One Year Home-a-versary

It has been a year since my daughter and I left the shelter after five years of homelessness.
I cannot believe it’s only been one year. We got used to things pretty quickly which surprised me. After all, I was so used to being treated like an animal, being carted off to different shelters, nothing more than a number to the State, that I thought not having to deal with shelter life would be a major adjustment.

Since I already wrote about the differences between shelter and apartment living, I’d like to make this post a thank you letter to everyone who helped me get in here and continues to help my daughter and I. Some are named and others I’ve used initials for because they’ve asked/I don’t know how they’d feel about a public shout out.

First I’d like to thank Angie Jackson and Ania Bula for helping me with creating and sharing my fundraiser.
I was hesitant to make one at first because I was afraid no one would help. I was afraid poor shamers would question why I was asking for money. I’ve seen it so many times before. Angie and Ania helped convince me and they then helped share the hell out of that link.

I’d like to thank my online group of women and NB friends for always listening to me whine and complain and cry about everything in my life. Why you all haven’t gotten sick of me is a mystery.

Many thanks to Sally S. who drove down to the City when I left one of the many shelters (I was being transferred to another) and helped me move my things. If not for that, the shelter would have thrown away everything which would have meant that when I finally moved into this apartment my daughter and I would have had to start over.

Which brings me to thanking KH, ALS, JF, IDT, SG, YR and many others for the lovely housewarming gifts they sent us.

I’d like to thank all of these wonderful people and their friends (strangers to me) for sharing my fundraiser and story. If not for them, I wouldn’t have been able to raise the money to pay off the apartment fees. We were able to come up with the money in about a day!

I was honestly flabbergasted. I could not believe the outpouring of support we received and continue to receive. I feel so lucky to have such wonderful people in my life. People who love my daughter. Our first Christmas here, some friends sent us gifts and my daughter was over the moon.

My friends helped keep me sane while I was dealing with getting the apartment ready. They offered their support, ideas and advice.

I’d like to thank several of my artist friends for encouraging me to keep up with my own art. So, thank you to the Artful Scientist, Ania (once again!), AG, CW, APV for seeing the beauty in what I do and telling me. As you know, sometimes we’re our own biggest and harshest critics.

To my fellow single mom friends, thank you for reminding me I’m not alone. Thank you for staying up with me when I was worried I was somehow messing up my kid’s life.

Finally, I’d like to thank my mami for always helping any way she can. She’s the Sophia to my Dorothy and I’m proud to be her daughter. She’s a great mom. I love you, mami.
And special thanks to my daughter TJ. She has been such a trooper. She’s gone through so much in her short life but she always manages to stay bright and bubbly. I love that about her. She’s my favorite person and I’m lucky to have her call me “mom”.

All of these people (and so many others i didn’t mentioned becuase they’ve helped in so many different ways, it’ll be a way longer post)  are always there to remind me to take it easy. To be gentle with myself, reminding me I’m doing the best I can as a person, mom and friend.

Thank you all so much again. I’ll never feel like I can thank you all enough.

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I just feel like my heart is going to burst because it’s full of rainbows

 

Se Llevaron La Luz!: Blackout 2003 and Reflections

It’s been 13 years since I left Puerto Rico with my mom and brother. It’s also been 13 years since the Blackout of 2003.

We were out shopping when all the stores went dark. At first people thought it was just on that block. Then we found out all of Southern Boulevard had lost power. We kept walking and found the train station, that’s when we found out there was a blackout so we could not get on the train. A few people were worried it was an act of terror. After all , 9/11 had happened less than two years prior.

Honestly though, my brother and I did not understand the problem. The light was constantly being “taken away” in Puerto Rico. The blackout was sorta welcomed to us because it made us feel at home. Growing up, it was a very common thing to yell, “se llevaron la luz!” out the window to alert the other neighbors that the power had been cut off the in the neighborhood for a while. We did the same when they’d cut the water supply.”They” being the Autoridad de Energia Electrica de PR and  Acueductos y Alcantarillados.  We’d go days without both so we had no problem dealing with the blackout.

Recently I’ve been thinking how much things change. When we moved to NYC I thought I’d never get used to all the noise and people. I’d never get used to swaying of the trains or the bumpy rides on buses. Everything was bright, loud and steel.

A childhood friend is visitng. They’ve never been to NYC. The bus and train ride home was hilarious. It reminded me so much of when I get here. My friend was looking at everything with such wide-eyed amazement. And I was telling them about the City and the “rules”, how New Yorkers  are. I told them they must have a NYC pizza because we are the best at it. They were asking so many questions and I was able to answer them.

I miss the coqui’s song. I miss how starry the sky is at night in El Campo. I miss the beaches.

I’ve never really felt at home in the States. Visiting Puerto Rico is always great but then I’m reminded of all the religious motivated bigotry on the Island; all the machismo etc. So, I feel too Latina for the States and too Americana for Puerto Rico.

But I’m starting to realize I have the best of both worlds.

I get to have New York City’s big slices of pizza and my friend brought me Puerto Rican candy. So, it’s a win-win.

Mourning a Rando’s Dick

CN: t-slur

A man messaged me on a dating site to let me know how much my feminism was a “dick killer”. How as soon as he saw my picture he lost interest and would rather “fuck a hole in the wall”. How he thought I was interesting until he saw “feminist”, how he thought I was a “tr*nny”. And again reminded me how much of a “dick killer” I am.

Oh how will I ever go on? I have hurt this man. He was so confused. How dare my uninteresting face made him look at my interesting profile until he saw that dreaded word.

I know this man’s pain. Many times I have walked into baseball stadiums to loudly tell every one how much I hate that game.

I once bought a cheeseburger and then angrily demanded my money back because of how much I hate them.

This poor man.

How will I ever go on knowing the hurt I caused this man? How will I ever go on knowing he won’t fuck me?

Tis truly a sad day him.

Let us all mourn this man’s dick’s death. RIP, dick. RIP.

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Privacy and Abuela

Privacy, bodily autonomy, personal space isn’t a thing for older Hispanics.

When I was little and there was company coming over grandma would yell at us to clean our room. It didn’t matter that it was clean. No, it had to be immaculate. It had to look like two small children (my younger brother and I) weren’t occupying that space.

If it wasn’t cleaned to her standards, she’d close the door. I’d ask why and I was told, “you know how people are. They might open the door and then see the mess.”

I heard this again when mami was teaching me how to cook rice and she’d arranged the rice in a neat mound in the pot when it was done cooking. I would never do that. She’d tell me to. I’d ask why and she’d say “presentation is important because people might open the pot”

I mean who the hell would care if the rice wasn’t arranged nicely? I only cared about it being cooked properly. (When I was learning, I always added too much waer and it would end up “amogollao”)

Who were these nosy ass people judging me about my unmade bed and messy rice?
Family, of course.

I learned family had a right to everything about me. I got my first period when I was 11 and my grandmother called everybody to tell them that “el gallo ya canto”. I got calls from my godmother in NYC congratulating me on finally becoming a “Señorita”.

I lived with my mom, my grandparents and my two brothers. My tio M* lived with is until he died when I was 8. The room I shared with my mom and younger brother was the master bedroom of the house. It had its own bathroom, but no door, instead it had a beaded curtain (no kidding!).

Grandma would walk in the bathroom all the time. It didn’t matter if I was showering or on the toilet because “we both have the same stuff”.

Sometimes, when I had the room to myself, I’d close the door. Grandma would yell at me because “decent young ladies” don’t close their doors. I was 12.

Once a boy who liked me walked me most of the way home. We passed by several older people who knew my grandpa (in our town people knew who you were by your “pinta”. They could tell who your “people” were by your coloring!)
I knew they would have all sorts of stories about A’s* granddaughter walking alone with a boy. So as soon as I got home I told my grandma that a boy from my class (and I made sure to emphasize how much I did not like this boy) had walked me part of the way home. Because if I didn’t tell her, she’d hear about it next time she went into town and I’d get yelled at.

I was forced to hug and kiss relatives I didn’t want to. I’d be shamed into doing it.

I told myself I would be different with TJ. For the most part I am, but then I have company come over and even though my apartment is clean, I start freaking out because a child’s messy room will be used as proof of how “malcri’a” TJ is; how shitty I am as a mom.

I know it’s all bullshit. I know that the people who matter won’t care about that stuff. I mean, a lot of this privacy and bodily autonomy stuff is tied into a lot of social justice issues and most of my friends are social justice minded. So rationally I KNOW that my 6 year old’s messy room won’t be a big deal. In fact, a child that age should have a messy room.

But in the back of my mind, I hear my tiny but scary grandma telling me to clean up. It’s the same voice I hear whenever I try to ignore abuelitas in the street when I have my earbuds on. It’s the same voice who tells me to keep my legs together when I’m wearing a skirt. It’s the reason why even though I’m an atheist I still ask my grandma for “la bendición”.

Because old habits die hard and disrespecting abuela is a no-no.

Note: Initials were used to protect family’s privacy (take that nosy family!)

Fake Goths

It’s been a few months since the whole Cathy Brennan is a fake goth thing started. It had died down. And then some friends were locked out of their accounts for 24 hours for months-old posts. So it began again.

I haven’t been locked out but I’ve had several posts removed for calling Cathy Brennan a fake goth. (update: as soon as I published this, I discovered I was locked out from posting for 24 hours)

Fake goths aren’t persecuted. There aren’t people outside of Hot Topic waiting for scene kids to come out to then beat them. No one is doxxing fake goths, there isn’t legislation stopping fakers from using the bathroom.

Yet, fake goths can report a post and have it taken down immediately.

Facebook recently removed a post from The Body is not an Apology simply because it was standing in solidarity with Black Lives Matter.
The Kinfolk Kollective and Son of Baldwin pages were unpublished for a few days.

Meanwhile facebook doesn’t remove violent imagery, it doesn’t remove sexism, racism, transmisogyny and homophobia. Fake Goths can doxx trans women and that is totally fine.

Gender Identity Watch could harass trans women and Facebook did nothing about it. I can’t find GIW on Facebook so I’m hoping it’s been removed but how many times did it have to be reported before Facebook did anything?

On the other hand, posts calling Cathy Brennan a fake goth were removed almost immediately. It does not escape me that a white woman can so easily have posts removed.

We all know Facebook is racist as fuck. We all know that white people are racist. I don’t care that she’s posting pro-BLM stuff on her page. She benefits from the racist system facebook has set up. Her privilege as a white woman is being used when she decides “fake goth” hurts her delicate feels.

Trans women, particularly trans women of color, don’t get that luxury.

All this to say that CATHY BRENNAN IS A FAKE GOTH.

Dad Jokes

So there’s this new thing that fathers are doing called the Cheerio Challenge and it’s about who can prove who’s the biggest tool  funniest dad.

Ever wonder why there is such a thing as “dad jokes” but not the mom equivalent? Because dads are allowed to be silly. Dads are allowed to do this type of shit and not have people question their parenting ability. It’s why we have goddamn parades for weekend dads but condemn single moms. Seriously, look at any story about a single dad and you’ll get bombarded with comments on how “selfless” and “wonderful” the dad is. Look at stories about single moms and you’ll find comments questioning her ability to parent. They’ll wonder why she’s single. Single dads (or dads in general really) get praised. Single moms get scorned.

It’s why people went gaga over Chris Hemsworth baking a cake for his daughter. Seriously? He baked a cake. Clearly, he’s wasting his talents on acting. Get that man in culinary school!

It’s why we say dads are babysitting their children while mom is away.

Google “dad jokes” and you get this:
dad

Google “mom jokes” and you get this:
mom

So, do we see a difference?
Dad gets to be silly and fun; we wink at each other over how ridiculous dad is but we never say, “hey fattie, stop the jokes and get in the kitchen and feed your kids. Look pretty while you do it, toots”

The mom results are all a bunch of racist, ableist, sexist jokes at the expense of mom.

Getting back to the Cheerio Challenge: Yes, it’s cute and it’s silly, but as a single mom I really wonder what the response would be if this had been started by moms.

I also have to wonder why the fuck you’d risk waking your baby! Parents know that when baby sleeps, we can try to relax. Emphasis on try. This just seems like an incredibly inconsiderate thing to do. Because we also know how labor is usually divided in households with both parents, we can then extrapolate that mom ends up doing most of the emotional and physical labor while dad gets to waste cereal on a challenge to prove how big his dick is  how funny he is.

Fathers, doesn’t the fact that you get praised for doing the bare minimum bother you? Think about it: society is basically saying your mediocrity is just fine. You don’t need to improve; to strive to be a better parent. Doesn’t that offend you? Society doesn’t expect the best from you. It’s much like how rape culture dictates that all men can’t control themselves. We know that isn’t true. So why not do better; be better? Disrupt the narrative that fathers merely babysit their kids. Make people let go of the notion that we shouldn’t expect fathers to be fully involved in their children’s lives.

(“Father of the Year Awards” can be bought here)

My Coming Out Story

CN: homophobia, religious bigotry, Pulse
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The recent shooting at Pulse has me hit me hard. It got me to think about my own queerness and about what it means to be a queer Boricua. I started thinking about my first encounter with Pride and the LGBT community.

I was 11 the first time there was a pride march in my hometown in Puerto Rico. Mami took us. I remember it was treated as a sort of spectacle for cis hets to enjoy.
Anyway, we’re in the car and my older brother is driving. I see this rainbow flag and I asked what it was. My older brother called it “la bandera de los maricones”. I yelled at him for using that slur. He just laughed at me.

We passed by a group of people holding signs with messages like “homosexuales van al infierno”, “Dios te odia”. I asked Mami if that was true. I was taking Sunday school classes and they told me God made us in his image and he didn’t make mistakes. He loved us all. So why was he condemning these people? She didn’t know how to respond. She would just say we weren’t allowed to question God because that meant the devil had taken hold of us.
I don’t remember much from the parade. I know there was a lot of people and everybody looked happy and like they were having fun.

Before that my only encounters with LGBT folks were reruns of Will & Grace and the trans woman who was a regular at the annual town fair. Everybody used she/her pronouns but I was told she “used to be a man”. I vaguely remember hearing she had been attacked and the reaction was that it was wrong because she didn’t bother anybody. No one told me it was wrong becuase transmisogyny is wrong. They basically said she didn’t deserve it becuase she kept to herself. I didn’t question it at the time but looking back the message was that some LGBT folks deserve the attacks.
Mami worked in a hotel near the beach. That was the only part of town LGBT folks felt safe expressing themselves. I would hear stories about “patos” holding hands and there was a lot of “joking” about loose hands. Mami never made those jokes and she always told me it was wrong to hate homosexuals.

It wasn’t until I moved to the states 13 years ago that I saw a gay couple publicly showing affection. My mind was blown. Here were two men holding hands and just genuinely enjoying each others company.

I didn’t come out as pan and non binary until last year. Before then I believed I was straight and cis. I ignored the feelings I’d get for certain girls. I thought “everybody has those feelings. It doesn’t mean anything”.
Growing up I was very much a “tomboy” and my grandmother once asked me if I was “pata”. I was so offended. “No, of course not! Can’t a girl not like girly things without it meaning anything” (It can, of course). My grandfather was worried my Tonka trucks would make me “machua” (butch lesbian)
My abusive boyfriend would constantly question why I had some many queer friends and why I would watch Noah’s Arc. He’d constantly talk about threesomes and ask me to pick the girl and I would ignore him. He’d insist and point out different women and when I would give up and say I found a woman attractive he’d use that as proof that I was a lesbian.

I never felt like I could own my sexuality. Looking back, I think I stuck to cis and straight becuase it was easier. I didn’t pick them, I didn’t have to justify them. They were the norm, they were safe; indeed they were the only labels available. I didn’t know there were other options. That all changed when I met several NB’s and when they would talk about their identity it just made sense to me. I read up on it and I felt this immediate sense of relief. These feelings I had had a name and they were valid.

My mom is supportive even if she doesn’t completely understand. My daughter was unfazed when I explained. “You’re still my mom. That’s what counts. You’re a person”. (From the mouth of babes, huh?)

The shooting at Pulse happened the morning the Puerto Rican Day parade was to take place. I watched the parade on TV and saw so many Puerto Rican flags with the rainbow colors. This was the first year the Parade included queer Boricuas. While my heart was breaking over Orlando, I was also so proud that Puerto Rico is finally (although slowly) moving forward.
I’m fiercely proud of my Puerto Rican heritage. I’m fiercely proud of my femme queerness.
The shooting  scared me and it still does. But that is OK becuase it’s that fear that drives me to speak up; to protect myself and others.

This is why I’m writing this. This, my official coming out story.

 

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Hatred will not silence us. We will not stop fighting. We will mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living.