THE GRAN VARONES (Posts tagged family)

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See, that’s what the app is perfect for.

Sounds perfect Wahhhh, I don’t wanna

My love for Selena would begin as a young brown boy growing up in Tucson, AZ. As a first generation Mexican-American, and child of immigrant families, her story of embracing her Chicanaroots is what mirrored most in my life. From my earliest of memories, all I know is singing and dancing like Selena, mimicking her moves, perfecting her vocals…even putting a bandaid on my finger and tying my tshirt into a bra. I never felt freer as a kid than when I was blasting and dancing to her music in the living room when no one was home. If you haven’t guessed by now, I was an incredibly unapologetic and unconsciously Queer child. Me and my brother, who is also Queer, would get up in all the Selena drag and perform, then rush to take it all off when our Mother pulled into the driveway. Selena has always been a part of my family’s life…So much so that my Nana would record Selena’s TV appearances in between home family videos on VHS.

I am a “deep cuts” Selena fan. Before my birth in 1990, she already had many years in the game. Her 80s Tejano music is some of my absolute favorite and probably the most slept on. Watching Selena y Los Dinos evolve from kids with cute matching outfits to full fledge flashy performance attire, modern choreography and sophisticated sound is nothing short of astounding to witness. She truly had an immense love for music. I find myself now as an adult watching her live performances and still in awe of her volcanic talent. Seeing her incorporate famous 80s fashion, big hair, huge shoulder pads, and freestyle dance moves into her Pop/Tejano music has me screaming at my TV! Her “Running Man” was just so fresh!!! She was even brave enough to attempt the “Moonwalk”, and even covered both Michael and Janet Jackson songs, as well as many other 80s top 40 jams. You’ve got to Youtube her singing “Girlfriend” by Pebbles, and any performance of “Enamorada De Ti” will give you all the life!! Whew!!!!

Selena would eventually grow into a massive household name for some Latinx folks in the early 90s. I’ve recently converted all of my family’s home VHS videos to digital, and it was so funny to hear her music in the background at family gatherings as early as 1993. She is undoubtedly the reason that I myself love to sing, why I love to dance, and the reason I grew up feeling like I wasn’t the only Pochx in the world, shit, she taught me most of the Spanish I know today!


It brings me great joy to see that while she was still here with us that she knew how much she was loved. She frequently snatched all the trophies at award shows, and we can’t forget about that Grammy! Her image is now beyond the words legendary and iconic, but meteoric and phenomenal. I still can’t wrap my head around her passing. It’s been 25 years, and I am now about to turn 30, I still weep for Selena as if I somehow knew her personally. I’m so pissed at what could have been. Before her death, she was working with the likes of Dianne Warren and David Morales, both famed and highly coveted and respected musicians. She was going to be a massive star, I just know it. Today her legacy lives on, no Quinceanera, sweet 16, wedding, or even backyard junta is safe from a Selena cumbia. Whenever I go to live music shows where artists perform her music, I cheer with excitement because I never got the opportunity to cheer for her, like I do with all of the other divas I stan for. Her voice, image, laugh, smile, entrepreneurship, hard work, creativity, passion and determination has been and always will be an inspiration to all who love her, and to those who will be introduced to her in the generations to come.

Happy Birthday Selena, we love and miss you so so much. Today I celebrate as I sing and dance in my living room for you, and we are together, siempre.

Written by: Carlos, He/Him/His

Los Angeles, CA

Gran Varones Fellow

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I was born in Mexico, grew up there as a little kid but then I’ve spent most of my life now in Houston, Texas.I was nine years old actually, my dad had to come over to the US undocumented since he was 14 years old. Back in the 80s, it was more like he would spend some time working in Texas, go back to Mexico for a few months, do that back-and-forth and then that’s how he met my mom and they got married and all that. At age 9 we moved to Houston.

I mean it was weird because I come from a really tiny town that had maybe like 1500 people. We only had one school and one church, I mean everyone knew each other, it was very rural. And then I moved to Houston which was this huge city, where I couldn’t, yeah it was way bigger, but it felt a lot smaller than my town. In my town as a 6, 7, 8-year-old I could just roam around, like go to my friends house, play all around, but in Houston we moved into a tiny apartment and that’s what I thought Houston was, kind of like a tiny apartment. Getting used to that took a while but then I think that I was the lucky to find a lot of community and a lot of folks in Houston that basically made me stay here and I’ve been living in Houston ever since.

Well, I was a big nerd in high school so I did a lot of school things. One of the things I did was theatre. I started doing theater since I was in like six grade 6th grade, and you know I was like a really shy kid and didn’t like talking a lot. I also wasn’t allowed to have friends outside of school like I never was able to go to like their houses, they couldn’t come over to my house. Theatre was like the thing that I was allowed to do where it was still outside of school, but you know it was still seen as like you’re taking a class or you’re doing it for like an extracurricular and that was actually the thing that helped me most like connect with people.

Theatre was in a lot of ways a place where the queer kids would go because it was that space where you could put on different characters and sometimes the characters that we are putting on weren’t fake, they were actually the real ones, but we had to pretend. We had the space to be like “Oh this is something we can do.” When I was in high school I wasn’t at the point where I was out, or a lot of other people were out, but there with us understanding that in that space we could be whoever we wanted to be and that included like our sexual orientation, gender expression, and all of that, even if we didn’t say it out loud .

My parents came to shows and it was weird in a way. My mom actually passed away like the beginning of my junior year of high school, so she went to some of the first performances. The thing about my family, my parents in particular, was that they didn’t speak English so they would sit through an entire like two hour play that was all in English. They didn’t understand mostly anything that was being said, but then, you know, every time at the end of the performance, they were always like “That was really good, I really liked it.” I always wondered like how could they do that, I don’t think I could sit through like a two hour thing where I don’t understand what is going on, but I think in a way that kind of that was really cool to me, but at the same time I wonder if they understood, like not just what was happening in the plays, but also what I was trying to express through being in the plays. That was always like an interesting thing– they would go to all the shows, even if they couldn’t understand most of what was happening.

My interest in theatre was mainly in Houston, but in Mexico the one thing that I remember since I was a little kid was just being in the kitchen all the time because that’s where my mom was, that’s where all my aunt’s were, that’s basically where all the women in my family were–in the kitchen. I remember being there and it was just like this really special place, again ,where I felt, I never thought about this but in a way that was like a theater space. The kitchen was kind of like a theater. Every time my aunts, grandma, and mom were cooking they were always telling these stories about when they were growing up or people that they knew. Actually, now that I think about it that was kind of like “theater” that I had before I came to the US, and then had like you know like a more sort of formal or like traditional definition of the term.

In the kitchen I mean I learned so much about my family, the town, and maybe some stuff that I shouldn’t have been learning when I was that age, but seeing them there, they were the ones in power. In power in every aspect of it from deciding the dishes, dividing the labor among themselves, to like who is leading the conversation of the stories that they are telling.

José Eduardo, He/They

Houston, TX

Interviewed by: Armonté Butler

Photographed: louie a. ortiz-fonseca

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i grew up in a latino catholic family. mexican family from puebla and we just grew up going to church. on a good week, like 4, 5 times a week. we were always very involved in the church. until i came out to my church friends and then i was low-key exiled.

i was prescribed that word “faggot” and then later “fem” before i knew what they were. so when i was like 5, kids were already saying, “that’s a faggot” and i was like, “well, i guess that’s what i am.” but i didn’t know what it meant until i was like 11.

in a primarily latinx immigrant community, everybody around me looked like me but i was the only queer person that i knew for a very long time. it was very lonely. it wasn’t until i got to high school that i met other queer people.

i was 14, 15 years old and my queer friends were much older. the trans girls and queer boys would me invite to the clubs. high school, meeting my first boyfriend and going to hiv prevention support groups and meeting this eclectic group of people led to me finding joy in being queer early on.

part of having older friends was that they were like, “this is madonna, she was jacking shit from the ballroom scene,” “this was the aids crisis,” “this was stonewall.” i never felt that didn’t have a rich history as a queer person of color but it was never knowing it mattered.

ruben, he/him/they/them

los angeles, ca

interviewed & photographed by: louie a. ortiz-fonseca

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In my time and my neighborhood, a lot of people were the single moms and they had the young single mom that was growing up with. In my culture it was very much, “Yeah stay home, work, go to school, have a kid, this is community.” In Caribbean culture, that afrolatinx culture, where it’s okay to have a family compound. We believe in community and in being together whereas in America it’s, “Oh you graduated? Move out. Time to go, Bye.” You leave the nest.

I grew up with a sense of family as well as my mom and I were really close where I felt like we were friends. But i knew i had that same level of “respect your mom” where “I’m not your little friend.” She wasn’t the youngest, my mom had me when she was around 30 but to me she was my big sister. Not like in the relationship but that I can go out with her and people will mistake us for siblings. We travel together a lot, as a child. We would get up and she would say, “Let’s go here”. We would book a train ticket or a flight and we would go visit this place for a day. That for us was bonding and of course adding into food she would take me to all these different places. And places that she also had never been and kinda expanded, “We’ve never had this let’s try and let me expose you to this.” We have a very close relationship and were able to travel and explore.

I was an only child up until I turned ten and then my little sister was born. We’re ten years apart so theres that age gap of course. Things kind of slowed at that point that where I kinda grew up. But growing up my actual childhood was really great compared to others. Looking back, as a kid you’re kinda selfish “I don’t have this or I don’t that or I don’t have the coolest” I had the coolest where I would redo my childhood or I would offer my childhood to somebody else. We had hard times and struggles but the fact that I got through and still had a type of structure.

Demitri, He/Him/His

Washington DC

GV Fellow

interviewed & photographed by: J. Aces Lira, GV Fellow

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Pride is Bitter Pill But I Have My Familia


Pride season typically lands on a busy time of year for me. The good schoolboy that I am, May and June marks finals season so it gets hectic cramming for exams or sending in essays. But 2014, marked the year of my 21st birthday and the year we can pretend that I consumed my “first” alcoholic beverage. Just when I thought I had an idea of how my birthday celebration would go, I was thrown for a loop when a friend of mine announced months earlier during a weekly club meeting that she booked a hotel room for me on the weekend of Long Beach Pride. When I tell you I was both caught off guard and never felt more loved. Of course, that weekend was sure to be epic! I shared the festivities with as many friends in that room set-up as possible.

The weekend began with the celebration of my 21st birthday. We stayed in and created a rasquatche birthday party to remember. Amongst the group of friends, many of whom shared the birthdate but there was consensus that I be transformed as the quinceañera for the night. Different friends stepped forward and fulfilled the role of madrinas for the music, the backup phone, the handle of alcohol, the evening gown, the headdress, and as many small details we could think of. That night, in lieu of a ball gown, I wrapped my body in the bed sheets as my homegirls crowned my head with a headband to signify the queen I was becoming. I performed the vals with the best group of friends anyone could ask for. That night, I welcomed the new age marker with a quince I never had and so much Pride, literally.


As a group, we got ourselves ready the following day for the Pride festivities. We unfortunately slept in and weren’t able to make it to the parade but after the beautiful night they provided me, I wasn’t bummed about missing the parade. We did however join the events that followed.

I felt on top of the world and unapologetic with my homo self and the chosen family that came along with me. And the universe just delivered another gift when I spotted my biological brother who had just recently came out as bisexual. I was in shock and tried to do the math on the chances of my brother making an appearance from the California Central Coast to a Pride Event in Long Beach. Our eyes lit up and for the rest of the day and night, you’d spot the two tall brothers in their red bandanas celebrating amongst our friend group.


I’ve never seen so much rainbow in one place and we really breathed it in all like fresh oxygen. We swiped as much free stuff as possible, my brother taking off his shorts cause he felt overdressed, photobombing strangers photos, and dancing our hearts out to Belanova when they came on the main stage. Estuvo padre!

While now, I experience Pride with a bitter taste on my mouth for political reasons. As a young queer that Pride Event left a sentimental place in my heart. While the larger gay community isn’t always advocating for the best, that year I felt so much love and I remain forever grateful.

J. Aces Lira (He/Him/His) Chicago, IL

Aces Lira is a Gran Varones Fellow. His is a MSW/MA graduate student in Women Studies and Gender Studies at Loyola University Chicago. As a Research Assistant, he is based in the US Regional Network within the International Partnership for Queer Youth Resilience (INQYR) and is getting a foot in the door on all things research-related. Outside of the books, Aces orchestrates portraits along with art through different mediums and also lives for National Park excursions.

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i don’t have video of my mother laughing. the sound of her laugh exists only now in my mind. every year, i fear that i will forget the sound of her raucous laugh. afraid that my memory will instead recall laughs that are similar to my mother’s in place of hers. but today, i am glad that i remember.

i have written about my mother and my childhood extensively. anyone who has followed this project knows that my mother and i lived through the hell that is addition and dehumanizing poverty. and how we both managed to live on this earth after the murder of my younger brother nicholas.

i sometimes only remember the shit that ripped us apart. not because i am addicted to trauma (lawd knows that is my brand lol) but rather because of my constant paranoia that history could repeat itself. i find myself studying and examining all of the variables that made what happened to us happen. intellectually, i know that is impossible because many of our challenges were beyond our control. but still, i study our journey so that i may be able to beat and/or out smart circumstance.

today, i am choosing to write about my mother in a different light. a light that i do not ever want to forget. so it is imperative that i share.

she loved her kids. even through addiction. she loved her all 8 of her children.

she loved to play parcheesi. when my brothers were asleep, we’d play that board game for hours.

she made the best fried chicken. when she came down from her high, she would wake up me up the middle of the night to eat with her. this was one of my fave moments.

she always wanted to visit russia. this was during the 80’s and the cold war was at its peek. i like to think this was her way of resisting.

she fought for everything.

she loved to listen to the oldies every sunday night.

she loved diana ross, princess diana and tina turner.

she loved to laugh and dance.

with little resources. she gave me everything i needed.

with little formal education, she taught me everything i needed to know.

today, on the 4th anniversary of her death, i speak her name, ROSA M. ORTIZ-FONSECA, into the universe so that it never forgets that she existed.

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i came out on april 1, 2010 to my twin sister. i told her on april 1 because if it didn’t work out, i woulda been like “april fools!” a couple of days later, we spoke to my mom. she like, “are you sure? whatever makes you happy.”

but then we didn’t talk about for a couple of months. i was like “why aren’t you talking about this? i came out to you.” so one day, i said, “are you ashamed of me?” i asked my mom. she got very upset and was like “what would make you say that to me?” i was like, “because you didn’t want to talk to me about it.” she said, “i was giving you time for you to talk to me.” so we spoke about it and our bond has been stronger than ever.

the nights at pulse we always fun. pulse was the place to go on saturday nights. i was there that night. i was on the dance floor when everything started.

it’s been a journey. there was a time where i just stayed in my room. all i did was smoke weed, eat and sleep. i didn’t answer my phone. i didn’t watch tv. i just watched netflix so i don’t have to hear about it. i left to puerto rico. over there it was easier to sleep. i didn’t want to come back. my sister had to fly out over there to bring me back.

i feel like i am a completely different person. i am more understanding. i’m more patient. i enjoy life even more now even though it’s been difficult.

edwin, he/him/his

orlando, florida

interviewed by: anthony leon

photographed by: louie a. ortiz-fonseca

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A throwback to my childhood, kicking it back in toon town with an irritating pick eye living my best life with the mains. I remember waking up super drowsy after a scary movie night watching “Evil Dead” and the tio’s, tia’s, and grandma surprising the kids with a trip to Magic Kingdom. I think back and try to imagine how much work they all put in to send the entire family to an amusement park and it really fills my heart at their commitment to giving us the best childhood they could given our financial circumstances.

The entire time the cousin’s collective would run around taking everything in; the long lines, the rubber-textured buildings, and the hopes of crossing paths with Mickey. And really, I had my own agenda to get some of the chisme from Daisy, Minnie, and as many of the princesses as possible. I recall me and my prima being the fashionable divas with the jackets wrapped around the waist and our “super-fast” athletic shoes. Nobody couldn’t tell us nothing with our looks, energy, and ice-cream.

While many of us in this picture were so young and the memories potentially faint for some, this experience remains symbolically important and vivid for me. I’m not a huge fan of the franchise now but I did experience my grandma’s love for the different characters. She would have the Disney merchandise throughout her trailer and most notably the Mickey and Minnie plush dolls that sat next to her rotary dial phone. She’s not pictured in this one, but I know she enjoyed this day as much as we did.


J. Aces Lira (He/Him/His) Chicago, IL

Aces Lira is a Gran Varones Fellow. His is a MSW/MA graduate student in Women Studies and Gender Studies at Loyola University Chicago. As a Research Assistant, he is based in the US Regional Network within the International Partnership for Queer Youth Resilience (INQYR) and is getting a foot in the door on all things research-related. Outside of the books, Aces orchestrates portraits along with art through different mediums and also lives for National Park excursions.

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i grew up in costa rica, in a taiwanese family that migrated to costa rica in the late 70’s. growing up in costa rica was quite interesting because i was this asian person that didn’t feel like they belonged there. it was always this sense of otherness. children would always call me “chino” or “japonés” even though we were taiwanese.

in latin america there are these derogatory songs towards asians like “chino cochino” and “la china una china se perdió.” all these things, they used to sing to us and they made us feel like shit. my sister and i talk about it all the time. we hated it. so talking to other latin asians it helps - but then you add that layer of being queer.

i am sure you watched “selena”, right? when abraham tells selena and AB that its hard to be mexican-american in the US because they are not mexican enough for mexicans and they’re not american enough for americans. so i feel like i am always there. like when i go to taiwan to visit family, i’m not taiwanese enough, i’m always like the foreigner. when i’m in costa rica, i never feel ike i fully belong because i’m this asian person down there who eats “weird” things. here in the united states, i’m this asian with a spanish accent. there is a little bit of refuge hanging out with, there’s a group in the bay area called “latin asians of the bay area”, we used to be more active but we kinda dissolved a bit but it was nice to relate to other latin asians here in the US that were either born or raised or lived in the latin americas that kinda faced the issues we faced.

i had $300 and my backpack the year that i moved to the states. i was 17, it was really hard cuz it was not planned. i didn’t speak english every well. i lived with these two random gays guys that i knew from at the time, one was 29 and the other 32 years old in baton rouge, lousinana. they took care of me. they taught me how to speak english, they taught me how to drive. so yeah, that was a tough year because i had to learn a lot. It was rough but thankfully, i made it and i’m here.

george, he/him/his

san francisco, ca.

interviewed & photographed by: louie a. ortiz-fonseca

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I met this guy who had the same name as the singer Bobby Brown. He was this black dude who lived in North Philly. We met at Smarts and we started communicating on the phone, ya know it was 80s. He “supposedly” loved me and I “loved” him so I moved...

I met this guy who had the same name as the singer Bobby Brown. He was this black dude who lived in North Philly. We met at Smarts and we started communicating on the phone, ya know it was 80s. He “supposedly” loved me and I “loved” him so I moved from Delaware to Philly. I up and left, I disappeared. My mother didn’t even know where I was for a whole month ‘cuz I was in love. I was 21 at the time and just started going to the clubs.

I was introduced to Ballroom scene in 1988. I saw people Voguing and carrying on and I didn’t know what it was. And I was like “I wanna do that!” I started learning it by going to the Nile*. It was interesting and I caught on real quick. My first House was the House of Prestige. I was the only Puerto Rican in that House. My category was hair affair and old way. The ballroom was picking up here in Philly. Later I joined the House of Africa. Tracy Africa’s house opened a chapter here in Philly. I did Butch Queen Up In Drags for their House.

There were not a lot of Latinos in the gay scene then. It was me and miss David. Then I met a few other ones. I met Alexis, Pedro, he had long hair and liked to vogue. I met all those Puerto Ricans. But there was a divide because I hung around a whole bunch of Black kids. They (the Latino queens) didn’t like it because they thought I was trying to be “black.” I was just being me. I got along with everybody but they were ones trying to throw me shade. It was hard at first because you want to be around other Puerto Ricans that were gay and you want to be included in that community because they are not many of us began of the struggle we have amongst ourselves as Latinos.

I am back in Delaware now. I can back to take care of my mom. Let’s talk about the Latino gays in Delaware. There’s hardly none. And the few there that they have are whack. It’s truthful. Then they have the nerve to give you shade and I’m like “Gurl, we should stick together.” Gay life in Delaware is very limited.

Peter, He/Him/His

Dover, Delaware

interviewed & photographed by: louie a. ortiz-fonsecs

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My mother began smoking crack in the summer of 1986. At that time, it was widely known as “crack rock.” I was 9 years old and I already had mastered the art of secrecy. I didn’t call it art or survival; it was just life under the “rock.” I learned many things that summer that would forever change me.

I learned to check the spoons for burn residue before using them. I taught my brothers to do the same. I learned to hide my single speaker radio before going to school. I taught my brothers to do the same. I learned to play in the dark when the electricity was cut off. I learned that people were more than comfortable calling my mother “crack head” in front of our young eyes and ears. I learned to grow numb and I taught my brothers to do the same.

The greatest lesson I learned was not to be ashamed of my mother. Trust me when I say that this was no easy task during a time when life was polarized by dichotomies of “clean” or “dirty,” “crack head” or human.

These lessons sustained our sanity. These lessons fortified me, along with millions of black and brown families in the 1980s and ‘90s, tried to survive life under the “rock.”

Being the oldest child, I was charged with ensuring that my brothers were fed and taken care of. While I resented the responsibility, it provided me a kind of access to my mother that my brothers didn’t have. After coming down from her high, she would wake me from my sleep to play board games with her at 2 a.m. She would tell me about how AIDS had stolen her friends and how bad she missed them. She would tell me that I was the “good” one and it was my responsibility to keep my younger brother Nicholas out of trouble. We talked about pretty much everything – except life under the “rock.”

It was difficult for anyone in my neighborhood to call someone else’s mother a “crack head” without quickly being reminded that their mother too was a “crack head.” So, the insults had to be more specific; hairs had to be split: “Well at least my mother didn’t sell the TV.” “Well at least we have food in the house.”


My brothers and I were lucky in this sense. Our mother had done neither and so we found solace in that. I believe that this alone helped us to survive with whatever dignity we had left as I watched the will to live disappear from the eyes of other kids living in and being surrounded by crack addiction.

As noted by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, more than one thousand stories about crack appeared in the press in 1986, with NBC reporting over 400 reports on the crack “epidemic” alone. The media coverage was instrumental in shaping the nation’s perception of those who struggled with and/or were directly impacted by crack addiction. This perception has since been inherited by a new generation of HIV advocates and activists, who only associate the Presidency of Ronald Reagan with his failed response to AIDS. But those who survived the Reagan years also associate that time with the government’s swift and violent response to crack that stole the lives and promise of many, deliberately destroying black and brown families.

Thirty years later, the conversation about addiction has shifted dramatically. The same government that demonized, dehumanized and then criminalized people like my mother now urges us all to remember that people struggling with addiction have a disease and require love, patience and treatment. This reminder comes just as the face of addiction is now that of white affluent youth struggling with heroin addiction. This compassion, while critical and necessary, was not made available to black and brown communities that struggled with the presence of crack. I will venture to say that this approach is still NOT available to individuals who still struggle in the shadows of a crack addiction.

Yes, it is important that we evolve as a society and it is equally important that we make amends with ourselves for allowing this to happen on our watch. Even more importantly, we cannot validate our evolution without a true account of what happened, who it happened to and why it happened in the first place.

I have come a long way from the small room I shared with my mother and brothers. I no longer have to check spoons for burn residue but I no longer have family to bear witness to the atrocities we survived.

My mother struggled with addiction until her death. My brother Nicholas was murdered in 2001. I sometimes struggle with survivor’s guilt. This is not uncommon for those who have survived war. Every day, I am learning to reconcile my survival with the sacrifices my mother and brother made for me to live life out from under the “rock.”

Atonement is often the last act of any complete apology. As a nation, how do we atone for the heinous behavior of the government during the Reagan years? It’s simple: We don’t ignore the heroes of my generation. Instead, we honor the legacies of my mother and every mother who provided light in darkest days of the war raged on our families. We memorialize them like we would the heroes who were lost in battle.

written by: louie a. ortiz-fonseca

[originally published in the body]

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i am a twin and we are both gay. we came out at the same time. imagine my mother’s surprise. we weren’t surprised because we are almost just a like. he is smarter and more analytical. i am more sociable. i am also maybe a little bit more naive. i believe in love and always hope for the best. i believe in happy endings.

juan, he/him/his


interviewed & photographed by: louie a. ortiz-fonseca

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chyle, some of my favorite childhood memories are when my mother allowed us to skip school so we could go with her to get her check. back then, you had to go to a bank and stand in line to get your public assistance which at that time was cash and books of food stamps.

my brothers and i would stand by her side in the messy bank - giddy because we knew that after she got her check, we’d get to go to mcdonald’s. for us, the only toys we got were the ones we got in happy meals.

after mcdonald’s, we’d go shopping at value-plus to buy nick naks for the house. my mother was never a decorator but she tried to decorate our house. we’d also stop by the thrift store to buy clothes and jackets. now as an adult, i do the same with my son.

as i got older and dropped out of school, “check day” became a bigger event. the night before every “check day”, my aunt blanca and i would plan out our outfits. this meant that we would wash them by hand and dry them on the electric radiator. in fact, we were on our way to get blanca’s check when i first heard mariah’s “emotions” on the radio for the first time.

it is these memories i hang on to. yes, i am still traumatized by survival out of poverty. that shit hangs on to me every damn day. i fight to hold on to the joy we found in the cracks of that hard living.

today is my mother’s birthday. she would have been 61 years old. she passed 3 years ago. there was no funeral. our family was too fragmented. my brothers and i mourned by ourselves. we still do.

i am still making sense of my life. i am still forgiving myself for punishing my mom for not being what i needed her to be. i share these stories to remind myself that she gave us all that she could and it was enough to get me here. and i am so grateful.

happy birthday, mom.

granvarones thegranvarones queer trans gay bi lgbtq qtpoc storytelling latinx afrolatinx remembrance family