Visiting Mexico City as a queer mixed-race couple?
December 31, 2015 8:59 AM   Subscribe

For my 30th birthday, I'm planning a week-long trip to Mexico City with my partner. We both have some concerns about physical/emotional safety, especially for her as a trans WOC. I'm looking for advice and anecdotes from people with experience being brown (as a tourist/non-native) and/or queer in Mexico City.

My partner and I live in New York City. I am a white cis woman. My partner is a brown trans woman. She has not changed her name or gender markers on IDs yet, so her passport will have her birth name and gender for this trip. We are both concerned about safety as a visibly queer couple, and she is particularly concerned that while I will be insulated as a white tourist, her race will make her more of a target. That is to say, I will get a pass for being queer and/or general not fitting in culturally where she will be expected to obey cultural norms because she is brown.

Some background: She just got back from spending several weeks in Manila. (She visiting family; she was born there but had not lived in or visited the Philippines for over 15 years.) In Manila, she felt uncomfortable as an insider/outsider and with the machismo culture. She was excited about going to Mexico City before, but now she is worried about violence—not just physical but emotional. I do not want to go on a vacation where either of us need to be on guard. I do not want to worry about holding hands with or kissing my girlfriend in public. I really really do not want to take her somewhere where she will be constantly uncomfortable and on guard due to race or gender presentation. For example, she will not be comfortable if people are staring at her.

I am specifically looking for experience/advice from people who are not white, especially women, especially queer and trans women, and have visited or live(d) in Mexico City recently. I know how to research the laws and look at tourist guides. I need perspective from someone who understands our concerns with the intersections of race, gender, and sexuality while traveling in general and to Mexico City in particular.

Please note that my partner knows I'm posting this question and has approved my description of her experiences and concerns.
posted by (Over) Thinking to Travel & Transportation around Mexico City, Mexico (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I have not been to Mexico City in a long time, so I can't speak to the current experience specifically, but my family is from Mexico (I'm from the U.S.) and I've spent a lot of time in many parts of it and I can at least address one part of your question from personal experience.

Mexico is super ethnically/culturally mixed. Not everyone there is "brown" and A LOT of people would resent being categorized as such (either because they really aren't or just racism, but that's a whole other can of worms). There is no reason to expect your partner would be expected to adhere more to any cultural norms than you would: there are plenty of white Mexicans. For instance, my father is brown, my mom is white (Irish) and I am white passing in a lot of places since I'm very pale, but there are also many people who are strictly of European descent. I have traveled to some places in Mexico with white friends and until they start speaking no one has assumed any of them (or me for that matter) weren't from Mexico.

I *am* queer and sometimes obviously so in terms of presentation and have never had a problem in that regard. Mexico City is huge, cosmopolitan, full of art and music and subcultures, has I think 3 specifically "gay" neighborhoods (akin to Castro or whatever), and is probably the most liberal place in Mexico. Same sex marriage has been legal in the city since 2010. I don't think you will have a problem, but I hope someone from there/who has been there more recently will answer as well.
posted by primalux at 4:47 PM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

I do not want to worry about holding hands with or kissing my girlfriend in public. I really really do not want to take her somewhere where she will be constantly uncomfortable and on guard due to race or gender presentation. For example, she will not be comfortable if people are staring at her.

This is coming from a male perspective, but I've been completely comfortable traveling in D.F. and other parts of Mexico as part of a gay couple - sometimes white, sometimes mixed. With the younger set I noticed a lot of femme guys and butchy chicks; the older generation tends to present more conservatively. As primalux noted, Mexico is far more diverse and cosmopolitan than a lot of people in the States realize.

However, I've never kissed my partner in public - at least, not outside the super-gay areas of Vallarta. I honestly don't know how public displays of affection would go over.

I would guess there's a massive difference between visiting a place where you're family versus visiting a place as a tourist. Machismo is definitely alive in Mexico, but it's something locals deal with more than visitors.

I'm biased, though. I think Mexico City is awesome, and on par with NYC as a "world city." I hope you go, and I hope you have a fabulous week.

If you don't have a place to stay yet, let me put in a plug for the Red Tree House in Condessa. It's gay owned, though the guests are mixed - and it's one of my favorite affordable bed and breakfasts anywhere in the world. I'm not affiliated with them; I just like the place. And if you're there over the fourth of July, let me buy you all a drink!
posted by kanewai at 9:13 PM on December 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

I don't live in Mexico City but I do live in Mexico. I think both of you will be all right in most places but please do consider that many mexicans (at least from my perspective) are not generally comfortable with public displays of affection, be it from straight or queer couples. On the other hand, mexicans are also not readily violent, physically or emotionally, with strangers in public. I've never heard people shout nasty things at others here.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 8:59 AM on January 1, 2016 [1 favorite]

By public displays of affection I mean things like kisses or long hugs, things that make most people look away...
posted by CrazyLemonade at 9:00 AM on January 1, 2016

Thank you all for the answers so far and for the note on PDA!
posted by (Over) Thinking at 11:09 AM on January 1, 2016

I just got back from Mexico City yesterday and can report that I saw many gay and lesbian couples kissing and embracing in public (this was in the Zocalo area) and was pleasantly surprised that no one was staring or scandalized. It felt like a pretty progressive place overall.
posted by *s at 3:20 PM on January 2, 2016

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