usually simple, easy to understand, able to predict. Reality is quite different. People are complex, they are not usually one thing. Please, when you see me, don’t assume. If I have an accent, please think of it as a history on myself: where I’ve been, who I’ve talked to, and how I code switch. I am still Mexican and Cuban. If I decide to date a girl, I am not a lesbian, if I date a boy, I am not straight. I am still bisexual, and I am valid. 

I am both.