My Two cents: Elisa Chan and the #NDO4SA

I live in San Antonio, Texas.  I’m a lesbian. I am brown.

My life experiences have fortunately taken me to many places in the U.S. and the world.  I have heard over and over again, “Yikes, you live in Texas,” or, “sorry, that must be hard,” or the occasional “No need to even vote in Texas, super red state,” and, “You should move,” and my personal favorite…”Don’t you just LOVE the Alamo?”  No, I’m not kidding. I wish I was.

So yes, I am quite aware of the perceptions that other more “progressive” parts of our country think of Texas, and must imagine our lives to be.  And, they would be right in certain cases.  For instance, one of our City Council Members was recently caught spewing ignorance and hate in a staff meeting.  Seriously? Ugh.

Now, I am not naive enough to think that because we have “come so far,”  it means that we are now free to hold hands with our partners and skip down the streets in our rainbow attire, all the while having passersby gleam at us with gushing sentiments of approval.  (I actually think that would be a fun day though)  However, I do think that an elected representative must at the very least, NOT think her constituents are “disgusting.”  Hmmm, maybe there are no LGBT people in her district… Um No.  Watch this.  Yes, we are everywhere in San Antonio.  Tan tan tan!!!

That being said, perhaps she should not be in office. Ex Council Member Leticia Ozuna recently called for just that, Chan’s resignation, when it was revealed that during the full version of the recording, Chan made disparaging remarks about Ozuna’s family and her transgender life partner.  Cheers to Ozuna for “coming out” to everyone!  Seriously, putting a well known and respected face on “disgusting” makes reasonable, non-bigoted people say “Hey, hold your horses there ma’am!”  That’s exactly the point.

Now, forgive me for backtracking…I am convinced I have untreated A.D.D., but in case you are not aware, all of this comes on the heels of A LOT of hard work done by some amazing people.  C.A.U.S.A. has been working with both local and national organizations to update San Antonio’s Non-discrimination ordinance to include sexual orientation, gender identity, and Veteran status.  Yes, we also have gay veterans in San Antonio. Who’d a thunk it?  What does this mean? Councilman Diego Bernal breaks it down here.  Perhaps a bit over simplified, but sometimes simple is good.  What he does not explain in this bulleted breakdown, is what it actually means to these communities.

I know that for me, it means that my city values my contribution.  It means that as a lesbian, I can be confident in my position as a Director of an empowerment program for girls, because my community stands behind me, because no matter my sexual orientation, I do my job well, and deserve equal protection under the law. Here is a bit that I found particularly offensive in Chan’s discussion.

“If you wanted to choose that lifestyle, we don’t want to discriminate you, but you shouldn’t affect the young people,” she continues. “How terrible. … They’re going to be confused. You see two men go into a bedroom. You see two women kissing. Is that not confusing? It’s confusing.“It is actually, what you call, suggestive, for the kids to be corrupt, which is against nature. I’m telling you, anything that is against nature is not right.”

Um, excuse me Ms. Chan, but that shit doesn’t fly with me.  I LOVE kids, though as of yet I have none of my own. Perhaps I’ll adopt. Moreover, I love the kids I work with enough to “suggest” to them things such as higher education, civic engagement, community responsibility, using their voices against oppression (ehhem), love, kindness, and self worth. Shameful I tell you!

All  snark aside, this ordinance is important to a hell of a lot of people.  It’s important to me, and for my future, but it is also important for future generations.  Schools all over the nation have anti-bullying programs now, and that’s great, but if our policies continue to relegate certain communities to that of second class citizens, then there is not a bullying program on the planet that can stop violence and discrimination against LGBT people.  Our policies have the power to change culture.  They at the very least give the protected class protection against those who may want to do harm.  And I hate to state the obvious, but Chan makes a pretty good case for us needing the ordinance updated. Just sayin’.

My friend who told me I should move comes to mind.  I love you friend, but the answer is a resounding no. Not now. Not anytime soon. THIS is where the work has to be done.  We cannot leave this place to the bigots and the willfully ignorant.  No way, no how.

Here is a link to C.A.U.S.A’s petition to City Council.  The ordinance will be voted on by City Council September 5th.  I will be there with my red shirt on, in support of Equality and Fairness in San Antonio.

*To our City Council Members who support Equality and Fairness, thank you.  To those who don’t…step it up. Be on the right side of history. (I’m talking to you Ivy Taylor)

The Day After Tomorrow (written on Nov 5)

Tomorrow is important. Everyone I know is posting political opinions (one way or the other).  We are all waiting in anticipation for the imaginary voting bell to ring…and we’re off.  Most of us voted early. I am a fairly impatient person, and I despise lines. Republicans are right. If they want to win, taking away early voting is one way to possibly stop people like me from getting to the polls, but not this time.

Tomorrow is important because there is the possibility that progress can be undone, that “all the us’s” (Harvey Milk speech) will go back to being the outcasts, the marginalized, and the…well, squashed minorities.  Sometimes I cannot believe that we (LGBTQ people) are closer to equality than I had imagined we could be just four years ago.  We no longer have Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and my friends in the armed forces don’t have to hide anymore. Can you believe it? I have had more than a couple of friends who have been discharged, or worse, had to hide a part of themselves for their entire lives. Not anymore.

LGBTQ people now have hospital visitation rights. It seems like such a small thing, but it isn’t. It’s huge.  In my early twenties, my then partner was rushed to the emergency room. I couldn’t do anything. Her mother lived out of town, and was shocked when I told her they wouldn’t allow me to see my partner without her there. I was no one. I waited in the lobby all night, until her mother arrived  and gave the doctor permission for me to be there. It was one of the most painful experiences I have ever known. I even had a nurse spew hateful words at me. I didn’t want to be kicked out, so I remained quiet.

Earlier this year, the President of The United States of America stated that he believed that “I” deserved the right to be married.  There was a collective cheer from me and my friends I was with, and I couldn’t help but cry.  I can’t explain the feeling, but I’ll try.  When I was a teenager, like many, I hid.  I didn’t date. I didn’t care to date. I met a woman and I fell in love. I hated myself for it. When we broke up, I dated a lot of men…too many. I was pretending that I was straight, overcompensating for the struggle I was going through.

Thankfully, my struggle didn’t last long. I found a community of gay men and lesbians who not only didn’t care that I was gay, but welcomed me into their world, their families, their homes. I knew I would be ok. The outside world was scary, starting with my own family (excluding my supportive mother and a couple of cousins).  I knew life would be more difficult for me, for all of us. I remember hearing over and over that my “lifestyle” was a choice. My answer was always the same. Who in their right mind would choose to be a societal outcast? I had once been a servant team leader in my church.  According to my old church “friends” (granted, not all of them) I was going to hell. I was the worst kind of sinner.

So when President Obama voiced his support for same-sex marriage, it meant that he was acknowledging my full personhood. I know I’m a full person, who deserves the same dignity and rights that heterosexual people enjoy.  But finally, if in word only, the most powerful leader in the world, said “I” deserve the opportunity to pursue happiness in love and life.

I will never forget that.

But I am not “just” a lesbian. I am a Chicana, a woman of color. I am a brown woman. The brown part…I am a U. S. citizen, as is my mother, and her mother before her, but I remember the border town fear of the Border Patrol. I remember hearing the word “migra” and knowing that there was some reason I should fear them.  As I grew into myself, I changed that fear into activism.  I believe in the Dream Act. I loathe SB 1070.  I have protested, marched, written letters, and organized. Others who are brown like me, but have no documents, deserve the right to pursue their dreams and live without fear.

The woman.  I was not around when Roe v. Wade was decided, but I have reaped the benefits.  I have had the right to choose, and as a lesbian, you might think that it doesn’t mean much to me. It does.  It means that I am the master of my own body, and that I have the power to decide when and if I want to start a family.  Granted, starting a family is more complicated now that I have stopped trying to prove that I am straight…cause I’m not. And women’s healthcare and choices are so much more than pregnancy and termination.  I am the ONLY one who should have dominion over my body, period.

All of this means that tomorrow is indeed very important. If Romney wins, he has vowed to stand with right-wing-fundamentalist-anti-woman-anti-comprehensive immigration reform types.  This means that the day after tomorrow could bring the reality of a drastically different future, at least in the short-term.  History moves forward, and backlash is inevitable, but I am banking on the progressive momentum of this country’s people to keep the wheels moving in the right direction, towards equality and fairness.

The day after tomorrow I will be able to have lunch with my Republican friends again. I’ve been avoiding them pre-election. Come to think of it, I’m sure we are avoiding each other.  The day after tomorrow, I will unhide them from my Facebook feed.  I hope, that after Obama wins, they will unhide me also, and perhaps we will still consider each other friends.

When in pain…paint

Somewhere along the way, I developed a couple of healthy coping mechanisms to accompany my very unhealthy ones; one of which is painting. Around the age of 19, I realized that I could draw a face and body that amounted to more than just a stick figure.  I had recently moved to California, and didn’t have many friends. I lived about a five-minute drive from the water, and so I would take a journal and pencil and draw the faces of my friends from back home. I missed them. I soon bought some paints and canvas and trusted that my hands wouldn’t fail me.

Ever since, I have used painting as a release. It’s a gradual release after all. It takes time to imagine the image, pick the colors, project the pain from inside of me onto the canvass. Afterward, I have a visual timeline of my trials. It allows me to look back; see how far I’ve come.  I’ve painted happier things for others; joined an art show here and there, but my painting has really been for me.

Here are a few.

This is called Ten Cuidado Con Mi Corazon. (Be careful with my heart)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I never gave this one a name. This is a self-portrait. I am obviously angry and sad, and I remember wishing that memories were flammable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one is called Gravity. The words on the side are the lyrics from the Sara Bareilles song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is Inside Out.The textured pieces on the right of the painting are dried flower petals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This wasn’t actually painted during trying times…well fully. It began as a gift for my ex. She was moving into a new house, and wanted art for her walls. She returned it to me after we broke up last year. In hindsight, it may not have been the best idea to paint us as calaveras…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is called Rebirth.  I painted it in the last year as a reminder of the journey back to sanity that I have made since my ex and I broke up. I purposely made her pink (some would say bruised) and weak, because in my head, that’s how one begins.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Below is my most recent work.  It is unfinished. I look at it every day and think maybe one day it will be finished.  It’s called Lady In Waiting.