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Since saying thanks, making good friends, and having meaningful goals makes you happy , it makes complete sense to love QWOC+! Last Thursday’s Social simply blew me away. So much fun! Thank you to the Empress for organizing and to all who came out (har har) to celebrate. This rounds up my inolvemente with the group these last months with a bang. Can’t complain about that.
Some things to be grateful for: An increased presence of qwoc, not only in the Boston scene, but also in entertainment: Wanda Sykes came out forcefully and television is showing quite a few qwoc characters (Hello, Callie Torres) which are surprisingly staying around their shows as other queer characters get taken off the air. (We’re taking over! Ok, maybe not. Yet.)
In politics, bad news surrounding adoptions and marriage in certain states, BUT we can celebrate President Barack Obama (of course), “I-want Joe Biden, I-need-Joe Biden” as VP, and Big Hill as Secretary of State. Woot woot.
In life: did I mention I was going to Colombia? Woohoo! More to come on the existential nature of the holidays and what it means for qwoc to step back on home-land.
In the meantime, Happy Holidays!
This is from earlier this year… something that I find utterly sad, evidence of why some of us deal with so much crap as QWOC. I don’t particularly enjoy ragging on Colombia, but this is insane:
Jorge Alfredo Vargas: “In an unprecedented event, a massive number of students in an all girls-school of Manizales received a couple of lesbian students in protest because they gained, through a lawsuit, the legal right to return to the institution.”
Maria Lucia Fernandez: “The two girls, to whom a spot in the school had been denied, returned to the school today to matriculate only to be received with jeers and posters. Various students affirmed that the protests were not directed against the two young women, and were rather made to defend the dignity of their school. ”
Voice Off: “The two minors were sad and disconcerted when they returned to enact the right awarded to them by the courts in a school that had, according to them, denied them a spot when they openly disclosed their condition as homosexual.”
Crowd: “We don’t want them! We don’t want them!”
V.O.: “The yells against them, repeating ‘we don’t want them,’ immediately drew tears from Maria Elena Castrillon, the defense lawyer representing the 16 and 17 year-old young women.”
M.E.Castrillon: “I find this unbelieavable. This kind of situation is unacceptable.”
V.O.: “According to one of the organizing students, howeve, the manifestation was made in an effort to defend their school’s dignity and their own dignity, not to attack the two young women.”
Student: “They’re labeling us as the school of lesbians and that’s just not the case.”
V.O.: “The girls also chanted the principal’s name, [Magola], whom they support.”
Student: “We want to clarify that we are supporting her because to us she’s a very good principal.”
V.O.: “In the afternoon the young women returned to the school and found about 400 students gathered with signs supporting the school administration, though they remained silent. The father of one the two young women who filed the suit rejected the gestures.”
Father: “This is not permissible. They have rights and no place in this nation should fail to recognze their identity.”
V.O.: “The principal, Magola Franco, finally conceded to the judge’s ruling and matriculated the students, though not without reservations.”
Magola Franco: “I felt that my authority and autonomy were violated, logically, when the lawyer Maria Elena Castrillon Valencia questions my authority for one spontaneous and occasional event occuring today with regards to the students of the Leonardo DaVinci School.”
V.O.: “The two young women immediately began the leveling(?) process guided by representatives from the Department of Education, in order to begin 10th grade next Friday in the afternoon shift.”
Jorge Alfredo Vargas: ”As a result of this controversial subject, we have contacted Marcela Sanchez, director of Colombia Diversa, one of the organizations that fights for the rights of gay and lesbian couples. Marcela, good evening, how do you find the events occured today in the city of Manizales/”
Marcela Sanches: “It’s inconcievable that some students be subjected to such public abuse for the mere attempt to defend their rights to dignity and education.”
Maria Lucia Fernandez: “Alright, Marcela, continuing with the conversation, were any of these young women’s rights violated?”
M.S.: “Without a doubt. I think it is the responsibility of school authorities to stop social intolerance, to stop homophobia, and to stop these manifestations of rejection. I believe what we can conclude from this is that the insitutional and educational project of peace conciliation in the Leonardo DaVinci school has failed. And this is now an issue extending beyond the legal scope; it is now a social issue which requires public reflection, not only from the educational authorities, but also the Manizales Municipal authorities.”
Today you will see me celebrating in the freshman dining hall, passing out rainbow-colored cake as one of the LGBT proctors and cheering queers on. It’s the 20thanniversary of a great celebration, and I look forward to it.
That said this day should not come without a note of warning. Some within the queer community come out only to actively disdain those who don’t take the step in some or all aspects of their lives. It’s simply disrespectful, and anyone who has gone through the experience should know better. Your aunts, your uncles, your siblings, your cousins, your friends; they’re all important parts of your life, and what you share with them is more than just a choice, it is a matter of trust within a cultural setting. People’s situations are often beyond the reach of our own experience, our level of understanding, and the nuances of that context very often escape us. Sometimes the very friends or mentors of closeted queers openly reject their choices, and diminish them to fears and trepidations. After all the bullshit we have to put up with as queer people, it seems completely absurd that members within our very own community can be so self-righteous as to forget some of our own experiences and struggles, and simply, why we chose to say it loud and proud.
I’m all for it, definitely. The decision to come out has proven a challenge that strengthened my own sense of security. I’m not denying who I am to the people I care the most about, the people I want to be the most open with. I feel like a more complete person because I am able to be more open about myself with others, no matter who they are and what they might think.
But it is a work-in-progress, particularly when it comes to the slightly-more-distant family members, burrowed along the margins of the cultures I identify with. There’s plenty to juggle along the way, and in my big and loving family, I take the step to come out—or not—because I care for them.
I want to congratulate all of the organizers for a wonderful event. The movies raised some great issues, not only about the changes in the BGLTQ movement for expansion of rights, but also about the nuances for members of the Bi & Trans communities. (For general Information about the films, see here)
“En mi piel” in particular brought out nuances about a light-skinned trans man of mixed race and his coming to terms with his multicultural identity. The man had to negotiate the fact that after transitioning, he would be seen as a white male after transitioning, and how this went at odds with his own mixed race and culture.
Coming from the southwest, where much of the Latino culture has coexisted with and (somewhat) adapted to American culture, it’s not surprising that his mother had grown up intent on assimilating, the safest way of functioning and co-existing in a white-dominated society. As a result, even though she is bilingual, the mother never tried to educate her son about his background. He never learned any Spanish because it would have been a detriment to him, evidence to the fact that yes, he is culturally distinct from his peers. As he transitioned, this chicano tried to get more in touch with his heritage, going to Mexicoand learning more about the half of him he hadn’t been able to explore. In Mexico, he wasn’t white or American; he was just Mexican. Nobody even questioned it, whereas he would always find people here questioning his own Hispanic identity. I found it impressive that his mother, who’d never been to Mexico, had, as a result of his previous voyage, decided to visit with him. Somewhere within her existed a yearning to learn about a side she had denied, but that she apparently always felt separated her from the rest.
What I find most resonating about the film is the struggle of feeling at home in a community, knowing that something does separate the way you and others see the world. It starts simply with the recognition that no matter where we go, we tend to make concessions or excuses about others’ actions. As immigrants of color, we have no choice buy to get along with others in this country: we have to give up something of ourselves not only to survive, but more importantly, to succeed. Whereas a white American (especially those not exposed to other cultures) does not question his identity and its grounding in society, I have no choice but to question my own grounding. For a long time I tried to pick and choose the parts of me that I wanted to reveal to others and I’ve finally come to the realization that if you really want me, you will need to have the whole package.
It’s tiring. I’m tired of trying to account for others’ disrespect, insensitivity or just plain failure to understand where I’m coming from. I’ve gotten so used to it, it’s almost second nature and somewhat uncomfortable to even bring up. But I have; I’ve made excuses for others over and over and over again.
I remember very clearly how much living in Colombia for a couple of months centered me in my identity. The moment I came back people all around me said I looked older, more mature, like an adult at last. For once, I felt grounded culturally, I understood why I thought about things a certain way, what it meant for me. When I was there, I didn’t really need to make excuses.
I received this today, and thought it was interesting, given the election. Real post soon to come….
Sep 13, 2008 “White Privilege” By Tim Wise
- White privilege is when you can get pregnant at seventeen like Bristol Palin and everyone is quick to insist that your life and that of your family is a personal matter, and that no one has a right to judge you or your parents, because “every family has challenges,” even as black and Latino families with similar “challenges” are regularly typified as irresponsible, pathological and arbiters of social decay.
- White privilege is when you can call yourself a “fuckin’ redneck,” like Bristol Palin’s boyfriend does, and talk about how if anyone messes with you, you’ll “kick their fuckin’ ass,” and talk about how you like to “shoot shit” for fun, and still be viewed as a responsible, all-American boy (and a great son-in-law to be) rather than a thug.
- White privilege is when you can attend four different colleges in six years like Sarah Palin did (one of which you basically failed out of, then returned to after making up some coursework at a community college), and no one questions your intelligence or commitment to achievement, whereas a person of color who did this would be viewed as unfit for college, and probably someone who only got in in the first place because of affirmative action.
- White privilege is when you can claim that being mayor of a town smaller than most medium-sized colleges, and then Governor of a state with about the same number of people as the lower fifth of the island of Manhattan, makes you ready to potentially be president, and people don’t all piss on themselves with laughter, while being a black U.S. Senator, two-term state Senator, and constitutional law scholar, means you’re “untested.”
- White privilege is being able to say that you support the words “under God” in the pledge of allegiance because “if it was good enough for the founding fathers, it’s good enough for me,” and not be immediately disqualified from holding office–since, after all, the pledge was written in the late 1800s and the “under God” part wasn’t added until the 1950s–while believing that reading accused criminals and terrorists their rights (because, ya know, the Constitution, which you used to teach at a prestigious law school requires it), is a dangerous and silly idea only supported by mushy liberals.
- White privilege is being able to be a gun enthusiast and not make people immediately scared of you. White privilege is being able to have a husband who was a member of an extremist political party that wants your state to secede from the Union, and whose motto was “Alaska first,” and no one questions your patriotism or that of your family, while if you’re black and your spouse merely fails to come to a 9/11 memorial so she can be home with her kids on the first day of school, people immediately think she’s being disrespectful.
- White privilege is being able to make fun of community organizers and the work they do–like, among other things, fight for the right of women to vote, or for civil rights, or the 8-hour workday, or an end to child labor–and people think you’re being pithy and tough, but if you merely question the experience of a small town mayor and 18-month governor with no foreign policy expertise beyond a class she took in college–you’re somehow being mean, or even sexist.
- White privilege is being able to convince white women who don’t even agree with you on any substantive issue to vote for you and your running mate anyway, because all of a sudden your presence on the ticket has inspired confidence in these same white women, and made them give your party a “second look.”
- White privilege is being able to fire people who didn’t support your political campaigns and not be accused of abusing your power or being a typical politician who engages in favoritism, while being black and merely knowing some folks from the old-line political machines in Chicago means you must be corrupt.
- White privilege is being able to attend churches over the years whose pastors say that people who voted for John Kerry or merely criticize George W. Bush are going to hell, and that the U.S. is an explicitly Christian nation and the job of Christians is to bring Christian theological principles into government, and who bring in speakers who say the conflict in the Middle East is God’s punishment on Jews for rejecting Jesus, and everyone can still think you’re just a good church-going Christian, but if you’re black and friends with a black pastor who has noted (as have Colin Powell and the U.S. Department of Defense) that terrorist attacks are often the result of U.S. foreign policy and who talks about the history of racism and its effect on black people, you’re an extremist who probably hates America.
- White privilege is not knowing what the Bush Doctrine is when asked by a reporter, and then people get angry at the reporter for asking you such a “trick question,” while being black and merely refusing to give one-word answers to the queries of Bill O’Reilly means you’re dodging the question, or trying to seem overly intellectual and nuanced.
- White privilege is being able to claim your experience as a POW has anything at all to do with your fitness for president, while being black and experiencing racism is, as Sarah Palin has referred to it a “light” burden.
- And finally, white privilege is the only thing that could possibly allow someone to become president when he has voted with George W. Bush 90 percent of the time, even as unemployment is skyrocketing, people are losing their homes, inflation is rising, and the U.S. is increasingly isolated from world opinion, just because white voters aren’t sure about that whole “change” thing. Ya know, it’s just too vague and ill-defined, unlike, say, four more years of the same, which is very concrete and certain.
Tim Wise is the author of White Like Me (Soft Skull, 2005, revised 2008), and of Speaking Treason Fluently, publishing this month, also by Soft Skull. For review copies or interview requests, please reply to firstname.lastname@example.org
I talked to a friend about the last post, and she posed that very simple question. To begin with: Having to justify the way my family and I, as a queer woman of color, view the world.
My family is comprised of immigrants to various countries (not just the U.S.) and people who live in Colombia. The way the older generations interact within this society— in pockets isolated from the mainstream—means that they’re dealing with gender, and life in general, in much the same way they did when they were back in Colombia: with plenty of struggle. My mother’s perspective on the matter is strict, and as much as she breaks her own expected gender roles, she lives with my grandfather’s conservative catholic teachings ingrained in her mind: the man is macho and head of family, the woman effeminate and a mother above all else. Now that she accepts my sexual orientation, she attempts to stay informed about the increased presence of sexual diversity through the few comedic gay men in her favorite Latin soap operas. But besides my mother, others in my family who don’t know about it worry little about the subject. Their main worries involve getting the right papers to be here, separation from loved ones for years at a time, validating their degrees if they have any, or becoming cleaners and painters to meet their basic needs.
To my family, queerness is altogether foreign not only as a practical concept, but mostly as an idea more closely associated with (North) American culture. The few queer family members I know of deal with their sexual orientations primarily through silence. With so many religious conflicts, social taboos associated with homosexuality, and more immediate needs to worry about, it seems selfish to want to talk about feelings so terribly foreign. In Colombia, an aunt shared an apartment for some time with another woman (one bed, a cousin noted) and no one even discussed it—not even she. It’s no surprise, with cases like hers, that lesbians are invisible in Latin America. In Colombia, the one lesbian actress who has been an icon for coming out (and briefly ruining her career before finally boosting it again) shared in an interview not too long ago that she just doesn’t want to talk about the topic because it hurts her family so much. In my own family, no one dares to touch the issue of my sexuality or that of any other family members except for casual derisive comments about others’ behavior.
To top it off, there’s also the problem around it being an “American thing.” Those of us who live here generally accept the challenge of living within U.S. culture because in order to get along we don’t have much of a choice. I won’t, however, deny that I flinched the first time my high school guidance counselor called me an American girl. In Colombia, I had heard wonders about the opportunities in the U.S., but distressful comments about its culture, and I dreaded being associated with it. I remember in particular that a friend told me to stay away from U.S. body piercings and tattoos, obvious works of the devil and somehow usually laced with cocaine. Eventually, my American step-father taught me that I should be grateful and embrace the term, but I still deal with some hiccups here and there.
The first time I returned to Colombia after six years of not going back, I sat in the dining room of an aunt who tore the U.S. apart and said that she would die before letting her children come and be turned into capitalist pigs. Burn. Later, I lived in Colombia for two months with my father, loved it, found resonance, but ultimately itched to come back home. In the States, my family taunts each other about being “gringos,” highlighting how much American culture remains, more often than not, an elusive (sometimes repulsive) question mark. If it weren’t for my generation’s inevitable dive into education here, we wouldn’t have much of a clue about what goes on around us. In the meantime, the older generation informs itself through a daily bread of night-time Spanish soap operas, where only this year they unveiled the first mildly realistic interpretation of homosexual men. As a result, the few conversations I have had about sexuality with my family revolve around the Latin American caricature of the gay man.
In the end, what I want to affirm is that the layers of experience that inform my family’s and my understanding of sexuality are not only different but very real, and just as legitimate as others. Whether I choose to dress a certain way, come out to my family, converse with them about the subject, or not at all, my choices remain linked to those very specific experiences.
The first ever pride week nationally to focus specifically on LGBTQ people of color is finally here! Thanks to much hard work by the QWOC+ organizers, the week is finally occurring!
I guess this is the most appropriate way to begin this new blog, given that QWOC+ has been a breath of fresh air in the queer community I have struggled to get acquainted with. I’ve come through my short experience as an out queer woman and noticed a blatant lack of awareness about the need for a diverse and fully inclusive (encouraging?) environment. The Boston scene suffers from the tired results of failed awareness, and even more a lack of representation of queers of color in the process of community celebration. So I begin this blog because I have a yearning to show how a woman of color, a Colombian immigrant, navigates the boundaries of bi-sexuality and bi-culturalism.
You’re a woman of color? That’s what my step-father asked me when I told him about QWOC+. As forward-thinking as he is, he somehow never grasped that I have always been and seen myself as a woman of color. I have green eyes, dark, thin, and heavy hair; if you want to talk pigmentation, depending on the time of year, my skin vacillates between brown and light olive undertones; at this point, my life has been evenly spent in both Colombia and the U.S., and I know that both cultures belong to me, if not usually in harmonious fashion. My blood is Spanish and indigenous Colombian, my upbringing a mixture of catholic scare-tactics, an under-spiritual upbringing with a mother who believes in some form of God and a Jewish American step-father with the conviction that “God” and “religion” are utter bullshit. I speak Spanish with my mother and the majority of my family, but as a usual 1st and 2nd generation immigrant, the longer my sister, cousins and I live in the States, the more we use English to communicate with each other. I dance and listen to salsa, merengue, hip-hop, reggaeton, pop, folk music, punk rock, and every once in a long, long while some country. My coworkers joke about taking a picture with the all-white staff, and then me. Yes, I am a woman of color.
And when it comes to being queer, being a woman of color matters. The relationships I have built around me are based on my background. I don’t choose my friends based on their color, but they must be sensitive and receptive to my experience. The perspective I have gained has premises with roots in my experience as a Colombian woman. My partners need to respect my perspective, how my being queer affects the people I care the most about. It’s just different. Plain and simple. And there should be more discussion about it within our community.