Fletcher Reflections – Maria del Carmen Corte
"One is not born, but rather becomes, a woman,"
— Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (1949).
I was born non-binary as the first grandchild of my Mexican family.
Mi mamá had me young, and when I was born, my existence manifested itself as a bridge welcoming us back home to her family.
My grandfather, affectionately known as Don Miguel by his compadres, raised me in a gender-neutral environment since he had no sons or brothers of his own. While mandatory Roman Catholic celebrations were enforced, probably as a result of my grandfather's previous life as a priest, my childhood was (mostly) free of gender constraints. However, the illusion was shattered when a boy at my predominantly girls' Catholic school asked, "Why do you have earrings if you're a boy?"
I became a girl when my cousin was born, he was named after our grandfather.
I became a young woman in elementary school when a boy said, “If you’re a woman, you need to shave!” I became a woman while competing at golf, despite playing strictly among men.
I became a feminist my second year of college, when I read The Second Sex.
Even 10 years after my Tito’s passing, I can still feel the strength of his presence as a man in our family dominated by women. While he may no longer be present, the qualities—both beneficial and detrimental — that he imparted to his daughters, myself included, have enabled us to surmount numerous gender-related challenges, albeit at a considerable cost. The trauma inherited from our culture's deeply ingrained machismo and marianismo. Glorifying the ideals of selflessness, resilience, and family values, yet failing to provide Mexico’s daughters with the freedom to be comfortable in solitude or to stand up against injustices inflicted upon them.
On the anniversary of his death during Women's History Month, more than a decade later, I have emerged as a woman whom I hope he would have respected. A transformation that came only after I confronted and overcame the pain that the women preceding me had to endure for me to be here today.
This is dedicated to my mom, her sister, and my grandmother.
Maria Del Carmen Corte is a second-year Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy candidate at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, where she studies International Security and Humanitarian Affairs and Tech Policy. She has served as a co-leader of the Fletcher in Latin America Group, North Korea Working Group, and Women in International Security, as well as a Senior Editor at the Fletcher Security Review.