reflection: queertura

June 30, 2011

“We are afraid of being abandoned by the mother, the culture, La Raza,for being unacceptable, faulty, damaged…
to avoid rejection, some of us conform to the values of the culture,
push the unacceptable parts into the shadows.”
~Borderlands, Gloria Anzaldua

QUEERTURA: On being a Latina AND a Lesbian

Through reading, writing and living I have been able to discover and recover what it means to be a Latina, a lesbian and a woman: they are interconnected and not mutually exclusive.  They embrace each other and celebrate their differences; at times, there is struggle between the three.  As Latina/os, I have noticed that we prefer to lose our “queerness” before our cultura because we might be seen as a “sell-out.”  After all, being queer is considered a “white thing.”

But I embrace the three (Latina, Lesbian and Woman) as my own wholly trinity; as in, I am made whole by this relationship.  I am conscious that the three are interdependent of each other and more importantly, that they are reinforced and shaped by my experiences.  I have sought enlightenment, clarity, self-knowledge and self-acceptance in this process, by simply allowing myself to feel and deal with the emotions that have surfaced along the way.

Often times as Latina/o queers we are viewed by other Latinas/os as less Latina/o because of our queerness.  As if in being queer we lose our Latinidad.  We fear living openly. So, we prefer to deny a part of us, so as to not be rejected by our culture.  In Gloria Anzaldúa’s book  Borderlands, she speaks to this “fear of going home.  And not be taken in.”  As she says, “We are afraid of being abandoned by the mother, the culture, La Raza, for being unacceptable, faulty, damaged… to avoid rejection, some of us conform to the values of the  ulture, push the unacceptable parts into the shadows.” (Anzaldúa, 1987).  I have refused my entire life to push any part of me into the shadows.  I am not less of a Latina because I am a lesbian; I am in fact a stronger Latina in light of being a lesbian.

I too, defend my cultura against those who try to diminish who we are and what we have accomplished and provided to the global
society.  But I will be the first to call them out when they cry, “El pueblo unido, jamas sera vencido!” yet never bother to look at the queer community and join us in our collective struggle of equality for all.

The struggle is constant; every day I realize that everything I do affects and causes an effect on my wholly trinity.  I live my life in
harmony and do not allow anyone or anything to move me from the core of my being.  I sit comfortably and confidently at the center of my soul.

Author and publisher, Steven Fullwood in his book Funny wrote, “The question on the table directed at any historically oppressed people is, can you prove that you exist?”

If one does not live openly (for whatever reasons), you continue to create this concept of “non-existence” and perpetuate the ridiculous idea that this “queer thing” is a “white thing” and therefore not an “us thing;” so queer Latinas/os do not exist.

As difficult a task as it may seem we cannot remain silent. And when I say we, I am speaking in particular to Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender people of color in every corner of the world.

We must begin to voice who we are so that we can prove that we have existed long before June Prides and Stonewall; that our movement is not a sexual revolution but a spiritual evolution that has been taking place for thousands of years.

Simply put… existimos.

Don’t misunderstand me please.  I understand why people choose to live in closets. I understand that people fear rejection, abuse, marginalization and even death. For GLBT POC’s living in the United States, the battle is “uphill both ways” all of the time. For
most GLBT POC’s living outside of this country it isn’t a battle, it is a full-out war.

But what if we ALL came out? What if the closet doors swung opened? What if we stepped out of the darkness? Never have the words of a conference I participated in 1995 called Children from the Shadows (now True Colors) echoed so loudly in my life, “In the light of understanding… shadows disappear.”

The message that I get from those who remain in the closet is that of shame, fear and isolation. And no community can evolve in that atmosphere. And while I respect those who live their lives in silence, I cannot defend your reason for remaining closeted (though I’d defend you with my life if need be).

If you don’t come out… to the eyes of many, you don’t exist.

The coming out of our very own Ricky Martin is something of amazing historical proportions (though I’m still waiting for my Shakira Etheridge –winks at Salma).  The coming out of our Hermano Ricky gave the world more “light about us.”

I want the world to look around and see that GLBT POC’s are out in the world creating change and being visible. I don’t want to have to google “Latina lesbians” to find out if they have existed (trust me I have and it ain’t lindo’).  If we emerged from our “armarios” we need not prove our existence but reaffirm it by celebrating the strength of our diversity and living our lives in light of our truths.

Let us ask ourselves Mr. Fullwood’s question, “…can you prove that you exist?”

The light of our truth shines, “Sí!”

But we must break the culture of silence to shatter the culture of fear, hatred and ignorance that has made us appear invinsible so that we may embrace the light of our queertura.

~Sarahí Yajaira, 2011 ©

reflection: on purpose

June 23, 2011

we seem to have this concept that we are linear beings. that, life
needs to unfold a certain way. often times, we think that by the age of eighteen
we should be graduating from high school.  go to college. make a career. find a mate. get
married. buy a house. have children. rear them. have them go through the same
“checklist,” throw a couple of vacations in there. spend time with
family. have a retirement party. sell the house. move to a warmer place. enjoy
an old healthy age filled with grandkids and die (we hope peacefully).

how limited we become when we decide to look at ourselves in light
of this check list. and how sad when we begin to compare ourselves to others
and where they are in life.

i don’t believe we are linear beings at all. and i refuse to
compare myself to anyone BUT myself because i will not disrespect my process or my
counterparts. take for example children who at the age of
five are beyond the “set kindergarten” level.  parameters, that i believe, are set by a
system that limits our full potential. who are we to limit the growth of a
person based on their age? and conversely, who are we to push someone who takes
a little longer (for whatever reasons)?  we cannot stifle the growth of an individual
any more than we can rush it. everyone has a pace in life: their pace. not to
be dictated by parameters because we are NOT linear beings.

we see it all the time. people who do not find their mate ’til
later in life. forty-year-olds, now getting married for the first time who
cannot have biological children because their bodies have turned a page. do we
tell them that they’re late? that they should’ve done it earlier? how
disrespectful of us to even think that there is a set pace in life. that the
checklist needs to be done in “the order” or that it’s even everyone’s
checklist.

if you want clarity of purpose in your life you compare yourself
to no one and you simply walk. because the point is to walk. not to stand idle
waiting for purpose to come to you. you make purpose every day for your SELF.

i am 33-years-old and i have no regrets. i have no idea when everything will “fall into place.”
but i keep moving. setting small goals for my self. i have made and continue to
make significant contributions to social justice movements. my writing has
improved and i’ve been able to share my works in different places, including an
international opportunity that was one of the most rewarding experiences of my
life. i have been able to help family and friends. i have had the opportunity
to meet people who have changed my life forever. all the while continuing to
search for clarity of purpose.

i am exactly where i need to be.

i do not plan for tomorrow because it is not guaranteed. but today my direction is inward.
because it’s the only way to an honest outward.

and if tomorrow blesses me with another day of life, then i will
have a checklist in the morning, fully aware that i may not even check anything
off of it because i was simply walking inward. and that has been my greatest
purpose.

~Sarahí Yajaira, 2011 ©

clank. clank. clank.
clank. clank.

that was the sound
of the tenants
banging on the heater.

circa winter 1988
that was the cue
to let el super know
he needed to turn the heat on.

we’d start on the 6th floor
of that infamous tenement building.
our cousins picking up the beats
would follow.
and before you knew it,
building numbah’ 218
was a puerto rican
carnegie hall.

we made music happen
without even noticing…

we were music.

on hallway floors
when you wanted
to know if your sneakers
were good
you’d step hard forward
if they squeaked
you had music at your feet
and we would dance.
we’ve been stomping
long before stomp stomped.

on empty buckets
flipped ovah’
making our own version
of timbales
we’d make music
out of cuicas
when we turned the dial
to get that big piece of gum
that had flavor for all of 47 seconds.

then we’d pop it in our mouf’
adding to the percussion
section of our orchestra

we were not beethoven’s 5th
we were tito puente’s 10th
and we were perfect.

powerful.
1988 overture: heater music.

outside, the girls turning
double dutch
got feet jumping
to the beat
“ta. ta.
ta. ta.
ta. ta.”

balls bouncing
on concrete
swish into hoops
with no nets

while titi’s caldero
gets hit from el cucharon.
even the smell of her cooking
makes music here.

this is el barrio.

in the city that never sleeps,
we are the day dream.
a song like no other,
a genre yet to be named.

we are
el barrio’s most beautiful
composition

we
are
music’s
favorite
song.

~Sarahí Yajaira, 2011 ©

hoy

June 2, 2011

hoy
quisiera juntar
los mares
que me separan
de tus abrazos
de tus besos
de tu cariño.

hoy
quisiera que el mundo
deveras fuese “tan pequeño”
que te de vueltas hacia mi.

hoy
quisiera que la vida
acorte la distancia
entre tu pecho
y mi cabeza.
quisiera que las millas
que nos separan
fuesen tus besos
que me reparan.

hoy
daria lo que no tengo
por sentir el calor de mi tierra
el amor de mi familia
no solo en mi corazon
mas aun,
en carne y hueso.

~Sarahí Yajaira, 2011 ©

para la familia Almonte-Blanco y mi querida Kiskeya (esa sucursal del cielo).