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.

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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15th annual memorial and vigil held for Transgender Day of Remembrance in Boston

This was first posted at The Suffolk Journal.

An event that began in Massachusetts and has now spread internationally, the Transgender Day of Remembrance was founded with the purpose to honor all those who were murdered or took their own lives due to prejudice and discrimination towards their choice of lifestyle.

The incident that sparked this tradition was the murder of transgender woman Rita Hester, a citizen of Allston/Brighton who was stabbed to death in her home Nov. 28, 1998. The transgender community in Boston was then angered when media coverage from The Boston Globe and even Boston’s then-LGBT paper Bay Windows refused to refer to Hester as a woman, instead reporting her as a “gay man” and using masculine pronouns which she did not identify with.

Bishop Shaw welcomed all guests to the Cathedral of St. Paul on Sunday Nov. 17.

“It is an honor for me to have all of you here. I am about to retire after working for this chapter for 20 years, and I have to say that having you in the cathedral is a huge blessing for my spiritual life. So welcome, and please use this church tonight in any way that is best for you.”

The first speaker of the night was Janice Josephine Carney, a transgender woman who is a veteran of Vietnam. Carney shared how being in the military forced her to ignore her sexuality and her desire to be feminine, instead taking part in activities that she deemed would make her more manly to the eyes of those who surrounded her, such as heavy drinking.

“They beat the girl out of my boy, or so they tried,” Carney said. “Be a man, stand up for yourself, go punch him back. I then joined the Marines. Butch it up, suck it up and try harder. That’s what I did for 12 years. I took being a man to another level.”

Fari Sattar, a 20-year-old transman from India, then shared his story of growing up in New Delhi and how his move to the U.S. helped him express himself as a male.

“As a little girl, I was always on the boys team for tag, played soccer with the guys, and even ignored all the other girls because they had ‘cooties.’ Basically to the outside world, I was just a tomboy.”

Sattar said that at 14 years old he watched the movie “Boys Don’t Cry,” even after his mother had told him he was “too young” to watch it. It was the first time that he was able to connect his internal feelings to something in the popular culture.

“It was never the sad ending that suck with me. It was the fact that his movie had a character that felt the same exact way that I did. They knew that they were a boy; that the body that they wore wasn’t the right one.”

Upon arriving to Boston, Sattar connected with Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Youth (BAGLY) where he found the support and inspiration from other youth like him.

“There were people, youth, who identified as transgender were using their preferred pronouns, and that was okay. When stating my preferred pronoun, I remember saying male, but then quickly saying that female was fine as well. However, many caught along to my fears, and they referred to me as male.”

Following the two speakers, the community was invited to say a few words or a short story with all the guests. As people rose to the microphone, they shared with the audience personal memories of friends and family who had committed suicide due to hate towards their gender identity that they could not tolerate as well as words of encouragement to those facing similar circumstances. Over 20 people lined up to speak.

The ceremony ended with a letter from a transgender woman from Nevada who is currently incarcerated.

“We, especially us transgenders, must fight,” the letter read. “We must use our pain, our fears, our sadness to end the silence and turn that to our enemies. We must never give our precious tears to those who hate us or misunderstand us. Use all that you have and fight.”

HBGC holds conference to empower LGBTQ youth of color

This was first posted at The Suffolk Journal.

The spotlight was shining on Boston’s LGBTQ youth of color community this weekend during a free conference that featured over 20 workshops filled with personal stories and tips for success.

The Hispanic Black Gay Coalition hosted the event at Harvard University Saturday, where over 150 registrants gathered to participate in the workshops facilitated by young professionals.

Workshops covered topics such as “health and wellness, identity/intersectionality, arts, life skills, and movement building”, as described in the HBGC website.

Pierre Berastain, a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School and Communications/Marketing Coordinator for the National Latino/a Network, facilitated a morning workshop that focused on public speaking and techniques for interviewing before a camera.

“Your presentation begins as soon as you leave your chair,” Berastain explained. “Imagine you are flirting with the entire audience. You want to take them all home with you.”

Berastain used interviews from public figures broadcasted on national networks, such as Bill Clinton on Fox News, to break down practices to use when being faced with difficult questions, a useful tool for LGBTQ youth. He emphasized to replace angry outbursts with bigger smiles, and to master the ability to shift questions to avoid answering on sensitive topics.

Another workshop was held by Mark Travis Rivera, the director of a dance company for disabled and non-disabled dancers, who also serves as the Chairman for an organization that provides support for gay/bisexual men of color in New Jersey. Rivera shared his story of struggling through the physical disabilities of being born premature along with the weight of being a man of color. Although he used braces to help him walk as a child, Rivera pushed through that limit and is now a professional dancer.

Rivera expressed that many often confuse a desire to be “under the spotlight” implies selfishness or an egocentric attitude, but that for the LGBTQ youth, the meaning is different. To hold the spotlight is to not be afraid of what that brightness will reveal to everyone watching you, to have fully embraced yourself and what you are regardless of where you come from.

“Your zip code does not determine your life code,” he said.

Regarding health and wellness, an afternoon workshop called “The Birds and the Bees: Uncensored” was held. And, they were not playing around when they said “uncensored.” Representatives from Boston ABCD hosted the conversation, where they demonstrated the many, many, many tools available to practice safer sex, as well as how to properly use them. They also answered any questions audience members had.

“Our goal is to move sex into a positive light to get it to become more normal. Sex can be fun, but it can also be dangerous,” said Lola Akintobi, when introducing the presentation. Free contraceptives were offered at the end of the workshop.

The conference was brought to an end after special guest speaker Mia McKenzie shared poems as well as personal experiences to bring encouragement to the audience facing similar problems. McKenzie, an author and speaker, described herself as “a smart, scrappy Philadelphian… a black feminist and a freaking queer, facts that are often reflected in her writings, which have won her some awards.”  Her speech was as entertaining and amusing as that personal description.

The conference was sponsored by BAGLY, the Boston Alliance of Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender Youth, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG.) For more information regarding HBGC or upcoming events, follow the trend #2013YEC or visit http://www.HBGC-Boston.org.