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HOMEGIRLS x HOMEBOYS Developing Female Characters for Gang RP "You claim your barrio. You claim your hood. You claim your boyfriend. You claim something that is yours, that is really valuable to you." (T-Rex, a.k.a. Trinidad, speaking to Norma Mendoza-Denton) * * * CONTENTS 1. Introduction 2. Big Trends for Homegirls 3. State of Research 4. Motivations for Involvement 5. The Male Connection 6. Homegirl Typology 7. Putting in Work 8. Initiation Rituals 9. Prison 10. Machismo x Marianismo 11. Everyday Tension 12. Joining a Gang Faction 13. Sources * * * 1. INTRODUCTION This is a summary of what I've learned from recent research on girls and women involved with the street gangs of California and Texas. I focused on Hispanic Los Angeles and young women in male-dominated gangs. This is mostly about developing female characters, but you can also get ideas for the dynamics between male and female characters in gang RP. This isn't about surface level femininity and masculinity, this is about the deeper connections between characters and what links them to their communities and gangs. I'm also interested in girls and women who maybe aren't full gang members, so when I say "homegirl" we're talking about a few different types. A lot of this info can apply to other gang cultures, but gender roles feel stricter in Hispanic gangs. I hope you can find some ideas here to inspire your RP. Thanks for reading! 2. BIG TRENDS FOR HOMEGIRLS They are linked to their gang through male relatives, male friends, male romantic partners. Their status in the gang is linked to the rank/respect of their male connection. They are from the same neighbourhood as their gang. They don't become leaders in their own right, but they can be influential representatives for shotcallers. Even the "tomboys" are rarely shooting guns, and violent activities will be led by their homeboys. 3. STATE OF RESEARCH Please skip this paragraph if you just want the info! I’ve listed all my sources at the end. This is pre-pandemic research. I've tried to avoid journalists and amateur writers to focus on academic work because California is home to some of the oldest gangs and biggest universities in the world, so there’s a long tradition of high quality gang research that digs real deep and doesn't get enough love. A journalist might get the story after it happens, but many academics immerse themselves through local programs and conduct multiple interviews with active members over many months or years. To me it looks like you need a lot of interviews before people get real. Honestly there isn't much research on female gang members/associates, probably because they don't get arrested as much as their homeboys and are less likely to get involved in gunplay or violence. Sometimes their homeboys don't let them get interviewed (Latino gang members seem more protective/controlling than black or white gang members). Lots of this research was conducted directly in neighbourhoods and schools, not through the correctional system or courts. There is so much propaganda and sensationalist content out there about gangs, but these research techniques treat them like a legitimate cultural and economic phenomenon. The female side is a whole world that seems to be invisible to the authorities, but the authorities are probably too busy with the male side. In California there doesn't seem to be any all-female drug trafficking gangs or prison gangs, so a key element is their dynamic with the men in their lives. 4. MOTIVATIONS FOR INVOLVEMENT What's anyone's motivation for joining a culture? You're born and raised in it. If you're getting involved with these types of street gangs, you grew up in the gang's neighbourhood. Even if you're an immigrant, your family would have moved into the neighbourhood when you were still a child. But female gang members will usually be born to U.S.-born parents (parents from Mexico and Latin America are more likely to keep girls inside and away from gangs). Family, barrio, hood, gang, it can all be the same thing. James Diego Vigil writes "Latino culture is commonly known to value the institution of the family, and gang members, both males and females, carry on this tradition, but in a warped, readapted version of the original." Family expectations are much stricter for girls, so girls from non-gang families are more likely to be kept at home and away from the gang. But if her parents are gang-affiliated, she might be expected to uphold gang traditions. Girls from gang-affiliated families are "labelled before their involvement in the gang has even begun". Everyone just expects them to be involved one day. If they're spending time with relatives who are gang members, this explains how they get "blessed in". These girls were involved before they knew what that meant. Family life is the key factor for gang involvement and "girls tend to come from even more stressed family situations than boys" according to work by Avelardo Valdez and Vigil. This can mean neglectful or abusive family situations. One study found the majority of girls involved in gangs had run away from home, but this wasn't true for the boys. Many girls ran away multiple times. One girl explained: "My homies will always find me a place to stay when shit gets too bad at home." Another says: "We're like one big family" and "They were always there for me." A girl nicknamed Tiny said abuse at home "is a lot of why I was down in the projects everyday just kicking it. I never wanted to go home. So I would just be out on the streets getting shot at, getting budded out, and kicking it with my homeboys." Traditionally masculine (machismo) type motivations like power and money don't seem to be the big factor for girls. Many of them seem to be joining for protection, belonging, community, family. These can be seen as traditionally feminine (marianismo) motivations. Female involvement has increased over the hundred years of Los Angeles gang history. Mexican-American girls used to be raised by parents and grandparents with no gang connections. Now there are more parents and grandparents passing down gang traditions. Open the spoiler below to see why girls get involved in their own words, when talking to researchers. There is a key trend: 5. THE MALE CONNECTION Girls aren't getting involved with a gang full of people they don't even know. All the girls in the Avelardo Valdez study were "integrated into the male gangs through their relationships with the male members" and 43% had boyfriends involved in a gang. They also reported having friends, brothers, cousins, and other relatives involved. I'll summarize 3 types of homegirls based on their male connection. These are like character backgrounds or origin stories, and multiple types can apply to the same character. Relatives: Girls born into gang-affiliated families make up nearly 80% of all female gang members according to Vigil's "The Projects". So getting involved might not even be a choice, but just something that naturally happens over time. It's like getting involved in the family business. If your family members are getting arrested, harrassed by police, or attacked by rival gangs, you might start seeing things like a gang member sees them. The gang and your family are the same thing. If you're helping your family day-to-day, you're already involved. Friends: If you grew up in a gang neighbourhood, you probably grew up with boys who became gang members. These could be your childhood friends. You probably know each other's families. If you keep spending time with them, you could get drawn into their world. The vibe is similar to being a relative. Girlfriends: These are girls in long-term monogamous relationships with male gang members. They often have children together, which is a big reason why they're less involved in street activity than other types of girls. They are respected for their loyalty to their man. They're usually childhood friends of gang members before dating them, so they aren't new to the neighbourhood. For all 3 types, influence and respect is linked to the status and rank of the male connection. Whatever level of gang activity your male connection is involved in, you could be expected to support or help him in some way. If your male connection rises all the way to the top, which probably means he becomes incarcerated and integrated into a prison gang, you could become his secretary or senora, his hand on the streets. It's like an ancient queen ruling the kingdom when her husband is away at war. I'll say a quick word on female cliques. The vibe I'm picking up is that female cliques are rare and mostly just labels that mean "the homegirls", they're not carrying out lots of girls-only activity, they're mostly working with the male gang members. Female gang members will often be in the male clique based on age. The male connection is the big factor for most gang activity. 6. HOMEGIRL TYPOLOGY There are different types of girls and women involved with these street gangs. I've summarized the types described by several researchers. These aren't official names used on the street, there is so much slang that gets used differently in different places. These "types" are just to give you ideas for characters. One character might be several types at once. The Good Girl Type You might not expect these girls to get involved with a gang, but in Hispanic street gangs there are many benefits to being seen as feminine in a more traditional way. These are the "school girls" with "conventional lifestyles" staying out of trouble. Well, that's how it appears on the surface. These are probably the ones most likely to get blessed in, and they might be the most common type overall. These are the girls that male gang members want to date and marry. Being "good" makes them valuable for lowkey work behind the scenes. Being "good" doesn't mean they're nice, it just means they aren't getting their hands dirty like the boys. And "good" doesn't need to mean "well behaved" in the traditional sense. Almost all the girls in the Valdez study had used drugs and about 60% had run away from home at least once. One of the girlfriends in the study said: "I like to hang out with the guys. We just kick back, smoke out, and have fun." While many homeboys expect to be active gang members until they die, it's easier for homegirls to become inactive. This is common if they become mothers, but they can always be pulled back in by their connections, including their own children one day. They are often lowkey, inactive, dormant, in hibernation waiting for the right season to bloom. This type of homegirl will rarely be arrested or attract police attention. If her male connections are incarcerated, she might be visiting them and keeping them connected to the neighbourhood. She might hide guns or drugs for her male connection or even hide him at her place, but she's not carrying a gun around or handling business on the street. She might be helping with drugs behind the scenes, but she's avoiding violence. For GTA RP an example of a good girl type would be a character from a gang neighbourhood that is involved in a lot of legal/civilian RP, but is still regularly RPing with active gang members while trying to avoid the attention of government factions or hostile gang factions. To be useful to the gang, the important thing is that she's seen as a normal girl attending school or working a legal job. Her male connection probably feels protective and wants to keep her out of jail/prison. If he's always known her as "good", especially if there's romantic feelings, he'll probably want her to stay like that. There can be tension if she starts acting like a tomboy. But if a tomboy becomes a good girl (like by becoming a mother) that's less of a problem in the eyes of her homeboys. The line between good girl and tomboy is blurred. This can be a big source of development for characters. I believe RPing this type of character can be very dynamic and suspenseful, because RPing around the edge of the darker elements of the gang makes those elements more intense and mysterious. Good girl types also serve an important role in giving extra meaning to the RP of other gang members. They can represent why the neighbourhood is worth fighting for, and be a reminder of peaceful times. The Tomboy Type Even if a homegirl is involved in traditionally male types of gang activity, she's not the same as a male gang member. There are no female prison gangs in California, so the more tomboyish a tomboy becomes, the more likely she is to get taken out of the game. The balance between feminine and masculine is a difficult line to walk. Most likely a tomboy will be in a supportive role. One advantage a female gang member has is that many people, including cops, won't see her as a threat compared to the male gang members. The relationship to violence is complicated by this. Female gang members might carry guns, but most of the time these guns are meant to be used by the male gang members. One East L.A. example of the tomboy type could be Mayra as described by James Diego Vigil. She grew up in an abusive household. She moved out and made her own money. She became a respected female gang member known for her fighting abilities and got involved in regular gang activity. She always had a gun on her, but it was for her homeboys to use. She would hide guns and drugs in her purse or bra when the authorities were around. On rare occasions she would use the gun herself, but she was able to avoid attention by not having a reputation for violence. Eventually she became inactive because she became pregnant. "That's when I changed," she said. "Now that I have my son I have to think about him, I don't even party anymore." The most extreme example of a tomboy could be Loca, from the same study. One of her homeboys said: "She has a shaved head and everything. She dresses like a guy and has two tattoos of clowns on her neck. She's down. She'll throw it down with guys, she doesn't give a fuck." But by becoming more "like a guy" Loca is more likely to get arrested and won't be an active gang member anymore. Her homeboys will still be active in prison, and meanwhile the more traditionally feminine gang members like Mayra will still be on the street carrying a gun. James Diego Vigil and Mendoza-Denton show that gang affiliated girls will change into a masculine style of clothing if they're expecting fights or violence. But most tomboys probably won't be like Loca with the shaved head, most tomboys will probably be acting more feminine or more masculine according to what they're doing. Maybe they go with a more feminine vibe at home, at church, or partying. Even on the streets a tomboy like Mayra might have a purse to hide a gun or drugs, and if she appears too masculine (like Loca) she could get the wrong attention from cops or rival gangs. The Senora Type Acting more "like a guy" isn't the female path to power. A gang member like Loca is less likely to rise to the top than Mayra, and they're probably both less likely than a good girl type. If you're looking to RP a female gang leader, the senora type, your character might want to stay out of prison. And if you're RPing a male gang leader, your character might want to find a good senora to stand by his side. Testimony from a former Mexican Mafia member (US vs Loza) suggests this is an emerging trend for incarcerated underworld bosses, who rely on their wives and girlfriends to carry out their will on the streets. Senoras can also be sisters, daughters, or other female relatives. They can collect taxes on behalf of imprisoned leadership, direct business, distribute drugs, and order violence. That's just the ultimate example, since most senora types will be supporting lower ranked gang members, but the same ideas apply: every female character probably knows her male connection will be arrested one day and that's when she can hold it down for him on the outside. She can become his link to the streets, she can deliver messages, handle his money, handle his commissary, even smuggle things in for him. This is why a senora type most likely started as a good girl type, because avoiding the most dangerous gang activity will keep her free to act on behalf of her male connection. Even if he's free and out on the streets, she can still handle his business in the shadows. Male gang members with their own senora type should have an advantage over their rivals. One early example of a top senora was allegedly Raisin of Florencia 13, who joined the gang as a 10 year old. Her uncles were gang members and she grew up in the gang's neighbourhood. One older gang member, possibly from her uncles' generation (and so maybe feeling like her uncle) declared himself her protector, and when he was imprisoned he became Florencia's leader. The one charge on Raisin's file suggests she played a part in smuggling drugs for the gang. But like many female gang members, she became inactive after having children, but inactive members can be useful in ways active members can't. She was working as a real estate agent when she was given the "key" to the neighbourhood by her adoptive uncle: the imprisoned Florencia leader. I'd say she started off as the good girl type, which is exactly what made her a good senora. Unlike a parolee, she could avoid attention and suspicion. And unlike the man she replaced, she probably wasn't going to tax the wrong people or go around Florencia hoods raping girls. She was a business woman, she could handle money, she was a respected mother, but she also grew up with homies who could handle the streets while she pretended to be an ordinary real estate agent. If she had been seen as too masculine or like a "hood rat", she wouldn't have been a better choice than a male parolee or other gang member. This is just one story from Los Angeles Magazine, but Raisin's story matches what we see in other examples studied by scholars like David Skarbek. In the violent world of gang politics, an imprisoned shotcaller could feel threatened by the "machismo" of his lieutenant running free in his neighbourhood. In contrast I believe the Florencia shotcaller saw Raisin as an embodiment of "marianismo" and traditional feminine loyalty who would not betray him. The shotcaller knows many male gang members are looking to make money for themselves, but a "good" woman is expected to make money for her family. Raisin is the shotcaller's family, therefore she's a better tax collector than a male gang member. Raisin was a rare example back in the day, but I think this mentality explains why paranoid crime lords are now becoming more likely to trust wives, girlfriends, and female relatives to run operations on the street. There is a possible 4th type: the party girl type. But she's not a homegirl. I'm really not talking about party girls in this guide. They don't have deep connections with male gang members, they're just girls who party with the gang. Some might call them "hoodrats" and consider them to be sexually available. This is probably where a lot of the "sexed in" rumours come from, but these girls are viewed completely differently than the other 3 types. One gang member in Vigil's studies said: "We wouldn't bust a train on a school girl. That would be fucked up." So there can be a code of gang machismo that protects the other 3 types of girl. This guide is really about the homegirls who are protected by that code. Research by Laidler/Hunt shows homegirls use homeboys to "keep aggressive male members in check", and the Raisin story suggests this is a code of chivalry/honour that was taken seriously by major Hispanic gangs like Florencia 13 and the Mexican Mafia. It can also be bad for business if members of the same operation are killing each other. Raping "school girls" and generally disrespecting OGs in Florencia territory might have ended the careers of at least one tax collecting crew. But for female characters I think the super big key element here is the male connection: being close to a male gang member gets you involved and gains you protection. 7. PUTTING IN WORK: LOWKEY vs HIGHKEY Most women and girls involved with gangs are less involved with the crime and violence that captures attention. But the lowkey work is important to gang structure and can explain why some gangs have such deep roots and have survived for a hundred years. According to a study of housing projects in East Los Angeles: "The girlfriends, sisters, mothers, sexual partners, and homegirls of gang members are not merely passive auxiliaries to the males but in fact serve a variety of initiatory and supportive functions." The good girl and senora types would be involved with more lowkey work, and the tomboy types would be more involved with highkey work. The danger of highkey work is attracting attention from law enforcement. Many homeboys think "I'll either be dead or doing life by this time next year" (quoted from a 17 year old), but incarceration means potential prison gang involvement and advancement in the underworld hierarchy. But for homegirls, gang activity and advancement is put on pause when they're incarcerated. Kings can be made in prison, but queens can't. The Valdez study was able to survey gang activity from what I'd call good girls and tomboys. The senora types wouldn't be talking to researchers. Here's the percentage of girls who had helped male gang members with different activities: 55% held drugs 31% sold drugs 27% held weapons 24% shoplifted 19% carjacked 19% sold weapons 14% stole cars 13% broke into houses/buildings 12% robbed 12% engaged in "other" activities Look how many girls were holding drugs and weapons. The study says homegirls were "considered a safe haven for hiding the gang's weapons that were often discarded or destroyed after being used." And male gang members' "personal weapons were also held by these girls since the guys were always at risk for being stopped and searched by the police, especially if they were identified as gang members by the police". These are examples of lowkey work that even the good girl types might be doing. Hiding something is easier when you don't draw attention. Selling drugs could also be lowkey, as the Valdez study says girls were usually selling to "other female close friends and relatives". There is a lot of "work" that doesn't show up on these lists and surveys, mostly because it happens behind closed doors. This could be simply supporting a male partner or relative in daily domestic work, or this could be counting money, preparing drugs for sale, and generally handling behind-the-scenes aspects of money-making schemes. Many types of work might be seen as simply ways to help a friend, relative, or romantic partner. The line between family, gang, and community can be blurred. The most important lowkey work might be visiting incarcerated male gang members in prison and handling their affairs. I say "lowkey" in this case because it isn't obviously illegal in the way a burglary would be. Skarbek's research, which supports Rene Enriquez's 2018 testimony, shows women are increasingly becoming responsible for managing street gangs on behalf of incarcerated shotcallers. These "senora" types are increasingly responsible for managing crews of tax collectors, managing tax funds, ordering assaults or murders, and distributing drugs. They are sometimes referred to as "female shotcallers" but they are still taking direction and receiving their authority from the incarcerated shotcallers, who are often prison gang members. This trend is strong in the Sureno underworld, but it could also be an effective system for other types of gangs. In some cases the senora, who perhaps has too much of a criminal history herself, will have a "secretary" (who you can think of as another lower ranked senora type or good girl type) who conveys information between the senora and her male connection in prison. The important factor for the woman making the visits is that she doesn't have a big criminal record or visible tattoos. These visits can also be a good opportunity to smuggle in drugs, and although one study described this as more of a tomboy thing, the tomboy would probably still want to be more traditionally feminine, more like Mayra than Loca. Smuggling drugs in for a homeboy is similar to holding his gun all the time. 8. INITIATION RITUALS It might not be obvious when you're initiated into a gang as a member, and a female character can play an important role without acting like a male gang member. Gang and neighbourhood identity can get all mixed up together. Norma Mendoza-Denton’s interviews found that some Hispanic youth identified with gangs even if they weren’t “jumped in” or fully initiated members. If they lived in a gang neighbourhood, they would claim the local gang and would fight the enemies of their neighbourhood. The authorities had trouble identifying the real gang members. Mendoza-Denton describes it like being supporters of a sports team. This could describe the relationship some homegirls have with their homeboys before they get more involved. Nearly half the girls interviewed by Avelardo Valdez didn't get involved in "delinquent" activity in their first 2 years associated with a gang, but staying lowkey also creates opportunities to help a gang in other ways. The most powerful women will be lowkey enough to act on behalf of incarcerated gang leaders. Queens and princesses keep their hands clean. Clara Saavedra’s research describes several initiation options which should be familiar to gang RPers. Girls can be jumped in by female gang members or male gang members, or just walked in (blessed in). They can also have a one-on-one fight with a current gang member (fair fighting), commit a physical assault against a rival gang member, or commit any other illegal act to prove they're down. Vigil's research suggests only girls will jump in other girls, but it sounds like most girls (up to 80%) get blessed in because of family. They also might pass a test without even realizing they're being tested. A girl might smuggle drugs for her brother without realizing this is how the homeboys will decide she's down for the gang. It's about that male connection. Getting “sexed in” doesn’t seem to be a thing these days. The most detailed examples of sexual initiation I found were from outside Hispanic California. These seem to be new/unorganized gangs with weaker connections between gang members and the community. This vibe is different from Hispanic gangs that have existed for generations in the same neighbourhoods where everyone knows each other. Any Latina doing work for these gangs is probably either respected as a relative/girlfriend/wife (putting in lowkey work) or respected as a “tomboy” (putting in work like the homeboys). Many of the stories about “promiscuous girls” treated like "sex objects" are probably just unconnected girls who are partying with the gang but have no deeper involvement. When a homeboy talks about “running a train” on a girl, he’s not talking about a girl who is featured in a lot of the newer research. Gang machismo can be about sexual conquest, but it can also be about acting protective. Abusing a girl means disrespecting any homeboy connected to her. When a male gang member abuses the wrong girl, his own homeboys can come together to punish him. Studies talk about these girls having protection from sexual violence. They often join the gang to escape abuse at home. 9. PRISON In 2017, only 5% of California's prison population was female. Male gang members will gain more options for advancement in prison, but the opposite happens for their homegirls. For male inmates, prison gangs can represent the top of their hierarchy, giving them opportunities for deeper involvement in the politics and economics of the criminal underworld. For female inmates, they are cut off from the street life and gang activity. Female prison gangs don't exist in California according to David Skarbek's "Social Order of the Underworld". Here are some quotes from female inmates in his study: "There's more of a formal system with the men; they assume their roles and they know their positions. With women, it's not like that." "We are not like the men, because we learn to live with each other. We communicate. It is not a racial thing in here." Instead of organizing into gangs or cars, female inmates come together in "pairs or small families" that act more like "nuclear family units", where older inmates will mentor younger inmates. These families are much more casual and temporary, there is less violence, and rarely any weapons. Vigil and Diane Rodriguez found "a significant number of women and girls who are involved in gangs" in the prison system with an estimated 80% of one Los Angeles female facility being incarcerated for "gang-related" reasons. Gang identities might have led to their incarceration, but that no longer defines them inside the system. This creates an interesting challenge for any female character cut off from her gang. Maybe it's a relief, maybe it feels like exile, maybe it changes her perspective being separated from it. But the most powerful gang-affiliated women are not female inmates, the most powerful are female visitors to male inmates. Underworld princesses and queens visiting their king. We're talking about the senora types: women with strong personal links to incarcerated shotcallers and prison gang members, who are able to act on their behalf on the streets. So prison is very important for both male and female characters, just in different ways. 10. MACHISMO x MARIANISMO What makes a good woman or a good man? What does your character think? What did your character's parents teach them? Growing up, who did they look up to? Gang culture for male gang members can be described as an extreme or twisted type of masculinity. This probably applies to most gangs and types of organized crime, but Avelardo Valdez argues that "Mexican American culture reinforced by social context magnifies the differences between genders to a greater degree than many other cultures." Machismo (masculine) and marianismo (feminine) are two ways of looking at old school gender roles in Mexican/Hispanic/Chicano culture. Ideal men are physically strong, energetic, protective, aggressive, openly sexual and promiscuous. Ideal women are mentally strong, spiritual, submissive, selfless, sexually chaste and loyal. Men exist in public, women exist at home with the family. For many immigrant families, this meant the boys were allowed outside, where they could be recruited by gangs, but girls were kept inside. A "school girl" goes to school but she might not be allowed to join extracurricular sports or clubs after class, she would have to go straight home to study and help her family. But after multiple generations, when the definition of family changes to include the gang and neighbourhood, "help her family" also means "help her gang". Any girl with marianismo is girlfriend material for a gang member. One L.A. gang member in Vigil's study said: "I want a nice girl who is smart and can talk to me and really understand my feelings. One that can take care of her family and everything. I don't want to be with one of them hood rats." And "take care of her family" might mean having children with a male gang member. Many girls interviewed in these studies see pregnancy as the way to make their love last forever. Some girls get upset if their boyfriend uses a condom, because they see condoms as symbols of "one night" instead of "together forever". The idea of "forever" is also important to these young men who expect to die in their 20s. By having children who are raised by "a nice girl who is smart" they ensure their legacy lives on. Having a child is like getting your name up on a mural. Machismo and marianismo can be restrictive and damaging concepts for both men and women. We can see dark sides and romantic sides to these ideals. The dark side of machismo is dead and incarcerated men, just as the dark side of marianismo is women devoted to harmful men or young mothers raising children alone. The romantic side of machismo can be chivalry and honour, protective men who provide for their families. The romantic side of marianismo can be loyal women nurturing their family spiritually and holding communities together. The Laidler/Hunt study suggests many homegirls dislike "aggressive attempts to make them conform to more traditional notions of feminity, including sexual chastity, staying at home, cooking, and looking after children" but "defying or resisting these expectations can be severe, involving violence." But the same study also found girls often look down on other girls for not acting feminine according to the gang's definition. This tension can fuel RP. 11. EVERYDAY TENSION Homegirls will be coping with lowkey tension and fears every day, but I'm not talking about rival gangs or police. Lowkey tension is easy for us to overlook, but it can be a powerful element in your development and storyline. If you're RPing a female character, think about your background and your inner thoughts and feelings. Think about the side of your RP that won't appear in emotes or dialogue. If you're a girl involved with a gang, you have probably experienced physical or sexual abuse, and there's a good chance your own family did it to you. This trauma can stay with you, this trauma might define all your future relationships, and is probably a factor in why you want to get out of your house and join the gang. To repeat an earlier quote: "My homies will always find me a place to stay when shit gets too bad at home." But your ability to earn this protection depends on how well you fit that marianismo/feminine ideal. As discussed in the "Homegirl Typology" section, you get protection from the gang if you're a good girl, tomboy, or senora type. These are three different types of gang-approved femininity. But if you act too masculine, show disloyalty, or act promiscuous, you won't get protection. And your male connection might try to force you to be "feminine" and fit one of these 3 types, or else his own status will be in jeopardy, and he won't be able to protect you anymore. Homeboys are more likely to be killed by a rival gang, homegirls are more likely to be killed by their homeboys, especially their boyfriends. (60% of Latina homicide victims were killed by romantic partners.) It can be a strange and confusing vibe: you're seeking protection, love, and friendship from the people most likely to hurt you. This can create a strong pressure to obey marianismo. This is how you protect yourself, but this is also how you protect your male connection. You have to be feminine in the correct way, he has to be masculine in the correct way, and this protects both of you in the eyes of the gang. You might even push him to be more masculine. As a woman, you might tell him "act like a man" because you need him to have respect to protect you. If you're tied to this underworld culture, a key element that gets overlooked is: there is no escape from the world of men. Although you might try, like by putting yourself through school, moving away, cutting old ties. (Having a child might help, but Raisin shows how neighbourhood roots can pull you back.) Economically you might need to rely upon men (just as these men might need to rely upon the gang). Certainly if you want love, you have no choice but to love men, even if statistically they are most likely to kill you. (And if your man does kill you, there's a 50% chance it'll be by bullet, 25% by knife.) You can't magically become a lesbian to avoid men, and even if you were a lesbian (a rare situation), you would want to hide that. In all my research, the only examples of lesbians I could find were basically hoodrat types in black gangs who were treated like sex objects. 12. JOINING A GANG FACTION If you're looking to create a new female character and get involved, I recommend you check the gang faction threads and see who is RPing where, get a feel for the neighbourhood, see what their guidelines and expectations are. Some factions will tell you how to contact them OOCly, so that you can discuss character concepts before RPing with them. For street gang factions I think this is super helpful. This can be a solution to the awkward situation of two characters meeting ICly for the first time when they should have grown up together. I would only recommend RPing family with people you've RPed with before, since your characters will share so much backstory. You could also run with a backstory where your character (who is under 18 years old) grew up in the neighbourhood, but was sent to live with a relative somewhere because of problems at home. So when you come back after a few years, your character is moving back in with relatives who've been in the neighbourhood for a long time. That connection is so important. Most of the time I'd recommend starting with a good girl type. Even if your character isn't really like that, or she's looking to escape that vibe, this is how gang members would see her. This gives you story arc potential. This gives you backstory explanations for why the gang hasn't seen you around much: your family has been keeping you inside, you've been going to school, keeping out of trouble. Gang members who grew up in the neighbourhood would realistically remember seeing you around, remember taking a few classes with you before they started skipping, that type of thing. 13. SOURCES Norma Mendoza-Denton (University of California) "Homegirls: Language and Cultural Practice Among Latina Youth Gangs" (Blackwell, 2008) Avelardo Valdez (University of Houston) "Mexican American Girls and Gang Violence: Beyond Risk" (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) James Diego Vigil (University of California) "Female Gang Members from Los Angeles" International Journal of Social Inquiry, Volume 1 Number 1 2008 pp. 47-74 James Diego Vigil, "The Projects: Gang and Non-Gang Families in East Los Angeles", University of Texas Press, 2007 David Skarbek, "Social Order of the Underworld" (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014) Karen Laidler & Geoffrey Hunt, "Situations of Violence in the Lives of Girl Gang Members" in Health Care for Women International, 22:363–384, 2001 Katherine Quinn, Julia Dickson-Gomez, Michelle Broaddus, and Maria Pacella, "Running Trains and Sexing-In: The Functions of Sex Within Adolescent Gangs" in Youth & Society, 2019 Mar; 51(2): 151–169. Eryn Nicole O’Neal, Scott H. Decker, Richard K. Moule Jr., and David C. Pyrooz, "Girls, Gangs, and Getting Out: Gender Differences and Similarities in Leaving the Gang" in Youth Violence and Juvenile Justice, 2014 Joan Moore & John Hagedorn, Female Gangs: A Focus on Research, Juvenile Justice Bulletin, U.S. Department of Justice, March 2001 Alexia Cooper & Erica L. Smith, "Homicide Trends in the United States, 1980-2008", U.S. Department of Justice (November 2011, NCJ 236018) Black, M.C., Basile, K.C., Breiding, M.J., Smith, S.G., Walters, M.L., Merrick, M.T., Chen, J., & Stevens, M.R. (2011). The National Intimate Partner and Sexual Violence Survey (NISVS): 2010 Summary Report. Atlanta, GA: National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Valaree Carrasco, “Female Gang Participation: Causes and Solutions” in Poverty & Prejudice: Gang Intervention and Rehabilitation, June 2, 1999 Clara Saavedra, M.A., "The Initiation Process and Factors Associated with Adolescent Female Gang Membership" (graduate school paper, supervised by John Rodriguez) University of Texas at Arlington, May 2015 Díaz-Cotto, J. (2006). Chicana lives and criminal justice: Voices from el barrio. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press. Miller, J. (2001). One of the guys: Girls, gangs, and gender. New York, NY: Oxford University Press. Young, T., Fitzgibbons, W., & Silverstone, D. (2014). A question of family? Youth and gangs. Youth Justice, 14(2), 171-185 "California's Prison Population" Public Policy Institute of California, July 2019 United States of America vs. Loza et al, September 12, 2018 (No. CR 16-360 (A)-RGK) Sam Quinones, "The Queen of Florencia", Los Angeles Magazine, September 25, 2017 * * * I'm happy to answer questions or summarize things in the comments! Thanks for reading!