resurrections are real.
to all of the varones who once lied on hospital beds with a sinking t-cell count counting the minutes until you could hold down down your food.
to all of the varones who avoided looking into mirrors because the sunken face reflection did not reflect the beauty you behold.
to all of the varones who pieced themselves back together piece by piece after the violence of stigma left them broken and beat. to all the varones who survive life by surviving one night at a muthafuggin’ time.
we salute you.
we praise you.
because even AIDS, stigma, homophobia, racism, white supremacy, and oppression can’t keep us from rising. and when we become ancestors, we will continue rise in the voices of those who speak our names without shame.
so keep rising varones because resurrections are real.
for years, black and latino gay men and men who have sex with men have been ringing the alarm on how HIV has been ravaging our communities. we have consistently been asked “where are the statistics? where are the numbers? where is the proof?” of course, our lives and experiences were never enough. we needed a government study to tell us what we already know. yesterday the proof arrived. are we surprised? fuck no! but that does not take the sting away.
according to a new CDC study,
1 in 2 black gay men and 1 in 4 latino gay men will become HIV-positive
if the current rate of infection continues. this shit means that black and latino gay men are more likely to contract HIV than white gay men. but
again, we have already known this – for years!
release of this report, there been a few articles shining light on
this and rightfully so. unfortunately, most have them failed to include the voice and perspective of
latino gay men. this cannot continue. just because an advocate says “gay
men of color” does not give them permission to speak for us – we have
our own god damn voice. to prove this fact, here are the responses of latino
gay/queer* men to the CDC report. our tongues are untied.
Eddie Santiago Beck – Miami, Florida
Luis Berrios, Philadelphia
Ayden Castellanos - Rio Grande Valley, Texas
Richard LaBoy – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Xander Lopez, – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Anthony Leon – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca, Washington, DC
“I’m your mother,” she said. It was more than a declaration, it was a reminder that her kids would never have to feel orphaned in a world where AIDS, violence, poverty and homophobia would surely steal their magic. It was the early 1980’s, pre-gentrified New York, years before “transgender” and “gender non-conforming” were part of our everyday vocabulary. Back then you were either gay or a drag queen. But Angie, was a goddess. She was a mother.
Raised in the Bronx, Angie Xtravaganza, at age 13, walked away from a violent home and directly into the vision of herself. Some say that we seek justice in the same places where it was carved out from us. This is how Angie lived her life. After surviving family violence, she created her own. “I’m your mother.”
Angie Xtravaganza, was a founding member of the Legendary House of Xtravaganza. Her fierce leadership is credited for the swift rise of Latinos in the ballroom in the early 80’s. By the early 90’s, the House garnered mainstream recognition when Angie was featured in the 1990 documentary film “Paris Is Burning.” As a young teen, I remember hearing other young Latino gay boys talk about the House of Xtravaganza. “Loca, if I was in that house, these faggots would not be able to take me.” Of course there were the ones who would outright say, “I was just voted into the house.” I knew that it wasn’t true but it was clear that the New York based House had connected with the Latino LGBT community in Philadelphia. Everyone wanted Angie to be their mother.
When founding Father Hector Xtravaganza died from complications of AIDS in 1985, it was Angie’s love and her “I’m your mother” approach to healing that kept the House of Xtravaganza on course to become legendary. When her daughter Venus Xtravaganza was found murdered in 1988 at the age of 23, it was Angie’s ruthless commitment to her vision of family that kept the House together in a world that would have taken pleasure in watching them fall apart. She was a fighter. She herself would say, “Don’t let the dress fool you!” She was a warrior mother who loved her kids through every battle – even the one she would eventually lose.
In 1991, when Angie was tested positive for HIV, over 100,000 Americans had already succumbed to the epidemic. Those who survived were often reminded of the odds against them. Mother Angie had lived a life of battling against every odd – HIV would be no exception. Her will to be a mother was just simply stronger.
In the 1993 article “Slap of Love” penned by Pulitzer Prize winning author Michael Cunningham, Frank Xtravaganza shared that Angie, weeks before her death, took him out to dance his heartbreak away at Sound Factory Bar. “A drag mother will not only buck you up when you’re feeling rejected. Unlike most other mothers, a drag mother will spray her wig and take you out herself.”
Iconic Mother Angie Xtravaganza died on March 31, 1993 at the tender age of 28. Her loss was felt through-out the ballroom community. Three weeks after her death, the New York Times printed a large picture of her with the headline, “Paris has Burned” in the Style Section. Writer Jesse Green wrote of Angie in the article: “And as mother of the House of Xtravaganza, Angie had taken many rejected, wayward, even homeless children under her wing; she had fed them, observed their birthdays, taught them all about ‘walking the balls.’ Competing in categories like High-Fashion Eveningwear and Alexis vs. Krystle, Angie was legendary, a Queen among queens, achieving in fantasy what the world had denied her in reality.”
Twenty two years later, Angie Xtravaganza’s indomitable spirit remains a fundamental part of the House and a vital part of our collective history as queer Latinos. So on this Trans Day of Remembrance and Resilience, we celebrate the memory and movement of Miss Angie Xtravaganza. And we echo the powerful words of Karl Xtravaganza, “In many ways, the continuing existence of the House of Xtravaganza twenty two years after Angie’s passing is a living tribute to her vision and strength of character. She is the bravest woman I’ve ever known.”
special thanks for Karl Xtravaganza for his support during the writing of this piece.
for information or to keep up with the Legendary House of Xtravaganza, like them on Facebook
1994 classic house music track “X” by Junior Vasquez. The record was produced a year after Angie’s passing. If you look closely at the label, it bears the dedication “In memory of Angie Xtravaganza”. It went on to become one of the defining underground house music tracks of the 90s and is still a dancefloor favorite today.
The 2014 track “Xtravaganzas” by percussionist, band leader, trans activist and House of Xtravganza member Koko Jones, is a tribute to the history and spirit of the House, with lyrics such as “Mother Angie in the pages of Vogue, they taught Madonna how to strike a pose”.