Friday, October 28, 2011

Remembering the Roots of Consciousness: Why I support New Fire

Theater and ceremony, New Fire follows
the sacred geography of Indigenous American
ancestors to tell a story of rapture and return.
For a few years, my blog description read: 
I was supposed to be a Mexican, then came Manifest Destiny and I became a Mexican American. Then came that second grade teacher and I became Hispanic. Then came that one white woman and I became a spic. Then came that one college course and I became Chicano. Then came Cherríe Moraga and I became Xicano.
My path toward consciousness has been a lengthy, complex and ever-invigorating process. There has been much I have had to unlearn in my search for a colored enlightenment. A search for self-realization. A surfacing of self-determination.

This has not been a solitary path. The aisles I walk through are covered with graffiti scripture left behind, being written as we live, by the hearts and minds of my elders and my sistren. The mesquite-lined veredas I travel were cleared long before I learned to pronounce my name. I come from somewhere.

The writer in me descends from those who came before, those who write today. I am a part of a future ancestry, crafting for future generations. And I know, I came from somewhere.

The consciousness that carries and guards me through a world replete with misogyny, white supremacy and economic exploitation, has been shaped by the pens of women of color. Women by the name of Cherríe Moraga, Sharon Bridgforth, Gloria Anzaldúa, Ana Sisnett, and so, so many more. I know where I come from.

It is in remembering where my consciousness comes from, where its first roots sprung, that I recognize, not the obligation, but the opportunity to be a part of supporting bringing about story-making that will guide us further into consciousness. This is why I support bringing to the stage Cherríe Moraga's newest play, New Fire: To Put Things Right Again.

If you once took a class in Feminist Studies, Women's studies, Ethnic studies, Chicana/o studies or anything of the sort, chances are, you have come across the words of Cherríe Moraga. If you have moved within progressive womanist, people of color circles, you understand that these, too, are informed by Moraga's craft. Whoever you are, if we know of each other, chances are your own consciousness has been touched by Moraga's work.

As one within a communal practice, politic, of consciousness, join me. Be a part of story-making, support bringing New Fire to fruition. Be a part of bringing this new play to the stage.

Donate today by visiting the New Fire Kickstarter Campaign Page.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Under Threat of Marriage

In a family, indeed a culture, deathly obsessed with normalcy and public opinion, marriage has been perhaps the only constant and universally applicable aspiration. Every one of us, girl or boy (gender dichotomies being the only other familial constant), groomed (poorly at that) to one day become someone’s wife: the abnegated and obedient giver of unconditional love, devotion and body; or, someone’s husband: the selfish and conditional taker of love, devotion and body.

More than a right of passage, marriage was the inevitable step to take toward fulfilling one’s purpose in life: produce and reproduce. Those who failed to reproduce this home-based structure of capitalist and moral manufactured goods were begrudgingly seated at the children’s table, looked upon with sad and disappointed glances accompanied by profound sighs of hope. At least this was the fate of ripe –and past due– for marriage single men. Single women of age and beyond, who had failed to meet their obligation were either left para vestir santos or relegated to the status of whoredom if they had failed to marry or maintain a marriage; the status of those who entered motherhood outside of marriage was (is) much worse.

As a young boy growing up in Chihuahua, marriage was held to a sacred standard that surpassed even Catholicism. My abuela Antonia, who readily abandoned the Pope for the arms of Baptists missionaries, even attributed health benefits to those who exchanged vows. She believed marriage even helped overcome lifelong medical conditions.

Mirroring the story of many queer people I know, I worked tirelessly to compensate for the fact that I would never grant my family the joy of seeing me standing at the foot of an altar waiting for a woman who, more than being dressed in white, was worthy (in their eyes) of wearing such a color. Early on, I knew I would fail to perform the most sacred of acts. My only other option was to excel in every other possible way. My academic and professional achievements became the consolation prizes with which I attempted to hide the lifelong shame I brought to the mythological family legacies of marriage and happiness.

The night I was disowned my father called me a rama seca, a dried branch, of our family tree. The son of the patriarch, my body and way of loving cut the circulation of Herrera genes. I strangled the hope for offspring and desecrated the purpose for which my family’s white and male creator brought me to this world.

It was in the process of mourning the consequences of loving with integrity that I learned to celebrate the painfully earned immunity that my queerness had given me. As one whose unconsecrated love would never be condoned or celebrated, I was free to love on my own terms. Most liberating of all, I was free to equate and separate love and desire as I pleased, with whom I pleased, and with as many as I pleased. I was no longer bound.

In the midst of my newfound joy and newly discovered emotional and sexual freedom, came the right to marry. With the strike of pens, elected officials and courts in various parts of the world began granting same-sex couples the right to enter into legal and, in some cases, moral contract.

I confused our path toward government-sanctioned love with the possibility that this love, this way of loving, would one day also become sanctioned by the world I live in, and more importantly, those with whom I share these last names. Sadly, with some exceptions, I was right.

The advent of equality has granted others the right to toss my love and way of loving to the wretched realm of normalcy. My relationship to one man now grants me the privilege of being distinguished, respected and called upon for matters of family and industry. Yet I am not allowed to speak, much less openly live, the sexuality of my queerness. The casualty of equality has been my desire.

I support the right to marry in as much as it is unjust for it to be a special right reserved for those who partake in heterosexual dyads, but I do not abandon my convictions in the process. I celebrate and honor the legal marriages of my loved ones, and truly cherish those whose legal contracts exist within revolutionary constructs of love and partnership, while remaining critical of a movement that has fed my desire to the gods of normativity and acceptance. 

I do not believe it serves anyone for us to witness the shaping of homonormative mores without being critical. This movement toward equality has made marriage sacrosanct, at times mirroring the oppressive dogma-infused enforcement laid upon the opposite gender loving. My fear is that, as our once queer cultures shift toward normalcy, we may be giving up the right to choose in exchange for the right to marry.

Sacred as it may be, the marriage we seek access to is not void of the pervasive ills feminists have long warned about. Even as critiques of the marriage equality movement persist, critical dialogue around “marriage” itself is an unspeakable sin. It is dangerous to believe that marriage, an institution infused by (some would argue, born out of) misogyny, racism and economic exploitation, is immune to such forces simply by existing within same-sex contexts. There is nothing about the modern-day LGBT movement that leads me to believe this would be a given.

Certainly, I hold hope that the manufacturing of equality will lead toward a changed social consciousness that values the same-sex performance of couplehood, such that the bodies of such performers are treated with dignity and respect. But I do not fool myself in believing that those who refuse to perform legislative and morally approved relationship roles will enjoy the same treatment. 

Such happiness is not bestowed upon those who dare love on their own terms; those who love more than one; those who love multiple genders, as well as genderless and multiple-gendered bodies; and, those who refuse to love at all. It seems we have conflated the right to marry with the obligation to do so. For others to assume I will marry one day is dangerously close and familiar to the expectation that I will. For marriage to be an option for queer communities might be a sign of progress, yet for it to become the norm is a sad tragedy.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Imagining Ourselves Possible: 26 years and counting

The poet Marvin K. White speaks often about the importance of knowing one’s lineage, remembering who signed our birth certificates. He has said that “we don’t just appear out of nowhere, we come from somewhere.” These are teachings I carry with me daily.

My heart and skin are tattooed with the names of the midwives, parteras and healers who walked me into this world of consciousness and art. Women, men, some who are both, others who are neither, were all a part of bringing me into a world of resistance and possibility— the names written on my birth certificate. The birthing center, allgo, a statewide queer people of color organization.

In 2001, the organization went by the name of ALLGO (Austin Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Organization). It was a thriving organism of arts, health education and critical organizing. It was a center of cultural awakening and engagement. It was a site of change.

Over the following eight years, I went from being a client, a volunteer, a board member, associate director, executive director, and director of arts & community building. In these eight years of growth and learning, the organization changed names to allgo, a queer people of color organization (to better reflect the wholeness of the organization's community), to allgo, a statewide queer people of color organization (as part of efforts to support organizing and the arts across Texas).

My eight years at allgo were the most transformative of my artistic/activist life. I was held by an incomparable ever-expansive community of queer people of color, white and straight allies, students, teachers, artists, organizers, elders, children, youth and the occasional elected official. Raised in Christian traditions of second-births, I now know that allgo was where I truly was born again. Only this time, I was born into a consciousness rooted in ancient traditions, critical resistance, artistic fervor and communal imagination. allgo is my birthplace.

Today, allgo turns 26 years old. What began as a pool party on October 12, 1985 (Día de la Raza) -- with over 200 guests in attendance –- has grown to be an important and unwavering space in the history and ongoing redaction of the realization of social justice movements. One of the longest standing queer people of color organizations in the country, allgo is a living testimony to the power of a people who dare imagine ourselves possible.

The further this economy and politically centric agendas continue to exacerbate the marginalization and disenfranchisement of our communities, the more critical organizations like allgo are.

Be a part of continuing the legacy of resistance and possibility by supporting allgo today. Whether you are in Texas or far away (as I am today), all of us have an opportunity to sit at the intersections of possibilities, arts and organizing. Join me.

Be a part of the next 26 years.

Click here to learn more about allgo's work.

Click here to join the mailing list.

Click here to donate today.