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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Man-made borders and bullets that slip through: A reflection from a Mexican-American student

This article was first published by The Suffolk Journal.

Photo by David Alvarado

Photo by David Alvarado

Borders are made to divide things and to control things. There are also natural boundaries, such as mountains and oceans, that centuries ago kept our ancestors in different regions separated from each other until we invented ways to climb, float, and fly beyond our mere human abilities. But the division of property became an essential part of our civilization as we know it, and our rivers and nature could not satisfy the heavy need to have clear separation between my property and yours, your people and mine. At the U.S. and Mexico border, lines have been shifted, leaving people from one side forced onto the other for centuries by claims of territory supported by military victories. This creates deep divisions between two governments, two peoples and two histories.

The Department of Homeland Security struggles to enforce the 1,954 mile Mexican-American border. While only a river that even the most inexperienced swimmer can cross without much struggle separates the two countries, it has always stunned me how much of a difference a limited steel fence can make when determining the lives of the people who live on either side. Perhaps man-made borders are some of the most powerful things in our world, as they have the ability to end the practice of constitutions and power of governments. But not everything can be kept from seeping through its cracks and from creating unbreakable ties between the two sides.

According to the New York Times, a total of 47,515 people have been “killed in drug related violence” in a span of six years. Imagine experiencing September 11 yearly. How about two brothers bombing innocent civilians at events and gatherings every day? I am not one to say that because there are more tragedies happening in one place that we should undermine the lesser ones, but I have a conflict with the unequal and unbalanced share of international, media, and philanthropic attention between the two. Is it because one country will fall from its position of power and prestige while the other one will simply join its Latin American neighbors in the violence? Is it to keep the status-quo?Having grown up in Mission, a city in South Texas, the border never seemed like a big deal or something to be feared. My family would cross it weekly to visit relatives, shop or dine in Mexico. Those trips came to an abrupt end around 2010 when the violence in our neighboring country grew too chaotic for our comfort, and the chaos has seemed to increase at an unbelievable rate ever since. The same cities that were casual vacation spots became as dangerous as war zones. Suddenly the Mexican-American border no longer divided two governments,  rather one country that is dubbed “the land of opportunity” and another that is home to the Sinaloa Cartel, one of most powerful drug and crime syndicates in the world. Life and death, if you will.

According to a 2013 Business Insider article, 19 of the top 20 most dangerous cities of the world are in Latin America (17th place was New Orleans), and six are in Mexico, with Acapulco ranked second place. Two of the Mexican cities featured in the article, Nuevo Laredo and  Juarez, lie directly on the border. In 2010,  The New York Times reported that civilian deaths from violence in Venezuela were almost four times as high as those in Iraq, and Mexican cities ranked above Venezuelan ones as reported by the Business insider. And yet, the U.S. government’s efforts are often centered in regions that are half a world away, as almost our entire hemisphere suffers from the greatest violence.

One of the biggest hubs of violence against women in Mexico are for those who work in maquiladoras, or factories, that are commonly placed along the border for easier trade. As Ed Vulliamy, author of Amexica: War Along the Borderline, describes, many of these women leave their homes before the sun rises and return at night, leaving them in vulnerable situations to be kidnapped, raped, and to never deserve a solved investigation from the Mexican authorities.

Although in the U.S. women do not live free of these fears, it is insane to think how much safer one can feel living on “this side” of that border. I have been to houses that are less than two miles away from the Rio Grande, a short five-minute drive, a walk that is comparable to my walk between the residence hall at Suffolk and my classes throughout the day. There are women, many my age, who live in fear for their lives just that small distance from my hometown, who walk to work to earn inhumanely low wages making electronics, clothing, and other luxuries for the U.S. These women, and some men, of course, are making these material things that are such an essential part of that “American Dream” but, to many, a Mexican Nightmare. My luxuries and comforts are someone else’s involuntary sacrifices, someone else’s hell, and only a man defined border separates us. My people, forgive me.

This leads me to call for certain things.

I call for a reevaluation of the things the U.S. government promotes domestically, such as with issues of gun control and legalization of certain drugs, but condemns in foreign territories. When, as a country, you are the biggest source of customers for the long-fought drug war, a hypocritical approach is meaningless and a crime against the rights of our Mexican people.

I advocate for the awareness that a tragedy in one place perpetuates violence in all others, and if measured by proximity, the U.S. is in great danger.

Lastly, I call for a collective consciousness that we cannot close ourselves to the pain that other beings are experiencing for the sake of an imperfect sensation of peace in our own homes. We can persuade and fool our living citizens, but not those who have been killed by this violence. Call this out of our league, but I am a firm believer that before we can experience a social change, an internal revolution in the minds and souls of our citizens must take place.

As Americans, we should value our lives, our material things, and the laws and liberties that allow us to keep them, and remember that borders can separate our constitutions, but they will never separate our consciousness.

The invisible lesbian and why she matters

As the fight for nationwide recognition of same sex couples remains the face of the LGBTQ people in the US, smaller, but not less significant, issues that impact a minority of that group have been elbowed to dimly lit corners where the media does not roam in. In the list of these shadowed issues, there is one that applies to the scrutinized, at times admired, but mostly underrepresented “femme lesbians.” A term that could be classified as jargon within the LGBTQ people, it defines a group of females, who date other females, but do not characterize with the so-commonly preconceived butch, masculine-like lesbian. For these ladies, it is exactly that lack of stereotype or commonly accepted personality that creates an extra challenge. While the battle to end discrimination to homosexuals is at its most intense point in history, the warriors that are on the field fighting for this, along with misconstrued and uneducated viewpoints of general society, are the same ones who have created a difficult environment for femme lesbians to exist within the LGBTQ community.

So what are the problems that femmes face? In a creative article by blogger Kate Bailey titled “10 Everyday Issues Only Femme Lesbians Will Understand,” she presents a list of common scenarios and questions that femmes encounter with friends, family, and other people that they associate with. For example, number two of the list states one of the problems is “having everybody just assume they know what your sexuality is because of what you look like. So you essentially have to come out every other day to every other person you meet. As if the process of coming out isn’t painful enough, let’s have to live through it again and again and again.” Through this, Bailey points out the main thing that gives these ladies their “femme” description and where their challenge stems from, and it is from society’s tendency to play guessing games on our biography based on ones physical appearance. I mean, obviously if you don’t look like a lesbian, then you are not one. And as humorous as it may sound, that is actually a common notion and it is not easy to help a believer see that a physical appearance does not exclusively belong to a specific sexual orientation. With this in mind, and ones crystal earrings and full set of make up tied with the possibility of having a girlfriend, eyes will squint and lips will press together in doubt towards your self-proclaimed sexuality.

Lastly, Bailey shares the most disturbing- and annoying- burden for femmes: when heterosexual men think that it is okay to mock or make rude and obscene comments upon becoming aware of the lady’s preference. “Your sexuality becomes entertainment. In response to finding out that you’re gay, men will say things along the lines of ‘that’s so hot’,” Bailey writes. “I’m just so off-put by those comments. This is my life, not some fantasy I’m acting out for your pleasure.” It is as if somehow all chivalry or respect towards you suddenly ceases to be important or necessary and digging into your activities in the bedroom become a point of discussion. No, men of the world, she does not need to explain to you how her and Juliet get intimate, and she definitely does not want you to ever “join them for some fun”.

Gay rights activist and researcher Megan Evans writes in her article “Femme Invisibility” of the obstacle being a feminine lesbian poses when looking for a romantic partner. “We suffer from femme invisibility. We mainly slip under the radars of both straight and gay people,” Evans argues.She then shares her college memories of rarely being approached by other women, even at gay clubs, because she did not fit the hinting and comforting description of being gay. Likewise, she admits that the same phenomenon applied when she considered going up to a female she fancied. Amplifying the struggle and in concordance with Bailey’s point of others questioning, Evan writes that part of the problem is brought on by other lesbians who view femmes as if they somehow belong less to the group. This, she continues, may be due to the low numbers of examples in pop culture of the existence of such females, and the ones that do exist, such as the movie The Kids Are All Right, only add to the troubling ideas. “This is rather disheartening… it perpetuates the idea that lesbians can be ‘turned’ while gay men cannot… just because we are femme does not mean that we will one day be swayed by men.”

But why is defending femme lesbians important, and isn’t the overall LGBTQ struggle more important to focus on than the numbered complications of a few? To answer this, author Sasha Lotrian dedicated an article named “Why Visibility Matters” to uphold that the push for these ladies to receive unchallenged recognition as lesbians is both valid and natural, and even proposes that attacking specific issues within the community rather than those at large may be more efficient. Lotrian writes that a solution to the partial exclusion of these ladies from the homosexual community lies on the community members themselves letting go of their own prejudices against them, as it pushes away firm supporters of the fight for equality and damages the overall movement. She also says that giving attention to this and providing a modest spotlight on these females, giving “visibility” to them, creates a more diverse and therefore stronger army, as the uniqueness of femme lesbians can be used as dynamite to shatter the walls of prejudices and preconceived views of who can be a gay or lesbian American. In her own words, Lotrian says, “I believe that the more faces we put on the ‘gay community,’ the better it is for us… Only good can come from putting an even more diverse face on the LGBT community.”

The “gay rights” movement, as the popular culture has dubbed it, is not a perfect one and continues to evolve, its evolution accelerating in the 21st century. Because of its intricate and infinite variables and factors that define it, along with the mind boggling questions and new thoughts over gender identity and sexuality, it has constantly had to reevaluate its standing on the wide variety of concepts that it carries. I like to compare the entire movement and how it has matured and adapted to that of a young celebrity who had to mature, make mistakes, and take decisions in the bright light with all of the world’s eyes and ridiculous media expectations pressed against them. Presently, I witness that that the LGBTQ “community” has taken an approach of extreme and over expression of standing for a diverse set of sexual orientations. This can be observed by the flamboyant and at times quite unconventional parades, celebrations, and campaigns that are launched to support gay rights. Even the symbolic rainbow logo has been used to extravagant measures and been shoved into society’s face. From this, the present standing and approach the movement has, I believe that the problem of “femme invisibility” has risen. Because femme lesbians can seemingly “pass” as a heterosexual woman, therefore not having to face public judgmental stares that perhaps a butch female or feminine male may encounter, they are seen as apart from the immense struggle to receive equality for same-sex couples since they “suffer less.” Also, since femmes tend to deviate from that mentality of wearing a rainbow on your sleeve to display your sexuality, their daily “passive role” is looked down upon as well, straying from the popular activist actions that have been worked so hard for in the eyes of the community. Who knew, that in a group of people fighting for equality and an end to “labels,” that such irony could be taking place?

It is a frustrating and difficult place to stand in, but frankly, there is no way to see hope in seeing this problem diminish unless we keep standing firmly on our heels, our matching purses, carefully done curls, and rosed cheeks. While it is a long term goal, the best way to educate the people that surround us that there is no limits to the damage of stereotypes is by living the lifestyle that feels most natural. It is by showing them that while you may not be mimicking the actions of your fellow soldiers, that you can and are helping the LGBTQ people by showcasing to all that the movement is as colorful and diverse as the symbolic rainbow logo attached to it. May the height of your shoes or the style of your clothes never dictate who you are allowed to love, and if you ever lose courage, remember the words of Sasha Lotrain: “How can we expect to change the world when we’re invisible?”

Life and love according to my tweets

After taking a few computer science courses, I have been blown away (and curious) by this little world and all its languages. Although I am by no means at a level where I can call myself a programmer, I have really dug into the skills and knowledge I have worked with this far and discovered quite a list of interesting things that I could create and do that has helped me get more accustomed and familiar with my “geeky” side. After some Googling and daydreaming, I decided that my first project would be to look into my social media posts and see what I could find from them .

I chose to use my tweets rather than my Facebook data because I am a much more active tweeter, and with this kind of project, the more data I had to draw conclusions from, the more interesting/accurate my findings would be. So I downloaded my Twitter archive (took about 5 minutes), and then began creating some code that would find special words, times, and dates in the data (took about 3 weeks and a shit load of patience/learning), and then tried to make some sense by relating them to significant events and such in my life. This is what I found.


General findings
total_tweets_per_year (2)

Click chart for larger view.

Twitter was not a big part of my social life until 2012. I have been a tweeter since 2009, but only began tweeting pretty much daily since my last year of high school. As of Mar. 16 of this year, I have already tweeted about half as much than I tweeted in 2010 and 2011 combined.

tweets_of_2012_-_present_by_month (1)

The amount of times I tweeted monthly in 2012 and 2013 were almost opposite. In 2012, I had an average of about 120 tweets monthly in the first 6 months, but my tweets decreased towards the end of the year. In contrast, in 2013, my numbers increased sharply in the Fall from the trailing low numbers from the previous year in Jan. and Feb.

 2012 was the year I graduated from high school and went to college. I see a drop of tweets from June on in this year, and the two significant events I can relate to this are moving out from home to go to university and also (here it comes!) getting into a relationship. The relationship lasted until Feb. 2013, when I was pathetically dumped, and interestingly, that month is also my lowest tweeting month ever at only 30 tweets. However, I can say that the relationship started to get pretty crappy after Thanksgiving of 2012, another date with a noticeable drop in tweets.

2013 was a year of big academic changes. I enrolled in Suffolk University in Boston and moved to the east coast in late August. After that, presumably because my activities and social life got more exciting, my twitter became more active than ever. In October 2013, I hit my highest record of 168 tweets.

Discoveries: 
1. Romance damages my twitter swag.
2. I tweet way less when I am sad.
3. Boston has helped me become a better tweeter.
Speaking about love...

I looked up every one of my tweets that has the word “love.” The data brought up 131 posts.

danis_tweets_about_love

Some fun things I found that are not shown in the graph above are the most relevant commonly used words in these tweets (besides “love”, duh) and also the time of day I tweet.

Top 5 words: “Life” and “annaelyy”, “phereva1”, and “fernandaale_”, my two best friend’s and sister’s usernames, respectively.

Tweets during day: 58
Tweets during night: 73

Although it is too soon to observe a pattern in 2014, the previous two years show a notable similar path. In 2012 and 2013, the number of tweets in which I use “love” in decrease at four almost evenly spaced out times during the year. Look at February, May/June, September, and November.

We can take this in two different ways. One, we can relate it to regular life events, or two, we play psychologist and diagnose me. Let’s do both.

One approach is that having no lover on Valentine’s Day (Feb), the hellish heat of south Texas summer (June), back to school (Sept), and maybe school finals (Nov) can make me think a lot less to tweet of “love.” However, this is a smart but not very convincing approach.

Now, let’s play doctor. If you are familiar with psychology, you should know that there is a common illness known as “Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD)” that is basically depression that occurs at the same time every year. Looking at the data, I see that the drops in the graphs are almost right before each season is transitioning: February (spring), June (summer), September (fall), and November (winter). Perhaps this isn’t enough to put me on Prozac, but next time I visit a therapist, I will be able to back up my feelings with actual data, although, they will probably think I have OCD if I show them these graphs too.

I know, this is a drastic conclusion, but its fun to think about.

Discoveries:
4. I love life, my best friends, and my sister.
5. My sanity is questionable. 

The meaning of life

danis_tweets_about_life_2012_-_present

Apparently I didn’t really post about life until I left home for college. Also, if you look back to the previous graphs about love, you will see that these tweets decrease around the same months that the tweets about “love” do. Coincidence?

Tweets during day: 45
Tweets during night: 45

Most notable tweets about life:
“RT @johnmoe : When life hands you lemons , try to deal with this weird news that life has hands.”

“The first of every month will be an important part of my life from now on… #tuitionpayments”

“All I had planned for today was to go buy some panties at the mall and have some coffee but I ended up coming home with a new cat. #life

“RT @ JacobTomsky : Hello. I ‘m here to teach you about an amazing strategy to achieve success in life : It’s called hard work.'”

“Make something out of yourself that you like, or Life will make you into something that you wont. #createyourself”

“There’s only 2 things you can be sure of in life: death and taxes. #thingsprofessorssay”

“‘Life, you said if I loved you , you ‘d love me in return! I ‘m starting to think you’re playing games with my heart! #trustissues”

Life is good. God is great. Everything falls in its place. (-:”

Discoveries:
6. Life is about cats, hard work, God, and taxes.*
*According to my tweets.