Posts by Dani Marrero Hi

Writer, organizer along Texas-Mexico border

To be a member of the lower class of love


I am a poor lover.

There are many luxuries I cannot afford and many that have been kept from me. As much as I try to cut myself open, I can only do it behind closed doors, where the only eyes that can feel and judge me are hers.

I am poor not by definition of wealth or the names of the restaurants I can take my lover to, but by the actions that I am too scared to do and the ones that she cannot.

When I walk with her through the streets that I know and have walked on alone during many mornings to start my days, suddenly, while having her next to me, I feel those same streets branding me, rejecting me. The same streets that I know every inch of, every missing cobblestone, and every crack suddenly squint their eyes and look at the human holding my hand. The streets seem not to be familiar with the diversity of love. The streets do not share my struggle. Our struggle.

The way our hands meet and hold each other changes every second, as if there is a living heart between our palms beating to the rhythm of the stares of people who don’t even know our names. A lingering stare makes me grip more loosely; unacknowledgment makes us hold each other tighter. A group of men ahead of us might make her let go of my hand until we pass them, but an empty corner will make her lock our fingers together tightly. The act of holding hands is so expensive, I swear I am exhausted by the time it ends.

I am the poorest of lovers when I introduce her to others, and she gives me her spare change when she can. To be a poor lover means you must be the best of actors, to be able to adapt identities spontaneously and never complain about it. To her acquaintances, you are a friend. To her family, you are her best friend. To her actual best friend, you are her lover. To her other friends, you are an old friend. Every now and then, on a special occasion, you might be afforded the luxury of being a girlfriend.

I am poor because there exists a classism on love, and there is little room for mobility in it. There are the wealthy ones with the right hair, skin, eyes, and genders, and there is everyone else. I work harder and more diligently to feel my love, and yet I still cannot afford simple pleasures and must endure this extreme poverty. I fear sometimes that my lover will leave me for someone richer than me. I wonder what it’s like to be able to spend love publicly without being on a budget.

Lover, I am poor, but I give you all I have and take only what you give me. Lover, we are poor, but at least we’ve got each other.

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My unfinished October 11 tale


“Traditional marriage is an institution whose integrity and vitality are critical to the health of any society. We should remain faithful to our moral heritage and never hesitate to defend it.”
– Sen. Ted Cruz (whose newsletters I’m mysteriously subscribed to)

This will not be the best thing I have written.

I have been debating all month on whether to post something on the celebration that is happening tomorrow. I mean, everyone knows already, right? There are no more secrets to tell. It has been three years. I am out and about, living freely, sliding down rainbows and landing on pots of gold.

Except I’m not.

I am currently sitting at a coffee shop in Manhattan. I arrived just about an hour ago from Boston to attend an event. I am meeting up with “my NYU friend,” as I poorly describe her to everyone, later tonight for some hookah. She is queer. Sometimes I think that’s the only reason we are friends.

We understand each other. She gets it. Sometimes, I do, too.

There is a 16 oz. coffee to my right hand, my iPhone 4S is charging from my laptop, and I can’t stop glancing over at my left wrist. I made a decision this morning. I have made the same decision about five times in the last 10 months, and it’s to wear this stupid rainbow bracelet my friend bought me at H&M.

It’s actually not stupid; I’ve taken care of it and made sure I don’t misplace it since I got it. It’s just the right word to use to describe this situation and how big of a deal it is for me to wear it publicly.

I mean, everyone knows already, right? There are no more secrets to tell. It has been three years.

I am in one of the most liberal cities of the world. I should be safe here. I should feel okay wearing it. People around here are used to this kind of stuff. They accept it, or at least tolerate it. It’s okay here, dammit. I’m okay here.

Except I’m not.

Tomorrow is National Coming Out Day. My best friend and I came out on October 11, 2011 during a regular day in high school. We wore shirts that announced this for us. His said, “My best friend is lesbian and I still love her,” in pink. Mine was the same, except it said “gay,” “him,” and it was in blue.

We didn’t know it was National Coming Out Day. This is still the biggest fucking coincidence of my life.

It was awesome. It was terrifying. It was thrilling. I should have hid the shirt after the day was over. My mom found it in my closet (oh, the irony!) weeks later. It led to an argument in which I came out to her.

“Pues si. Soy gay. Y que?” 

Talk about a tactless, teenage asshole. But it happened. And that’s what’s important.

Y que? Y que? So what? So I was defying years worth of her expectations of me. I was going against decades of what my extended family had worked so hard to call morals and values and the path to “move up” in society. I would be the one to marry a gringo and have beautiful blue-eyed children and a dog or two.

This is my shitty problem. Most of my family still pictures my future like this. To be clear, everyone minus my mother and sister believe this. No, my dad does not know. Or my grandmothers. Or my aunts. Or my cousins. Or X, Y, and Z relative. No one. My great grandmother, whom I loved and miss so dearly, died without knowing. Would she have cared? Would she have been worried? I wish I knew what happened after death. Maybe then I’d know how to connect with her again. It’s a lot easier to come out to someone’s spirit than someone’s face.

Estoy tan orgulloso de ti. Eres una hija ejemplar. Sigue adelante. Persigue tus suenos.” 

To this, I always smile sweetly and say something that reassures the person complementing me that I will do as they say. I will do as they say. But I won’t do as they say. I am already disobeying them before they even tell me this. Why does disobedience taste to good? Why does she look so good? My disobedience wears lipstick and high heels. She’s the only thing that makes me feel something, that’s ever made me feel something.

It’s in my chest. It’s in my throat. It’s gripping my stomach and leaves me speechless. Speechless, but not thoughtless. Which one do I try to transform into words? How do I let them know?

Not everyone knows. There are so many more secrets to tell. It has been three years. Three beautiful, unplanned years.

Three years means 1,095 days. Twenty-six thousand hours. One million five hundred thousand minutes. About 15 percent of my life. Next year, at the 4th year anniversary, this will take up 19 percent of my life. At some point, it will be more than 50 percent. At some point, I will have spent more time living as an openly gay woman than not. At some point. But today it only takes up 15 percent and I am still scared.

Scared, but not paralyzed.

One thousand and ninety-five days ago, I had never even touched a woman. Two thousand and one hundred and ninety days ago, I swore I wanted to marry the young boy at church. A lot has changed.

I think about fourteen year old Dani, fresh into high school, dating boys. Liking boys. One of them even cordially invited me into his backseat after we saw some movie about Nelson Mandela.

We don’t have to go all the way…” 

I pretended my mom had arrived to pick me up. He left. That’s not the only backseat story I have.

Twelve years old and in middle school. Someone came out today as bisexual. It was the rumor for months. It was later “confirmed.” I looked up what bisexual meant.

Shit.

Eight year old Dani. Third grade. Crushing on some cute classmate. I don’t remember her name. (I’m lying. I know her name, but I shouldn’t mention it.) Wanting to dress like a boy and play with boys’ toys and do boyish things. I really wanted you to call me Dani, not Daniella.

But now there’s twenty year old Dani sitting in New York City. There is a 16 oz. coffee to her right hand, her iPhone 4S is charging from her laptop, and she can’t stop glancing over at her left wrist. She made a decision this morning.

Tomorrow is National Coming Out Day. It has been three years. It feels like everyone knows, except that they don’t. I live comfortably in the belief that there are no more secrets to share, except that there are. Will this be my coming out post to the rest of the family? I don’t know. Will this be the year? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I’m tired of coming out to people. But it took so long  to have the privilege of being tired about it.

“Pues si. Soy gay. Y que?” 

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Emma Watson has good intentions, but wasted an opportunity

It was an imperfect speech.

When Emma Watson spoke at the U.N. headquarters a couple of weeks ago in New York City, she announced the launch of HeForShe Campaign, an initiative that “formally” invited men to work for equality of the sexes. It fell short of being revolutionary, game-changing, or, for me, enlightening, and the Internet has then taken the opportunity to disqualify Watson as the “right” person to have been assigned this role by the U.N. But should this discredit Watson from publicly declaring herself a feminist? I don’t think so.

A white, cisgendered, upper-middle class, celebrity is going to speak to the world about oppression? What does she know about struggle? These are among the set of thoughts that are circulating in critique of Watson.

There is no denying her privileged experience. This is well reflected in her failure to acknowledge intersectionalities of feminism during her presentation to some of the most elite leaders of the world. Ms. Watson also recognized her position of privilege during her speech, questioning whether she really qualified to take on such a role. She is well aware of where she stands, and although this does not excuse the weak points of her speech, she did not attempt to present herself as someone who has been the most severely affected by gender inequality. To criticize her on this basis is, therefore, unfair because it is something that she made clear.

Emma Watson during the speech at the U.N. headquarters at NYC

But what about the things she didn’t say? Here is the problem.

Let’s start with the name of the campaign. There’s a he; there’s a she. It grasps solely onto the idea of the binary genders, excluding many folks from the LGBTQ community. This is problematic since she not only said this initiative will invite “both halves” of the world to work together, but also because it now leaves another social issue, the LGBTQ rights movement, in an uncomfortable place to merge with the one at hand, feminism. HeForShe is not as inclusive as it was marketed by Watson, unfortunately.

She also mentions how this campaign will invite men into the feminist movement,  implying that, historically, men have been excluded and not welcome to be a part of it. Now, the general (very, very general) idea of this is good. It asserts that social issues should not only be the headaches of those directly affected. This is similar to how immigrant rights groups argue that immigration reform is not just a Latino problem, abortion is not just a women problem, and low wages are not only a fast-food worker battle.

However, these arguments are not on the basis that the invitation has not been extended to the unaffected groups like Watson is presenting for HeForShe. Activists push for the non-affected groups to join the battle because, typically, they will remain apathetic and unmoved by the topic, not because there is an unwelcoming atmosphere to join the movement. The victim does not have a responsibility or obligation to gently let the aggressor know they are wrong or be mindful of the aggressor’s feelings. Regrettably, Watson’s language expresses too much undeserved sensitivity to what our poor, poor men must feel like being left out of the feminist movement. Don’t ask for permission, Watson. Demand change.

While I am a fan of Watson, and a dedicated enough fan that I deemed this disclaimer necessary, this is one opportunity that was not taken advantage of appropriately. There was no clear call to action and how the “he” part of this will stop oppressing the “she,” and it was not aggressive enough to intimidate the enemy. However, it would be wrong rule Watson as a disqualified player based on this one weak use of rhetoric.

HeForShe has all the good intentions. Now, all it needs to some good readjustments and attitude.

This article was first posted  on The Suffolk Journal.

Urban Outfitters: vintage, vinyl, and vanity

Sexy. Hip. Vintage. Unique. A shining retail store upon a hill. At the cost of attempting to turn young hipsters into acculturated, enlightened individuals across the western world, Urban Outfitters has faced numerous lawsuits and short-lived media scandals due to their fearless (read: tasteless) ways of alluding to painful moments in human history via hoodies and crop tops. As stated on their company profile, they aim for their designs to “resonate with the target audience,” and hell yes they do.

Let’s start in 2012 when UO was selling a yellow $100 T-shirt with a design that closely resembled the Star of David located on the left side of the chest area. The design made headlines as the Anti-Defamation League condemned the design as “extremely distasteful and offensive” in an email sent to the retail company, according to ABC News, as it had the look of what Jews were forced to wear under the Nazi Regime. The store apologized for how the item was “perceived,” which to me smells something like, “Sorry if the mass murder of millions of people still offends you.”

The T-shirt came out just months after UO launched a “Navajo” line of items, including a “Navajo Hipster Panty,” as reported by ABC. The Navajo Nation sued the company and asked them to stop using their trademark to create mock jewelry and clothing that poorly resembled their tribe. The items were not taken down, so consumers were able to purchase small dreamcatchers, amongst other items, made with the mundane hands of UO designers.

This year alone, the store has released several products that “resonate with the target audience” a little too loudly, starting with a crop top that had the word “depression” printed on the front side of it in different sizes, as reported on Buzzfeed.

Twitter users were quick to react to this, making comparisons to a former design by UO of a v-neck with the words “eat less” printed on it. It is as if the fashion industry needed a reminder of the unnatural motto one must abide by to aspire to be a model for most retail companies.

But I suppose if you have ever dreamed of looking hip while simultaneously representing a few major illnesses that plague our generation, UO gives you the opportunity to do so.

Their latest great idea was a pink sweater with the logo of Kent State University in Ohio. It was marketed as vintage, a one of a kind (allegedly, there was literally only one of these available), so the deal  was a  “get it or regret it” sensation.

vintage-kent-state

Much to the dismay of the designer that must have spent days and pounds of creativity on how the meaningless red splatters of paint would give it the perfect vintage look, the splatters ended up looking like blood stains, taking people back to the disastrous 1970 massacre that happened at the university.

Kent State released a statement on the sweater, judging it “beyond poor taste” that “trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community,” according to The Washington Post. UO, once again, “sincerely” apologized that this item was “perceived negatively,” as if there is any other way to perceive a $120 awful-looking sweater that alludes to our National Guard’s pitiful excuse that their lives were in danger in the presence of an unarmed student protest.

Forgive us, Urban Outfitters, we will do our best to amend our perceptions and interpretation skills.

To be a supporter of UO and rock their faded jeans and v-necks while listening to Bob Dylan means to have truly accepted their X number of apologies (it’s hard to keep an accurate number).

To continue shopping from them and remaining silent about insensitivity is to stand by their statements that their clearly offensive material is open for interpretation, setting the idea that our society’s ideals should cater to publicity stunts masked as some designer’s sudden bursts of creativity.

I was pleased when UO announced to USA TODAY that they will be destroying the sweater. Hopefully, they will soon do the same to their shameless business model, too.

This article was first published by The Suffolk Journal.

[Gallery] Vigil and commemoration: Not one more refugee death – McAllen, Texas

The Human Rights Coalition of South Texas organized a vigil to commemorate refugees and immigrants who have lost their lives on their journey to the United States. The event took place across the street of the U.S. Homeland Security and Border Patrol station in McAllen, Texas on the morning of Saturday, July 19, 2014.

Organizations from around the state gathered for an interfaith ceremony to welcome the refugees and children fleeing violence in their home countries into the U.S. An estimated 500 people participated in support of this event.

—– La Coalición de Derechos Humanos del Sur de Tejas organizo una vigilia para conmemorar a los refugiados e inmigrantes que han muerto durante su jornada a los Estados Unidos. El evento fue ubicado al frente de el Centro del U.S. Homeland Security y Border Patrol en McAllen, Texas en la mañana del sábado, julio 19, 2014.

Organizaciones de todo el estado se reunieron para una ceremonia interreligiosa para dar bienvenida a los refugiados y niños huyendo de países violentos y hacia los Estados Unidos. Aproximadamente 500 personas participaron a favor de este evento.

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Unaccompanied Minors: Humanitarian Crisis – Three-Day Action

The Minority Affairs Council and United We Dream held a three-day action to bring attention to the humanitarian crisis on the southern border due to the influx of Central American immigrants, many of them who are women and unaccompanied minors. The action began with a press conference with speakers from all over the nation who came to express their support.

The event was held from July 10 through July 12 across the street from Sacred Heart Church, the church that has transformed an area of their facilities to an aid station for these immigrants, in McAllen, Texas.  

Jose Antonio Vargas, Founder of Define American and Writer/Director of “Documented”

Jose Antonio Vargas, Founder of Define American and Writer/Director of “Documented”

Austin L. Thompson, Millenial Project Coordinator for SEIU

Austin L. Thompson, Millenial Project Coordinator for SEIU

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Cristina Jimenez, Managing Director of United We Dream

Cristina Jimenez, Managing Director of United We Dream. Behind her, Sacred Heart Church, the one who has transformed an area of their facilities to a center that is aiding immigrants, is shown.