Reflecting On Latinx Courage

Arts and Media June 2020 PREMIUM
Written by A Longoria Assistant Professor of Secondary Education Woodring College of Education Western Washington University AAHHE Faculty Fellow, 2020

In reflecting on my experiences at the 2020 American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education (AAHHE) conference, I am mindful that testimonios demand courage and conciencia. I am a first-year assistant professor of secondary education. I am also genderqueer, which is an identity under the general parasol of trans and gender nonconforming people within the broader Queer community. Only recently have people like me gained legal protections and increased rights to our own self-determination (Miller, 2015). At my current institution and state of residence, I am privileged to be able to use my preferred name and pronouns, and have employment protections.

You honor my self-determination when you use my name and they/them pronouns – and deny it when not granted. During the AAHHE 2020 opening night dinner, my birth name was very publicly and erroneously projected during the Faculty Fellow introductions. This was a mistake the organization made – to which they profusely apologized for afterward – that underscores privileges and hierarchies at play in our lives. I have worked hard in this academic job to be visible. It took courage to remain in the room. It will take conciencia to preserve my self-determination.

Following this moment, faculty fellows immediately checked in with me. This solidarity was overwhelming. Indeed, so much of my fellowship experience was an in-the-moment facsimile to my regular professional life. I am still humbled by the company of the 2020 fellows, particularly the brilliant graduate fellows.

Yet, the moment was not about my feelings, rather a meditation on courage and conciencia – and the pedagogies enacted in such times. I chose to remain in the room in spite of a misnaming, for I was mindful that the fellowship is a nurturing and supportive space for Latinx faculty. Nevertheless, trans and gender nonconforming Latinx people like me enact a certain pedagogy through our very bodies existing within a space. My experience, I hope, teaches about the barriers people like me face to our self-determination. There is, too, a futurity enacted through this corporeal pedagogy, and I believe change is possible within AAHHE and other organizations because of our presence and visibilities. 

What can we do to go forward together? Might our current use of Latinx be a compulsory performance of conciencia without adequate commitments to embracing and protecting the gender variance within our community? This conciencia is aspirational and, at best, a futurity tethered to a distant temporality. We have in this historical moment an opportunity to improve conditions within our community. Yet change is never swift enough to honor our dignity. A certain patience is necessary, though I admit I grow tired of enacting it. 

We must be better – and with loving willingness to do so. We must continue to trip and fall through this developmental phase of change. I am filled with hope that organizations like AAHHE will continue to gather all brilliant, promising and established Latinx scholars that will pace us toward a future that honors our necessary acts of authentic courage and conciencia. It is in this vision of the future that I, and many more like me, must be at the metaphorical table to continue the community AAHHE programming provides. I hold much hope that testimonios like mine will at once be an artifact of the past and commonplace from Latinx voices like mine.


Miller, s. (2015). A Queer literacy framework promoting (a)gender and (a)sexuality self-determination and justice. The English Journal, 104(5), pp. 37-44.

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