- louie a. ortiz-fonseca
shaming Michael Johnson is not a prevention method. blaming him will not end HIV in our communities. ending and irradiating stigma, poverty and oppression will. all #BlackLivesMatter - yes, even Michael Johnson’s.
Her name was Tina. I called her Miss Tina. She was black, tall, muscular and unapologetic about her sometimes revealing 5’oclock shadow. She often referred to it as her “daytime” look. She was my mom’s best friend. I studied her like I should have been studying my math homework. I wanted to identify that one “thing” that made her magical. I wanted it for myself. I wanted to be as fabulous as Miss Tina.
It was the mid 80’s and the height of my mother’s crack addiction. If my memory serves me correctly, it was the height of my entire neighborhood’s crack addiction. In many ways, the crack epidemic was the equalizer in our neighborhood. My mother had friends who were lawyers, blue collar workers, bikers and business executives. I watched them roll in and out of our bedroom “apartment.” I never paid them much mind. Probably because if I did, I’d get my ass whipped for being nosy. But it was my mother’s friend Tina that always left me mesmerized.
She’d visit my mother at least two times a day. Once after work, where she would show up wearing a hard hat, jeans and construction boots and then, right before going out to paint the town red, she would show up looking like our neighborhood’s own lovely Donna Summer. This transformation always inspired me. She was my first tangible proof that we create our own beauty that we become.
I’d ask her questions about her nail color and shoes. I really wanted to ask her how to beat up the boys who called me “faggot.” I was always too scared to admit that even at 8 years old I was called a “faggot” at school. Whenever we chatted, however brief the conversation, I felt like I was the only person in the world. Tina was God and I was praying at the altar.
One night, I woke up to hear my mom and Tina talking, whispering and crying. Our apartment, which was just a large room, was separated into two rooms by a clothes line and sheets - me and my brothers on one side with the TV and my mother and Tina on the other side sitting at the table near the kerosene heater. “I think you are going to need to go to the hospital,” I heard my mother say. I couldn’t make out Miss Tina’s response but from what I could gather from the tone, her answer was a resounding “Hell no.” The conversation and crying continued. I peeked through the sheet and saw Miss Tina’s bloody and swollen face. I wanted to ask what happened but even then I knew that she too got beat up for being herself, the way I got beat up during lunch at school. Miss Tina was brave enough to tell my mother, to tell someone.
As I got older, Miss Tina and I developed our own friendship. We’d talk about Janet Jackson, fighting and AIDS. We talked about the night that she showed up bloody to our room. She told me of the times she showed up bloody somewhere and found ways of performing her own triage. She told me how she endured. “Make every fight for your life the fight of your life, honey.” She told me to never do drugs or get AIDS. She told me of all the other Trans women who were murdered or succumbed to the AIDS epidemic and then buried as men. Sometimes I cried when she spoke. Sometimes I simply wanted to set the entire world on fuckin’ fire. Sometimes, I still do.
Miss Tina died in late 1996. 20 years later, I still speak her name. Miss Tina! I still say her name to keep her history alive because Trans women are still fighting for their damn lives and Trans women are still being murdered. Miss Tina! I say her name because some of us have not moved from whispering about these murders to shouting and disrupting systems of oppression that reinforce violence against Trans women. Miss Tina! I say her name because some of us still post Transphobic memes on our social media accounts for a cheap laugh. Miss Tina! I say her name because some of us are quick to celebrate Caitlyn Jenner for her bravery and courage but intentionally misgender Trans women in our own communities because they do not look “real” or “pass.”
Miss Tina! I speak her name because some of us “out” Trans women on Instagram. Miss Tina! I scream her name because her history is our history. I scream her name and the names of all the Trans women who have been murdered this year. I scream their names because screaming makes people uncomfortable and be uncomfortable. We should be holding each other crying. As cis-gender Latino gay men, we should all be clenching our fists, raging and making the fight for the lives of Trans women the fight of our lives.
Miss Tina! I say her name because Trans lives mattered in 1989. Today, I also say their name of the 13 Trans women who have been murdered this year because Trans lives matter now!
Yazmin Vash Payne
Taja Gabrielle DeJesus
Kristina Gomez Reinwald
London Kiki Chanel
Update: Friday, August 14th, was the absolutely bloodshed as the body of Angel Elisha Walker, a black Trans woman was discovered. The murders of Ashton O'Hara and Kandis Capri were also reported. This is a state of emergency! 14 of the 16 murdered Trans women were Trans women of color. This violence is an affront to our community, our families and our revolution.
Today we say their names:
Angel Elisha Walker
in 1997, i found myself
at my first philly pride event when a tall handsome and bearded white
man approached me with a pen and clipboard. i remember rolling my eyes; i didn’t
want to sign another petition for some cause that did not directly impact my
life as teen. i was polite though and entertained him by letting him give me
his spiel about gay marriage, which is what it was called in the 90’s. when he
was done, i immediately responded with, “well, i don’t believe in
marriage”. he didn’t flinch. he nodded his head and replied, “well do
you believe in choice?” i paused then signed the petition. of course i
believe in choice, i did then i do now. it was that one interaction however
that would challenge me to explore my thoughts and beliefs about marriage. it
was that moment, with that handsome, bearded white man i asked myself, were my
beliefs independently mine or those influenced by systematic homophobia?
growing up no one ever directly told me i would never be “allowed” to get married. i assumed by just existing and breathing that the kind of love i dreamt about could only be expressed through sharing monthly utility bills and other such grown up type responsibilities. i unconsciously surrendered to that notion. loving myself and loving another brown man was political enough for me and my mother, who up until her last breath, taught me, told me and reminded me that my kind of love always mattered. so marriage was not something i reached for.
twenty years later, on june 26th, 2015, the supreme court of the united states of america ruled that i now have the right to marry. this is a historically huge step forward for the community i have identified with since childhood. this is worth celebrating and we should, i will, i am. young queer kids can now grow up dreaming of expressing their love and commitment to other queers the same way my straight peers can. no longer will law stop this life altering expression of love. this ruling will serve as yet another reminder of our existence in this society. how we love and who we love matters because we are citizens of this country and deserve equal rights.
as i celebrate this historic ruling, and I DO because it now provides my son an other youth with new possibilities of what love can do. however, i caution myself with the words of gran varòn orlando gonzalez, “… if we have money to paint rainbows on cross walks, then we can certainly find money to house queer youth who sleep on those crosswalks.” i would add, “the will”, to house all the black and brown queer youth who sleep on those crosswalks. the mainstream lgbtq civil rights community must do more with regards to lgbtq communities who continue to be crushed by systematic oppression. some of us do not have the luxury of celebrating this historic moment because they are being held in immigrant detention centers. some of us are not celebrating because we’re worrying about we’re to sleep on the night of such a monumental decision by the supreme court of the united states of america; and some of us will never be welcomed to celebratory parties because of the shade of their skin and/or their gender expression.
all those who worked so tirelessly for a chance at being recognized by our government through the institution of marriage must now prove black lives matter, trans lives matter, poz lives matter, all lgbtq lives matter.
we have not reached the end of the rainbow, not yet, but it still shines, stands and glimmers with hope.
louie a. ortiz-fonseca