New Jersey Coast Line

July 20, 2010

There is always something about a train ride that provokes relaxation, solace, and deeply profound thought. It may be the rocking motion that tosses its citizens horizontally, or possibly it may be the rapidly transforming cityscapes into landscapes into industry-scapes into ghettos into gated spaces of money and secrets. I have no idea who are my neighbours in this train community, but we all share a moving space that leads us into wonderous directions. But we are sheltered residents of this train, we are not forced to bear the elements of a globally warming summer that screams calls of distress from Gaia, the mother we step and spit upon while she continues to foster the breath of our lives. The ones living in Gaia’s glory are those children playing in their Walmart manufactued DIY swimming pools filled with oxygenated urine and hydrogen-laced bodies of expired leaves and insects. I wonder if the children believe the waves in their water are from the sea, or have they lost their innocence to realize that it was the train disrupting that once flat transparency. In the midst of thought, I become lost, and at a moment stationed in reality: why is the IKEA next to the Airport?


New Directions: Home

May 24, 2010

It has been a year since I finished graduate school at Sarah Lawrence, and earned a degree that leaves me with intellectual satisfaction and a barrage of questions during unsuccessful job interviews.

Women’s History…why? :::brown suit asks with unfocused neurotic eyes:::

Maybe I’m not sure any more. I’m just sure that I need something to shift, and quickly.

I work two jobs as a College Advisor by day, and College Professor by night; Sounds like some super-hero script…and I love it and detest it all at once. I feel phantasmic and somnambulistic and I think I am developing an ulcer, but its probably something psychosomatic.

I am plagued by money and poverty, and a social class status in perpetual limbo transfixed between an elite-educated class and a poor boy from the Bronx on food stamps. Yes, I buy my lunch at Whole Foods sometimes with my Benefit card.

Whilst I sit transfixed between these borders, I turn to Gloria to get me through. She lets me know it will be okay…and tells me that I have a space.
But I do want to tell her that what I am really searching for is a home. Gloria said “homophobia is a fear of going home after a residency.” Well, where do we locate ourselves during a residency?
My home has been The Bronx for so long…but my dear friend, I think we’re headed for a divorce.

Last December, I spent countless dollars on applications to graduate programs in San Francisco, Toronto, and Montréal. I need(ed) to escape. Despite being accepted by a PhD program in San Francisco (I’m still awaiting to hear back from MTL almost 6 months later, but I doubt I would be able to secure a visa in time should I be offered acceptance), I decided that it was not my time to leave. I’m going to work out something with this city, I am going to find a space that doesn’t leave me jarred and marginalized on a daily basis.

Let’s see what happens.


Junker Flirt

March 4, 2009

The plywood sign stated:
There is no cure for writer’s block
There is no land of tolerance.

I captured the message’s essence in my lens
Sitting atop of my dirty used bicycle seat with the flat tire named junker flirt
She was my axiom for freedom

Hours later, substance lead me to a site downed in illusions of brown and white sullen hills.
The candle burned the lens
The image remained.

I remain.

Writer’s block is not the danger, somnambulist states colonizing our sexual liberations and libations is what I fear.

A precarious being of love and my grandmother’s stories.

I have joined the queer migration—the pervert infitatda.

I share my apologies with you for my absence. These lapses are familiar, but they serve as time of anti-capitalist production.

I am in the last moments of graduate school and I often fear what the future has in store for my mind-body-soul.

I have returned to a similar defense: running away.

Philadelphia is not far—two hours detached from what I call my home, but it’s a respite for the moment.

For the next few days, I will try to find myself once again in a space where I feel safe: the academy.

Roberto told me in Montréal that understands why I love to learn, why I live in the academy.
Tonight’s speech by Gayle Rubin will be my sermon, and she my leather-daddy preacher.
I hope to be able to internalize some trace of her presence. I am in search for inspiration and courage.

Saturday I climb on top of that tower and wave my bandera, like the boricua nationalistas.
I will be a panelists at a conference sharing my research into Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the woman who marked my life years ago.

I never met Ayaan, and may never will, but I will be offering an intervention into her position in Dutch politics in relation to Gender, Islam, and Multiculturalism in the Netherlands.

I don’t have the answer to writer’s block…the story has already been written.
I have been taken over by the fear: the prospect: no land of tolerance.

I share with you all my consciousness in motion, in transport to a place where I hope to begin to resist the orientalism of sexuality.

I’m going to rethink sex.

I wanted to share my preliminary thesis prospectus to show you what I have been working on for the past few weeks. This topic may change over the summer when I visit Montreal and Paris, but we’ll see what happens.

btw, I strongly believe in intellectual property and collective knowledge–I think you get the point I am trying to make.


Countermemorias: Queering Nationalism, Sexuality and Gender Performance in Revolutionary Cuba

It was rolling sounds of song and dance, cries of liberation, “¡Viva Cuba Libre!” that provoked Cubans to rise from their beds and toss off their rough American-made sheets to fill their balconies with the bodies of a new citizenry. January 1, 1959 marked a new year for Cubans all over the nation, but also marked an entrance to a new world: a liberated nation. The dream of José Martí was finally realized, a united Cuban nation under her own self-determination. Yet, as the citizens of Cuba were awoken from their dreams on that morning and arose to enter a half-century old dream, whose beds were they leaving? Whose bodies shared these citizens’ beds as nationalism broke through their windows? In order to work against the modern binaries of public and private, we must first begin to engage with “‘clandestine countermemories’ that bring into the present those pasts that are deliberately forgotten within conventional nationalists or diasporic scripts.”
Nationalisms in Cuba have produced some of the most salient social and political movements in our contemporary history. The Cuban Revolution of 1959 serves as the most documented example of contemporary social and political nationalist movements in Cuba; however, this is not to say that movements have to take on such grandiose forms. Movements in Cuba (and throughout the world) have often occurred underground, yet within a Cuban context, discourses on nationalisms have been quite influential. In a quest for social and political autonomy from various ‘outside’ influences, nationalist discourse has served as an ideological basis for various movements that call us to reconsider the past in constructing a foundation for the future. Nationalism can be understood as a project simultaneously involving construction(s) of memory, history, and identity. But how is this manifested upon the body? This project intends to consider the question of the body, but more directly on queer  bodies within the context of nationalism in Cuba.
This thesis will be an attempt in the direction of scholars like Joan Scott who call us to rethink the way that we consider the past. I will investigate a history of nationalism as parallel to a history of gender and sexuality in Cuba. In this manner, I work to excavate the ways that sexuality, gender, and nationalism are collectively part and parcel of Cuban history. In addition, I seek to not just write queer women and trans people into the Cuban historical record, but elucidate how they were and continue to be social actors in Cuban sexual discourse.  This thesis seeks to consider how nationalist struggles are also linked through paradigm shifts in sexuality and gender performance resulting in queer and feminist social movements from 1959 to 2000 .

January 1, 1959 was the birth of a new nation for Cuba and the beginning of revolutionary Cuba.  Within the first few months after Fidel Castro’s July 26th Movement seized power from General Fulgencio Batista’s regime, significant shifts in political power instituted a contemporary manifestation of Cuban nationalism. Yet, nationalism in Cuba was certainly not a new development.
In the 1820s, when parts of Spain’s empire in Latin America were galvanized by Bolivar’s dream of a united and sovereign Latin America and rebelled to formed independent states, Cuba remained loyal to the Spanish crown. But, as John Charles Chasteen suggest in Born in Blood and Fire,  “Cuban resistance to colonialism begun to take over parts of the island, and leaders were influenced by similar Bolivarian movements throughout Latin America.”  The power of nationalist ideology broke the boundaries of Cuba, and influenced a number of movements including an armed resistance to Spanish colonial rule during the Ten-Years War (1868-1878). While the first national struggle was physically defeated in 1878, the struggle for national sovereignty remained in the dreams of many Cubans.   During this time, the man who would later serve to be the father of Cuban nationalism, José Martí published a serious of articles and essays in Cuba, Spain and the United States on the wrong doings of Spain in Cuba. In April 1895, while in exile in the United States, José Martí, declared a new war against Spain and proclaimed Cuba an independent republic.
In the midst of this struggle, Martí was assassinated and in 1898 the United States suspiciously entered the Cuban battle for liberation. The United States blamed Spain for the explosion that destroyed the U.S.S. Maine, the United States under the guise of solidarity entered for war for Cuban nationalist struggle.  After a peace treaty was signed between the United States and Spain later that year, the United States acquired a number of Spanish territories, including Cuba. For the next ten years, Cuba remained under U.S. governance. It was only in 1908 with the Platt Amendment did Cuba finally assume self-governance—but with a number of limitations in foreign and domestic policy that maintained the centrality of U.S. economic interests on the island.  Yet, as Louis A. Pérez, Jr. suggests in  “Incurring a Debt of Gratitude: 1898 and the Moral Sources of United States Hegemony in Cuba”, for many nationalists in Cuba, the Platt Amendment represented a transfer in power from Spain to the United States and did not sufficiently allow Cuba to live up the dream of a sovereign Cuba. “The Cuban Revolution in 1959 finally cancelled the debt of gratitude to [the United States]”  for their involvement in freeing the nation from colonial rule, and rendered Cuba an independent nation—but were all citizens of the new Cuban nation free?

Scholarship on Queer Cuba can be traced back to the early 1970s when women and men of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) began to think critically about the situation of queers both nationally and internationally. A number of the members of GLF were strongly influenced by Marxism and Marxist academic-activist praxis, and this ideological lens shaped the form of their queer political projects. In 1972, two activist-scholars and members of the GLF, Karla Jay and Allen Young published Out of the Closets: Voices of the Gay Liberation, in which they provide a glimpse at the individuals and ideologies of the nascent gay liberation movement. In a section titled, “Gay as the Sun,” Allen Young expands the scope of the anthology to include the voices of queer Cubans.
In the spirit of the third-world and women’s liberation movements, Young includes the voices of queer Cubans to expand the struggle for gay liberation to address intersections of gender, sexuality and nation. Also, Young sought to form an alliance between queers in both nations while exposing the “anti-homosexualism of the Cuban Revolution and their commitment to creating a society which would have no homosexuals.”  In “Letter from Cuban Gay People to the North American Gay Liberation Movement” (1970) and “Declaration by the First National Congress on Education and Culture” (1971) Young offers readers two invaluable primary sources of early queer Cuban responses to the revolution, but fails to offer any analysis of the documents. In light of this lack of analysis, these documents offer an ideal entrée into scholarly discourse on sexuality in Cuba. In turn, these will serve as foundational voices to this thesis project. Moreover, Young offers no analysis of these documents and I have not been able to come across any published book or article analyzing these documents as primary sources.
In 1982, through historical and sociological research , Allen Young published Gays Under the Cuban Revolution. In this text, Young expanded upon his chapter on queer Cubans in Out of the Closets: Voices of the Gay Liberation. Gays Under the Cuban Revolution to mention the various ways how gay American organizations assisted gay Cuban refugees.  Young directly addresses the plight of queer Cuban men, and the lengths to which the revolutionary government would attempt to stamp out “sexual deviance.” Not only were gay Cubans sent to concentration camps, but so were any person that did not behave according to the “average” man or woman. On the other hand, Young counters his argument about the Cuban government by stating that criminalizing homosexuality was purely a Soviet import. This argument is highly problematic, and does not adequately engage with a history of colonial sexual domination in Cuba.
Over five hundred years after the arrival Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors, a lasting impression remains on the social and political situations of Latin America. The most obvious lasting colonial characteristic is the Spanish and Portuguese language, but, the influence of the colonizers is not limited to linguistics. Much of Latin American society is structured according to colonial standards. This includes heavy influence from the Roman Catholic Church and traditional gender relations regulated by machismo and marianismo.  This system of gender relations has often led to the repression and persecution of queers in Cuba (and throughout Latin America) shortly after arrival Spanish and Portuguese conquistadors.
In 1994, Ian Lumsden, a Canadian political scientist engaged with the history of the treatment of male homosexuality under Castro in Machos,Maricones and Gays: Cuba and Homosexuality. Lumsden links the cultural history of queers in Cuba, which is often textually based , with a social-political history of the differences between “publicly” or “privately” gay in Cuba. Lumsden also addresses the shifts in women’s roles and gender politics, and effects these have on gay men in Cuba. Similar to the ways that Gay Liberation movements in the United States were heavily influenced by the discourse developed by the Women’s Liberation movement, Lumsden claims that gay men in Cuba have also been consciously influenced by shifts in women’s gender roles in the Revolution. While Lumsden’s text assumes that gender and sexual discourses are not static, he, however, does not directly speak about the dialectic between nationalism and sexuality or gender performance. Finally, his project focuses entirely upon men, again rendering queer women’s experience to the margins.
At the nexus of cultural history and literary studies, Emilio Bejel ’s Gay Cuban Nation offers a textual reading of the topic I am interested in pursuing for my thesis: nationalism and sexuality. Through close readings of writers such as José Martí, José Lezama Lima, Reinaldo Arenas and others, Bejel shows that the anxiety of homosexuality is always lurking in the shadows of nationalist discourse. Often this is communicated though a discussion on gender performances, but his key focus examines “the relationship between the definitions of homosexuality and Cuban nationalism”  Yet, Bejel’s text focuses is exclusively based on literature, and while he does offer historical context to each work he discusses, Gay Cuban Nation is certainly more of a literary analysis of discourses on sexuality in Cuba.

The key conversation lacking from this discussion is namely how nationalism and gender performance affected the lives of queer Cubans. Nationalism often produces gendered discourses of the “new” woman and man that call for people to adapt their gender performance to acclimate with the new nationalist gender discourse. Considering this causal relationship between discourse and performance, it is only when the people allow these gender discourses to govern their gender performance do they become citizens-subjects. What I attempt to convey is that when people transgress gender norms in nationalist and revolutionary contexts, they are labeled deviant and anti-social. This was certainly the case for queers in Cuba.
In this conversation on queers in Cuba, the voices that still remain on the margins are those of queer women and trans people. In making female and trans subjectivity central to a queer nationalist project, it begins to conceptualize nationalism in ways that do not invariably replicate heteronormative and patriarchal structures of sexuality and gender performance.
At this point, most of my sources deal directly with queer men in Cuba. Nina Menendez’s “Garzonas y Feministas in Cuban Women’s Writing of the 1920” in Sex and Sexuality in Latin America offers some example of how I could engage in a textual reading of the cultural history of queer women’s experience in Cuba. Menendez’s text, however, does not directly speak to the salience of nationalism in 1920s Cuba and the author does not offer any indication of the post-1959 situation of queer women in Cuba.
I have yet to find any primary sources that address queer women in Cuba, with the exception of one. In appendix C of Machos,Maricones and Gays: Cuba and Homosexuality, Ian Lumsden includes the “Manifesto of the Gay and Lesbian Association of Cuba” (July 28, 1994). Like Young’s inclusion of the “Letter from Cuban Gay People to the North American Gay Liberation Movement” and “Declaration by the First National Congress on Education and Culture,” Lumsden does not offer any analysis of this document, and I have been unable to locate any published scholarship that analytically addresses the manifesto in Lumsden’s text. These three primary sources represent a valuable entrée to this historiographical discourse on queer Cuba. I hope to expand my catalogue of primary sources through archival research in Cuba in October and at other libraries, archives and depositories at the universities with a history of scholarship focused on Cuba. I will also contact the Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York to gain access to any archival documents they may have on sexuality in Cuba. Finally, I plan to visit the Gay Archives of Quebec in June to the hope of locating possible primary sources that may not be located in the United States.   The three primary sources I have mentioned, nonetheless, represent a site for me to contribute to this discussion in tracing how discourses on gender and nationalism have contributed to the knowledge production of queer Cubans .


April 21, 2008

In January 2008, I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Roberto Francisco Santiago, a junior-level scholar at Sarah Lawrence College. The subject of his study involved LGBT/Queer Latin@s, and I am extremely honored to be included as a voice among other brilliant herman@s in this important project. Below is the transcript of the interview. If you are interested in Roberto’s project, please feel free to contact me and I will connect you with him (he not only happens to be an amazing scholar, he is also my long-time partner).

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nearly civilized

April 2, 2008

Esthero’s Dragonfly’s Intro:

If the world is nearly civilized
Then I’m the red-haired faerie child
Of whom the pirates prophesies
Would bleed songs until the lyrics died
But I’ve been busy with my unborn child
I sent him aborted songs to wrap his unformed limbs in

I’m Grace Jones in this sin thing with my titties out prowling this tee-dot club
Eyes on a Reebok thug, looking for soft boy parts to make my mattress cumfy
I crush their bones into melancholy melodies
As gifts for the brokenhearted girls who’s stereos pump me

I’m a grown-ass woman with little girl features
A Jewish cornbread macaroni pie like your Mom makes at green eyes
I fall to pieces, Patsy Klein faerie preacher

I’m at the hip hop show head-bopping in the back
Smoking anything that’ll burn
During intermission, I’m in the club bathroom
Hold up in a stall praying in earnest for Jeff Buckley’s return
(Thank heaven for you, thank heaven for you, thank heaven for you)
I’m a studio rat, designer geared, Toronto kid, Hollywood brat
Bad gal, war child, bookworm, Sierra Leone activist cat
I’m a wikked little gal
Who don’t take no back chat
Unless it’s in the dark
I might be in the attics now
But a mother fucker just moved out of Regent Park

But look into my civil eyes, really
I’ll sing you all some civil lies
And take you from your civil lives
And show you that I’m civilized
Nearly, nearly, nearly.

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Esthero is the shit. Check her out and support her music if you’re into it.


March 30, 2008

Sorry its been so long since my last post: I’m on spring break and sick, so I have not even been near my macbook. But I just wanted to share this with all of you before I improve enough to make a full post.

This is what happens on Saturday nites at diners in NYC! (I’m the one in the black shirt and short hair, my youtube debut)

Borderland Bodies

March 19, 2008

A few weeks ago, I mentioned a conference I attended at Sarah Lawrence on Black Power, Black Feminism. I was asked to write a creative response to my experience at the conference –but I felt compelled to pull on some of my previous experiences and writings to elucidate the conditions of a particular interaction I had with a panelist:n34605179_31196365_610.jpg

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Considering my upcoming master’s thesis on Queer Nationalism in Cuba, I was ecstatic to find this essay I wrote in 2003. I suppose that even five years ago I had some idea that I wanted to pursue this topic deeper, but my analytical tools were certainly limited at this point–I was only a sophomore. Although this essay is too broad to fit under the purview of my thesis, I may decide to clean this essay up a bit and present it at a conference. I know the essay is a bit long–and requires a lot of editing, but any comments would certainly be appreciated 🙂

By the way, I couldn’t post the citations. If anyone wants them, just let me know.

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I’ve been thinking a lot about performance and politics. During the “Black Power, Black Feminism” conference at Sarah Lawrence, I attended a panel on the Black Arts movement and I was provoked to start thinking differently about art and politics. One panelist noted that during the Black Arts movement, dancers were not respected as a “serious” art in terms of social politics. Dance was perceived as frivolous apolitical action—and not a true art in light of the movement. Yet, the panelist argued that dance was by far one of the most politicized art forms during the movement, and also one of the most accessible considering that the only tool required is the body. Something else that only requires the body is sex, but this action is hardly understood as an art. Sex is certainly a performance, no matter how many people are involved. And art is certainly also performative, but what about pornography? Can pornography also be art? Before I even begin to consider this question, it is critical to start with deconstructing what we even deem as pornographic. In light of the performative scope of my inquiry, I would like to commence with a videographic introduction.

He has a point. Let us embody this problematic as the foreplay to our work…But I’m going to take this slow.