Thursday, February 24, 2011

New Book! Tragic Bitches: An Experiment in Queer Xicana & Xicano Performance Poetry

Announcing the first book published by Kórima Press!

Order it today!

Conceived and developed by Adelina Anthony,Dino Foxx and Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, Tragic Bitches documents the process and poetry of three queer Xicana/o artists seeking to revel and heal in the darkest and most vulnerable spaces of love, desire and loss.

          Praise for Tragic Bitches          

In the tradition of old school street shouters and house kids/running the streets with madness.
These Tragic Bitches offer their sacrificed hearts to us. With shameless truth telling/raucous wit
and words so beautiful it hurts     this work heals.
Warrior-marked.  Urban Saints.  Sinning Shaman.  Loudly Queer.  Distinctly Xicana/o.  
Re-imagining form and tradition/honoring the dead.  Speaking the unspeakable.
These poets tell everything honey.
I Loves me some Tragic Bitches.  
Don't miss your chance to get you some...

            Sharon Bridgforth 
            RedBone Press Lambda Award winning 
            Author of the bull-jean stories.


After witnessing the fearless embodied testimonios of these poetas from intimate teatro en Berkeley to expansive auditorium en Austin I remain a loyal follower of their palabra. Lorenzo, Dino, and Adelina synthesize disarming invocations of memories lost…and then (re)membered.  They offer us biting social critiques of colonial legacies mapped onto MeXican@ queer bodies…under the covers.  These fierce performatic@s offer us intricate excavations of memory, language, amor, deseo, confianza and ultimately…liberation.

            Micaela Díaz-Sánchez, Ph.D.
            Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow Latina/o 
            Studies, African American Studies, 
            Northwestern University


Watch out cuz the bitches will hunt you down, call you out publicly with their poetry and cut you with their barrio lyricism. I remember watching las tres perform their tragedias in a plaza made stage - tecate and cigarettes, lit velas and the moon - they laid it all out, sin pelos en la lengua. Their shit talking and "puro pinche chisme" was a radical manifesto declaring their refusal to live silently. Ain't nothin but truth ya'll and that's "the way Jotos do it. The way we were meant to." 

            Virginia Grise
            Co-author of The Panza Monologue


Tragic Bitches was the most beautiful, heart breaking, love filling, and hilarious piece to grace our stage. It is poetry that is real and speaks to our very core.

            Sarah Guerra
            Program Director, La Peña Cultural Center, 
            Berkeley, CA


Let this collection serve as a warning to all those hell bent on destroying each other at any cost – betraying family, lovers, and even themselves. Beaten down into the dirt by violent colonial histories and patriarchal traditions, these three super hero poetas emerge covered in blood and wrought with fury to resuscitate generations back to life, love, and freedom. Heartbroken and smokin’ hot in black eyeliner and tight threads, Adelina Anthony, Dino Foxx, and Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano sacrilege the current state of affairs to throw down roots for a more beautiful earth – like, pronto. With crystal clarity, their razor-sharp tongues repossess anger, sorrow, fear, and desire (lots of it) as revolutionary forces. This definitely isn’t for date night, bitches.

            Roya Rastegar, Ph.D.
            Programmer for Tribeca Film Festival and     
            Huffington Post Blogger

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sorry Gaga, I was *not* born this way

When it comes to the origin of my sexual orientation, my thought process is not all that complex. I prefer to stay away from arguments of nature vs. nurture vs. trauma vs. Madonna. Instead, I go straight to my old school feminist schooling:

Gender is a social construction. 

At birth, Dr. Harry (yes, that was his name) saw that I had a penis and called me a boy. My parents seemed to have agreed and eventually gave me a *boy* name. Although, they might have initially doubted the doctor’s words as they waited seven days to name me.

As I approach my 32nd birthday, I continue to somewhat follow the gender designation I was given at birth. I am, as some would say, a gender-conformist, or a cisgendered person, as my gender identity coincides with the one I was given at birth. Nonetheless, the fact that my penis has biological ties does not make my gender identity a biological fact. If sexual orientation is essentially about what gender(s) one is attracted to, said gender(s) would need to be biological in order for sexual orientation to be biological. Otherwise, how would one be "born" with a biological predisposition to be drawn to something that does not exist biologically? Politically and spiritually, I prefer to center the genesis of my desire(s) on choice. This is my ultimate act of resistance toward systems and mores that seek (and too often succeed) to control our self determination.

As Lady Gaga ignites collective hysteria among the gays (or, her little monsters) with her “Born This Way” single, I notice a sense of pride and defiance among those who chant along with her. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being proud of who you are. I walk the streets wearing the Ricky Martin-inspired “I am a fortunate homosexual man” t-shirt my honey bought me last year. I’m pretty damn proud. Kudos to Gaga for rallying pride (and for getting Ricky Martin to introduce her at the Grammy's!).

However, given that much of the queer experience is now tied to the legislatability of our existence, “Born This Way” comes with its baggage.
Obviously, people have a right to write their own story and assign what belief they find fits best. This post does not intend to undermine said stories. It may very well be that those who believe in a Christian god were, in fact, created gay by said Christian god. Meanwhile, I’m convinced that no god or biological factor made me gay.  To quote a brilliant and loved friend, “many truths are possible.”

Instead, I am drawn toward the reasons behind a relentless move to explain or perhaps justify who we are.

Recently, a friend sent me a link to an NPR story about the blog Born This Way!, which features fabulous childhood pictures of queer adults. The pictures come with great write-ups from the respective contributors. On the surface, I’m loving the blog.

I remember being 7 and prancing (yes, prancing) around the house in my mother’s robe and red church heels. I also remember the disturbed look on my father’s face and how quickly I would straighten up to regain his approval.

I don’t know if I was gay then. Sure, I had tons of crushes on boys, though probably more crushes on girls. Perhaps the question is: Was I bi then? Regardless, my Sunday morning robe-n-heels performances might have had less to do with my sexual orientation than about me playing with gender as I played with play-doh. I was a sissy boy who had crushes on boys and girls, and grew up to be a sissy man who has crushes on men as well as a few women. I still don’t call myself bi and pretty much follow Sophia Petrillo’s advice to “stick to what [I] know.”

Perhaps one day I will submit a photo of myself for the blog, but it wont be with the intent to make the argument that I was born gay. It will be to agree that I was born with the capacity to express. In this case, I was expressing gender, not declaring my desire for men.

The reason for only enjoying the blog superficially boils down to the first quote in the NPR article. The quote is from a man who writes about the picture he submitted: “Looking at it now, as a 31-year-old, it only reaffirms what I've always believed — that my being gay wasn't a choice.” This is where the “born this way” argument gets dangerous.

These days, to try to convince others that I was born gay would be to try to justify part of my essence. I don’t need my desire and love for other men to be justified. I demand it be recognized and affirmed. To date, “born this way” has done neither.

I understand the need to justify a queer existence in order to achieve legal rights and protections. By doing so, however, we carry the burden of a faulty legislative process that too often relies on people's erroneous Christian-centric moral approval (remember that many inhumane atrocities have and continue to be legally sanctioned in the name of misinterpreted moral imperatives). If we succeed at convincing others we were “born this way,” we might succeed at reaching our legislative goals. But at what cost?

Similarly, if my father believed I was “born this way” he might have reacted differently to my Sunday morning voguing. Perhaps we would have bypassed the phone call to inform me I was disowned, and the subsequent two years of silence. Perhaps we believe that convincing the world we were “born this way” will put an end to the violence queer people face on a daily basis. Perhaps all of this is true.

Still, the argument, then, becomes less about pride and more about fear. I have no interest in fueling my identity with a pragmatic fear-driven strategy to convince others of my humanity. That the world is not yet large enough for all of us to exist whole is an indication that something is wrong with the world, not with us.

I'm a stubborn man who believes in the genius and beauty of being queer. I justify my existence to no one. I was not born this wa
y, but I was born. And that's all you need to know to respect me.

So, vogue on little monsters! Strut your stuff to what sounds like a “Lipsync for your life” 80's throwback. Lady Gaga is indeed an icon, and so are you.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Frida's in the Rainbow Honor Walk, and I am not happy

It has been a while since I have written a critique about LGBT raceless’ness. Which is not to say I have stopped noticing it, rolling my eyes or holding my breath at every corner. Instead, I have simply opted for taking deep breaths, chuckling, shrugging my shoulders and walking away.

In what might be a combination of exhaustion, apathy, self-preservation and pacifism, I have spent a lot of time walking the streets of San Francisco trying to find the positive aspects about queer life in the Rainbow City. And there are. There are many beautiful benefits to living in a city of most things-queer.

However, I recently came across an article on the Bay Area Reporter, which reported on plans for a Rainbow Honor Walk in the Castro. The BAR reported that 20 names had been chosen out of nearly 150 nominees (Note: Names are of people who have transitioned into spirit). I confess I cringed more at the thought of who would not be included (Audre Lorde, anyone?) than those who were.

I wont report on the names, as you can find them in the BAR article linked above. And, really, I do not take much issue with the list. Sure, there are only 6 women. Sure, I do not see an over-representation of people of color. Sure, I believe that with all the scars the LGBT community carries over overt and subconscious racism and misogyny, at least 11 of the 20 should be some combination of women, trans folk and people of color. But, I am not on the steering committee.

All that said I was very happy to see most of the names on the list, except for one: Frida Kahlo.

Now, I am a brown boy with strong, unrepentant and in-your-face roots. So this has nothing to do with Frida herself. Frida’s work has had a significant influence on my writing since I was teenager. Hell, I saw her exhibit seven times when it was at the SF MOMA. So, for the record, this isn’t an anti-Frida post.

And now that the disclaimer has been placed, below are four main reasons I am bothered by her name appearing in this list:

1. I am uncomfortable with people labeling or identifying others as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer, based only on how and who they loved. I do not question the fact that Frida loved women. But to identify her as LGBT stamps the identities that some of us have grown to embrace onto her, without regard to the fact that these notions of identities are both generational and potentially limiting to how Frida experienced and manifested her own desire for others.

However important our efforts to identify ancestors who reflect our experiences, I find it problematic to do so without the nuance, care and respect our ancestors deserve.

2. I find this mainstream LGBT community embrace of Frida disingenuous. 

Could we honestly say that Madonna, Salma Hayek or those plastic bags found in the Mission had nothing to do with her name landing on this list? Seriously. Before Frida was inhaled by the hungry claws of capitalist consumption (and how much of this are Chicanas and Chicanos responsible for?), how many in the LGBT community knew who she was? 

Hell, how many know what a Chicana is?!

3. We are in Aztlán. Where is Gloria Anzaldúa?!

4. I am concerned that Frida might be “our” Latina/o representative. While she certainly resonates with my own experience, I am struggling to find the reason for the steering committee selecting Frida over, say, Sylvia Rivera. Rivera, a transgender mujer who is at the center of queer movement history, was not only among the trans women who fought back at Stonewall, she went on to be a trailblazer in transgender rights. 

So, really, Frida?

(Yes, Lorca is on the list too, but, well, that’s a whole other blog post if he is said to represent “us”)

And with this, I bring my rant to a close. Again, I am a huge fan of Frida and am one of those brown people who have her in every room of our home. But in the case of the Rainbow Honor Walk, I find the placement of her name among the first 20 misguided, consumption-based and fad-driven; all of which, if you know her work, is essentially what she was against.

All this said, I am sure the steering committee worked hard and are already receiving numerous complaints about the names excluded (such as Harvey Milk). While I believe we must keep each other accountable and support through our feedback, I also recognize how difficult it is to organize a project with vast community emotional ties.

[Note: Of course, Audre Lorde, Sylvia Rivera and Gloria Anzaldúa are but three examples of who I was saddened not to see on the list. There are countless other women of color who must be included. I look forward to seeing the names added in the future.]

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Today, Ricky Martin matters more than ever.

Last year, I made a big deal about Ricky Martin’s coming out. While many dismissed it as inconsequential or cowardly (because he didn’t do it earlier), I was convinced that the reverberations would be hugely significant. After watching the video to “Lo Mejor De Mi Vida Eres Tú,” I’m more convinced than ever that Ricky Martin is pivotal in our communities’ imagining and expanding of Latinidad.

The first piece I wrote [Why Ricky Matters (to me.. and maybe a few other boys)] on Ricky caught quite a bit of attention through its initial re-posting by my dear friend Andrés Duque at Blabbeando. Shortly after, the piece appeared on Racialicious, and a couple of other blogs. Perhaps the reason for the circulation was that I refused to dismiss Ricky’s coming out as inconsequential and placed a great deal of emphasis on its potential impact on the lives of those struggling with their own identities and ways of expressing and being.

In the piece, I imagined the young boy who lives in rural parts of Latino América or parts of the U.S. (particularly those parts of this country that are inherently and historically Brown), who might be struggling with his own feelings, his own body and/or his own imagination of what is possible.

Revisiting the blog piece today, I realize I was somehow evoking the spirit of the It Gets Better Project. And while I continue extremely critical of this campaign (for many reasons, not the least are its ageist and classist narratives), I do believe the visualization of imagined possibility is important. For the young boy who, like myself in my early teen years, finds himself living in rural México, seeing a public figure with pop culture prominence spanning a few decades might help in the process of imagining and/or visualizing what being a Brown man who loves other men might look like.

Of course, the same arguments of class could be made against my imagining of Ricky Martin’s image as relevant to a young man who might not imagine himself living with the resources the pop star enjoys. However, I believe the difference in this case is that it is Ricky’s embodiment of Latino and Queer that is important (as opposed to Dan Savage’s trips to France as a sign of "it getting better").

Later in the year, I wrote a piece titled “How Ricky Martin is Changing the Face of Latino Fatherhood,” based on Ricky and his two sons' (Valentino and Matteo) appearance on the cover of People En Español’s father’s day issue. Given People En Español’s circulation, the image of an openly gay Latino father and his children, would be in countless Latina/o supermarkets and living rooms. Yet again, the image of Ricky’s queer Latinidad was helping us imagine a more expansive Latinidad that includes more of us.

With Ricky’s reemergence into the public light, we had the opportunity to see a queer Latino strike down racist stereotypes about inherent homophobia in our communities. Perhaps the best example was on The View when Ricky responded to Joy Behar’s suggestion that his culture kept him from coming out. In a moment that made him even more beautiful in my eyes, Ricky refuses to take the bait and simply states that people all over the world are struggling with their sexuality. (Thank you!)

Recently, I was interviewed by the San Antonio Express-News for a piece titled “Ricky’s Rebirth.” In the interview, I reiterated my belief that Ricky Martin’s coming out and public image as a queer Latino father was of monumental significance for our communities (Note: The writer of the article reached out to me because of the aforementioned piece). Also, in the same article, there were others interviewed who agreed with what might be a mainstream belief that Ricky Martin's coming out is “not a big thing.”

This morning, Ricky's new album "Música + Alma + Sexo," hit stores and I typed faster than my queer fingers could to download it on iTunes. Refusing to shy away from the "sex" in sexuality by daring to have the word "Sexo" in the title of the album, I am excited to see where Ricky takes us as an openly queer historically sensual performer. 

Watching two brown men in an affectionate embrace in the “Lo Mejor De Mi Vida Eres Tú” video, I’m pretty darn sure Ricky will continue to matter to me… and maybe a few other boys. 

(For the linguistically challenged: The Best Thing About Me Is You)