Today is International Women’s Day, the day where we celebrate the contributions and acknowledge the struggles that women face in our global society. Joining in on the international celebration, the xQsí familia honors the LBTQ, Latina, or LBTQ Latina women that with their strength have shaped our lives for the better.
“The first Latin American woman that changed my life was Antonia Peña. El world barely knew of her existence. She was born in a small town, worked in the field, was a sister to 7, and wife to man with whom she had one daughter. She didn’t learn to read nor write, and didn’t go to catechism. She grew up raising her siblings and stranger’s children. She shared her life with me from the time I was 6 months old until I was seven. She taught me about love through actions, to brush my teeth, to scrub my knees, to pray, to control my tantrums. She loved me as if I had come from her womb. She took care of me when I had a fever. She took me to the doctor and to school. She heard my first sentences; she would ask me to read her the paper and the billboards on the street. She would get frustrated when I wouldn’t eat her food, and give me chacletasos whenever I’d through myself on the floor simply because she wouldn’t by me Chocolatines. She took me for the first time to a radio station and discovered in me the gift of the word — the art of reading, speaking, and writing — despite being illiterate. She changed my diapers and taught me the value of living, the love for the kitchen and Sunday raviolis. That woman, anonymous to the world, is the first Latin American woman to change my life because she took care of me when my own mother couldn’t. She therefore was, is, and forever will be my mamá Antonia. The only mom I have know and who death stole from me much too soon.
Many lesbians have impacted my life in a positive way, yet today I would like to write about one that has shown a spirit of faith, strength and determination. Her name is Minerva Romero. She lost her legs to a terrible accident. She was abandoned, cheated on by lawyers that only made money off her case. Organizations also used her misfortune only to attract the media’s attention to stand out for self-interests. Because of this, at first, Minerva naturally felt manipulated, betrayed and devastated. While many people that have everything to succeed still choose to complain, portray themselves as victims and even blame others for their misfortunes, Minerva chose a different path for herself. She overcame pain, adversity, and ultimately rebuilt her life. In fact, even in a wheelchair, she wakes up every day to go to work, has raised a child, and is now working on a project to empower other women to become self-reliable and shine with their own light. Minerva is an inspiration to me.
“One of the women who has influenced me in my life and continues to be my mentor is Valerie Spencer. Valerie is an African American trans woman who has marked history by providing HIV prevention and care services in Los Angeles County. Valerie also is a wonderful motivational speaker who travels across the country speaking on trans issues. In the beginning of my career, Valerie was one of the people who always encouraged me and believed in me. She always used to tell me “when you discover your potential, you are going to do great things” of course, I did not see it or believed it then but she has helped me to boost my self-confidence and to believe that I can accomplish whatever I want for myself. Without a doubt, Valerie has marked my life in a very positive way and continues to do so. I can honestly say that when I grow up, I want to be just like Valerie Spencer.”
“Up until sophomore year, I was a psychology major at UIC. I spoke of statistical significance and covariance, and read of cognitive dissonance and priming. It wasn’t until I took my first Chican@ history course that I switched over to Latin American & Latino Studies and found what I truly loved. But it wasn’t necessarily what I learned in that class that fundamentally altered the course of my life; it was who taught it: Elena Gutiérrez. Rest assured, learning the history of the Mexican people in the United States definitely taught me that I was a part of a long legacy of cultural resistance. Understanding the repercussions of colonialism on my community offered me invaluable insight into contemporary problems. However, it was Elena, her inclusion of queer Chican@ writings, and the passion and conviction with which she taught them, that allowed me for the first time to see myself — my whole self — reflected back at me in the smoking mirror of our history. For the first time I saw the possibility of being proud of my cultural heritage while simultaneously being true to queerness — all without contradiction. Elena was an example of what who I could be. Without Elena, I probably wouldn’t be here, in this space, writing and sharing the stories of my people, proud in the plurality of my identities. It is because of her that once I learned of my queer Chican@ lineage, I never looked back.”
“I don’t really have a Latina role model that affected my way of life per se. I could say my mother was the closest model I’ve seen through my life. I saw many positive features of hers but as well, I was exposed to a few that were not of my liking. Something that comes with the territory between a mother and her children. However, there was a woman named Anaïs Nin, a thinker and author that impressed me much because her uncanny honesty. However, I celebrate womanhood as a whole, because women have been the pillar to maintain and support their counterpart. And both have made possible to have a better world and lifestyle.”
Juan Andrés Gómez Méndez
“Fabiana Fine is an Argentine trans woman that, for a number of years, has lived in Uruguay. Currently serving on the artistic team of Il Tempo, LGBTQ Bowling, and host of Parte D, a radio program emitted by Bulofm.com. She is a theatre and film actress, having appeared in the movie “The farewell.” Few years ago, she was also awarded the Revelation of Carnival prize, ( during Uruguay’s main festival).
“I saw her for the first time in 2007 during my first trip to the Cain Dance Bowling, where she and Antonio Bergamasco did shows on Fridays. I was dazzled by her way of doing humor, her stage presence, her charisma and beauty. Always said that if I was straight, I would marry Fabiana. It was admiration at first sight.
“From that day on, and for years I went to see her at Cain, Il Tempo, inside theater, and everywhere else she’d perform and I could go. I know that whenever she perform, everyone will have a good time, have fun and she change the mood you’re mood if it’s one of those days where everything is not quite right.
“It’s very difficult for someone like her to not influence their viewers. At least with me, she did. There is only one way to fight against discrimination and prejudice: being yourself.”.
“For International Women’s Day I want to remember Gloria E. Anzaldúa. I met Gloria sometime around 1984 when I moved into a studio apartment that was in the big house where she lived on the Oakland/Berkeley border. I was introduced to her by my friend Lea Arrellano. At the time I did not realize what a profound impact Gloria would have on my life. I remember her being a very private person but she said she was a writer and sometimes she liked to work in the quiet of the night and sleep during the day. Whenever we had time to visit she always made me feel very important. She asked me questions about my life experience and asked me to write about them. I said I would but I let life get in the way of my writing and so now I’m doing what I said I would. I want to say Gloria, thank you for encouraging me and allowing me to read your first drafts of Borderlands. Thank you for the deep and detailed conversations and questions. Thank you for putting my name in the acknowledgements even though you kept it a secret until I read my own name in your book. Thank you for listening and most of all thank you for teaching me that I too can write and that I too have a story to tell. Thank you introducing me to the word queer and for doing this for so many of us “queer” gente.”
While taking time during the eve of International Women’s Day to think about the LBTQ mujeres that have influenced my life, I first, think of the amazing Xican@s that came before me such as Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherrie Moraga, whose writings helped (and still help) shape my queer Xican@ identity. When I think of people that I know in “real life,” I know that my activism and desire to be involved in and help create community are strongly influenced by women like Bamby Salcedo and Anayvette Maria Martinez. In my opinion, both of these women walk the talk every single day by bringing to the forefront issues that affect women in our community, creating community and by creating safe spaces for LGBTQ youth. In my daily life, the LBTQ mujeres that inspire me are my circle of amazing chosen family sisters. Not only are they amazing mujeres creating change each in their own way, they are also an amazing support system. I am thankful everyday for the transformative and radical love that we share.