THE GRAN VARONES (Posts tagged healing)

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

Sounds perfect Wahhhh, I don’t wanna

many of the important moments and even many of the not-so-important moments often times play out in my memory through music. for example, every time i hear “unbreakable” by alicia keys, i am reminded of the night i tested hiv positive. i was in the car with my best friend on the way to his house trying to process this new health reality when “unbreakable” began to play. in that moment, i thought, “for real, universe? this song? right now? does everything have to be like a mellow-dramatic made-for-TV movie with me?” i actually said it out loud. i know this because best friend and i laughed. then cried.

music grounds me. always has. which is why i write a lot about music, specifically the music of the 1990s. and these past few weeks have been unlike anything i have experienced emotionally, mentally and physically. well, i can think of something that may come close to this experience but this “short” post is already dramatic enough. anywho, just as i created mixed-tapes for my friends and family members in the 1990s to express my love and gratitude, i have created a spotify playlist that includes songs that has been helping me to survive. i humbly share it with you all.

thank you for your love and continued support. may this playlist give you some or all of the things it has given me.

enjoy, dance, sing, and be safe.

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Today marks 10 years since I began a new journey in life. Throughout the past ten years of Living with HIV, I have accomplished more than I could have ever imagined after being given the diagnosis. I want to honor my 19 year old self who searched desperately for other folks to connect with.

To commemorate this milestone in my life, I would like to help share as many stories of QTPOC/Womxn of Color’s journeys of living with HIV.

Starting on World AIDS Day, December 01, 2019, I will replace my daily @takemymeds posts with as many of your photos and stories as possible, in an effort to create more Poz visibility in a digital space and make sure our stories are preserved and other folks can find each other.

So many of you have shared parts of your stories with me both publicly and privately.

If you are able, please message me (@takemymeds on IG) a photo and caption of your journey and I will post and tag you.

Not everyone is able to be out about their status, so anonymous submissions will be greatly honored as well, your stories deserved to be shared.

I would like to thank Atripla, Stribild, and Genvoya, as well as all of my physicians and community healers for keeping my spirits alive and thriving.

Here’s to another 10 years!

Carlos, He/Him/His

Los Angeles, CA

GV Fellow

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you will be my statue

you will stand like a hero

while i stare at you

as i figure out

why exactly i am the way i am

i trace and race my imagination

on every scar on your body

trying to understand the pain

that made you believe it was ok

to walk away from me

you will listen to my childhood wishes

because i have too much at stake

for you to wake me from this dream

that you too miss the moments,

the chances and dancers

we could have shared.

you will be my statue

you will stand

and try to understand

that wherever i go

i carry your face

the one that wears itself out in my head

the one that stared at me

and left me orphaned

as the few memories i have of you

morphed into burning pictures

and empty carnivals.

you will hold my face in yours hands

you will give me a comforting gaze

while i collect the days you stole from me.

you will be my statue

my idol, my personal jesus

i will kneel at your altar

and my fear wont betray me

or make me falter

because i will speak of the thinks

the times the places

the falls, winters, summers and springs

that stayed cold and absent of you.

i will usher myself into your heart of stone

my world where the air is thin

and the loneliness is thick

where my heart exist between a pendulum

of forgiveness and regret

that place when i speak your name

my tongue is heavy

my voice accent with hunger

of wanting to know the little things

others knew about their fathers.

you will be my statue

and i will forgive

our alikeness is something that i need to feel and live

i now know that addiction

just takes and takes

but we both now have too much at stake

for unresolved anger to break and tear

the moments, the chances and dances

we are about to share.

written by: louie a. ortiz-fonseca

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in 1998, my relationship with my younger brother nicholas was strained. we were so young (me 21 and he 19 years old) and on our own. looking back, i realize now just how much we carried on our young shoulders and how much of that prevented us from carrying each other.

nicholas was always locked up in juvenile detention. i was always trying to break out of my family. we were socialized that way. he was the “thug” and i was my mother’s chance at getting something “right” in this world. we were surviving the same hell differently.

when my mother moved to florida in an attempt to beat her addiction by starting a new life, nicholas and i were left to deal with our socialization. however, i, being the queer one, was expected to take care of him. i resented that. so much so that on the night he was arrested (again), i refused to come to his rescue. i was exhausted with “being there.” i wanted him to learn a lesson. because of this, he was sent to juvenile detention.

about a week later, nicholas jumped out of the window of the detention center, and escaped after nearly breaking his ankle. he hitchhiked home and limped into my room screaming the next morning. he was fuckin’ mad. i was mad that he was mad at me for not “stopping” my life to be there for him. in fact, i said that to him. actually, i am sure i shouted it. he replied, with his voice breaking, “you are my brother. you are all i have.” and limped into his bedroom. i was shattered. what he said left me fractured, just like our relationship.

“‘adia, i do believe i failed you
adia, i know i’ve let you down
don’t you know i tried so hard
to love you in my way…”

have always found solace in music and because there weren’t many songs about the family conflict, sarah mclachlan’s “adia,” a ballad about being responsible for someone and failing, really spoke to me. i didn’t have the language skills express this great failure so i played this song because it sonically painted the picture of my failure at being responsible for nicholas. so i repeated every “adia” lyric like a mantra. i imagined the song would bring me closer to that forgiveness that both nicholas and i deserved.

nicholas was murdered on may 9, 2001. we seldom spoke between 1998 and 2001. we didn’t know how. our socialization as men kept us apart. we could not unlearn that shit. at least not then.

”'Cause we are born innocent
Believe me Adia, we are still innocent
It’s easy, we all falter
Does it matter?“

over 20 years later since that fracturing argument, i still play this song to remind myself that it is ok that i cannot always take care or be responsible for people. i sing it to myself when i am struggling with survivor’s guilt. i still sing it to myself because i am closer to believing that it is ok.

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i was recently given a picture of my father. it’s actually a picture of a picture sent to me by his brother. i don’t know father’s date of birth. i don’t know the exact date he died. i know it was sometime in september 1997. i think.

we didn’t have much of a relationship. our only connection was our name, - louis a. ortiz. like my mother, he struggled with addiction. heroine. some visits he would be high af. some visits, not so much. but he struggled and tried not to. but he did.

it was the winter of 1991, when my mother said to me, “your father has aids.” that was it. no discussion. nothing. i remember walking to the record store thinking, “my father has aids. ok. it’s 1991, he can live to at least 1999.”

in late 1996, after being released from prison, again, he tried to reconnect with me. he had a best friend who was a white gay guy. he was hiv poz too. he told me. “your father doesn’t have a lot of time. he wants to make this right with you.”

i was already living on my own, with my brother nicholas, and thought the dude was being dramatic. my father looked fine. AND what was there to “reconnect?” i didn’t even know how to have a father-son relationship. it seemed like hard work. i was tired.

anywho, i went to dinner with them a few times. wasn’t a bad time at all. i just didn’t know how to make space for something that was always inconsistent in my life. eventually, he stopped coming around. the calls stopped. i don’t remember being mad or hurt. but i remember.

in september of 1997, my sister, who looked the most like him and his father, called me and said, “daddy is on his deathbed. he wants to see you.” no discussion. just that. now ya see, why iminds my business and stay away from my family (lol).

tania, a woman i worked with at the time, drove me to the hospital. i remember being nervous. not because of how my father my look but how was i gonna address him? dad? papi? father? pop? all those words tasted bitter on my tongue.

so i walk in and the room packed. a few of his kids from his second wife. they screamed “hey brother!” and i’m all like, “i don’t know you.” i smile awkwardly. because z i am not supposed to smile. but i was also too numb to feel sadness.

i walk closer. he is really, really frail. helpless almost. someone was holding his head up. everyone was crying and watching. “pop, p-wee is here. look. it’s p-wee” this was my cue to speak. “hey p-p-pop. it’s me. p-wee.” he just stares at me. they are all staring at us.

my sister says, “do you know who that is?” pointing at me. i want to know something at her. he responds, “yes, my son.” everyone wails. this is cue to hug him. i do. they cry. can u believe that my sister then says, “he recognized him. this is so beautiful.” i want to hit her.

i don’t remember much after that. i didn’t stay long. i didn’t feel like i belonged. the moment felt more about them than me. i wish i had the courage to ask for privacy. but seriously, half those people there, i didn’t even know their names.

ok, this is getting long(er). he died a few days later. i go to the funeral with my mother who showed up wearing black and declaring that she was the widow. that’s another story. 

it is at his funeral that I discover that we do not share the same name. the plaque on his casket reads “luis a. ortiz.” i tell my mother that his name is misspelled. she replies, “oh no, it’s your name that is misspelled. they added an “o” to your name on the birth certificate. the only thing that connected was gone.

the same people who were at the hospital were there the drama of my being the “prodigal son” returning “home” had dissipated. there was nothing to watch and cry over.

i was finally provided a private moment with my father. 

i said good-bye to luis a. ortiz that night. i also began saying a long goodbye to the hurt & pain i felt. becoming a father helped me to compete that good-bye. so every world aids day, i allow myself to miss him and to completely fall apart. i cry for everything we lost to this epidemic. 

today, i speak his name: luis a. ortiz-fonseca

- louie a. ortiz-fonseca

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I want to tell the story of an unapologetic queer who was born November 26, 1991 and how she came to love herself. She was a “handsome” baby and was constantly told that she was a “handsome” child. But to tell you her story, I have to walk you through “his” journey.

Growing up “he” struggled to fit in. “He” was and always felt feminine, like a girl, even long before knowing that there were expectations for what it means to be a “boy” and what it means to be a girl. Although “he” never fully understood the concept, “he”, still identified as she, but didn’t have the words to speak it.

“He” was naturally fem and graceful. “His” aunt, may she rest  in peace, would say, sometimes as a reminder and warning, “Don’t be gay.” But “he” wasn’t gay. . “He” was naturally fem and graceful. “He” also loved to play with dolls but family members would tell “him”, “That’s for girls.” “He” was raised in a very machismo environment where boys played with the boys & the boys played sports & boys played rough. “He” wasn’t allowed to hang with the girls. “He” felt lonely. “He” would often pray to God. “He” almost lost faith. Little did “he” know that God was watching.

It wasn’t until “his” 23rd birthday that it happened - SHE stepped out into her own, into the world. It was the greatest gift “he” had ever provided herself -  her transgender identity! It was a birthday liberation! However, she still needed to time to figure out how to share her authentic self with those she loved so much.

One day SHE let those close to HER know her true and authentic identity. And to HER surprise, they accepted HER with open arms. SHE for once in HER life felt completely liberated. SHE felt like HERSELF! SHE was finally able to be HERSELF. Breathe in air as HERSELF. SHE felt like a caterpillar going through a metamorphosis. HER pain and secret, HER cocoon. HER new identity and eventual transition, HER growth as butterfly. Free. Beautiful. Ready to fly wherever

jocelyn figueroa, (she/her/hers)

philadelphia, pa

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How Afro-Latinx Queer Non-Binary Artist is taking control of their Musical Destiny

The musical landscape has changed drastically since my days of buying cassette tapes and consuming music via BET’s Video Soul. Lawd, I still miss me some Donnie Simpson and Sherry Carter!

We now exist and thankfully so, during a period when artists can create art on their own terms and share it with their fan base and the world on their own terms. This has been the journey of Kareem. The Lancaster, Pennsylvania based Afro-Latinx Queer Non-Binary singer, songwriter, and producer, Kareem, who uses They/Them pronouns, is taking full advantage of how we consume music in 2018 while pushing the envelope of what is represented in music.

I met up with the magical Kareem a few weeks ago to talk about their journey, their healing and their new album, “Silhouette of a Black Queer.”

Louie: So when did you get the inkling that you could sing?

Kareem: I started singing when I was five and actually it was discovered by my aunt. She was a singer as well and I look up to her so much. She is a gospel singer. I grew up in the church and that is where I got my singing chops. One day in church, I was singing and mimicking her, just making fun of her and how she sang. I didn’t know that she was behind me. So I turned around and she was like, “What are you doing?” I thought I was in trouble but she took me to the youth pastor had me sing for him. That’s when I realized I had a gift.

Louie: Did that experience give you confidence?

Kareem: I was always very uncomfortable with it because I didn’t know what it was given to me for. Because I was very uncomfortable in my own skin, I was bullied a lot. I was told that I was ugly. I was told many things about myself. I had a low self-esteem. I was very depressed. I didn’t look at myself as worth anything or with any talent. It wasn’t until I broke up with my ex-boyfriend, who would say some nasty shit to me like “Kill yourself.”, that I really began to search for what I really wanted for myself and music was a way to cope with a lot of the feelings I was dealing with. I channeled all of it into music.


Louie: So your first EP, “Zesty: The EP” was released just a little over a year ago, 13 months to be exact, what was that like for you?

Kareem: I did the whole project on my iPhone 6. I didn’t have the resources so I was just like I am gonna utilize what I have and make something and it turned out to be better than what I expected. With this project, I talked about what it’s like to be an Afro-Boricua, non-binary. I talk about sexual assault. I talk about sexual liberation. I talk about stuff that is very important to me. A lot of the times when I was growing up, I was locked in this fuckin’ box and I had to conform t everybody else’s standard of what they wanted me to be. And I dealt with that in very unhealthy ways. But looking back, I see my growth. I appreciate who I am as a person. It has made me fall in love with my community more and more and has made we want to be more active and be somebody that can reach out and pull somebody out of that space.

Louie: Falling in love with ourselves can help to save our lives sometimes.

Kareem: I look in the mirror and I am very comfortable in my skin now. I will throw on a full lace front and pump out in public! I would have never imagined at 16 that I would be out here with full bundles! It feels great to out and actually be myself. I get looks and I don’t give a fuck. If you have a problem, I am right here! Come say something to me!

Louie: What has been the toughest part of your musical journey?

Kareem: I was in talks with Atlantic Records, that fell through because they tried to have too much control over me as an artist and they were trying to make me do things that were out of my morality and wanted me to stop doing the type of music that I wanted to do. We could not reach a middle a ground so they just x’ed it out and I was devastated because I thought that we could make something work.

Louie: Fun fact, I have a similar experience. Almost got signed to one of the largest Dance Music labels and walked away when they wanted me to be something I wasn’t. I’ll do a twitter thread about it one day. But that was in 1997 and back then, the thought of creating music on a phone seemed like science fiction. That’s why I love artists like yourself. You are manifesting your own destiny and that is fuckin’ inspiring.

Kareem: That makes me feel very good because I never saw myself being like this at all or doing anything like this. Having people rooting for me, I don’t take that for granted at all. It makes me feel good because I wanted to make music that was authentic, that expressed what I have experienced, what Black queer and trans people go through. I know what it’s like growing up and not seeing myself.


Louie: Is that what inspired the title of the album?

Kareem: It’s called “Silhouette of a Black Queer.” Knowing that there’s not enough representation but I also know that my experience may not be exactly like everyone else’s. We may have similarities. Two of the big things we have are, Blackness and we also have our queerness. So that why I call it Silhouette of a Black Queer. I came up with while I was at the club. I took a picture and I was like “what do I wanna caption this?” and it just came to me.

One of my favorite tracks on the album is a song called “Nasty Queer.” It is everything! I love it because I have never been free to able to talk like that. I did wonder, “What are my parents gonna think when they hear this shit?” But I gotta not worry about what people are gonna think and I gotta have fun.

Louie: If I was a recording artist my sound and visual would so be like Janet Jackson. That is because as a kid, she was the epitome of the perfect Popstar. Who was your “Janet” growing up?

Kareem: Beyoncé! But I get a lot of influences from Black women because they are the ones that I listened to when I was going through all my bullshit in high school and they grace me all my courage and they have been the ones to always root for me and I appreciate that so much. Black women have always been at the forefront of my success. My sister and my cousins have helped me to get to this point and I am always going to elevate and support them. Black women!

Louie: Is Beyoncé to you what Mariah is to me?

Kareem: Yes but I also gravitate toward different artists. There’s Phylis Hyman, Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle, Gladys Knight, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Toni Braxton, There are so many artists that I listened to, that I grew up on. Their music has stood the test o time and now I’m trying to pull from their sound – give me some of this, give me some of that and make it my own. And you hear those influences throughout the album.

Louie: I am so excited for you and excited to listen to the album. 

Kareem: I am really happy about this project because it has taken many months and setbacks. I wrote every single song. I produced 80% of the album myself. The backing track of “Sprung” is produced by my 13-year-old Puerto Rican cousin who lives in New York. I remember going to visit him and he was like “let me play you some of my stuff” and I was like, “Oh shit! What the fuck!” I was like in a trance, I was like I need this, hand it over! I love seeing young people doing artistic stuff. Because for me, I suppressed a lot of that stuff because of my issues. If I knew that this could be an outlet earlier on in the game, I know I would have been further along. But I am good and getting to where I need to be. This is a good body of work. it covers a lot of things I advocate for and things that I am going through.

I feel like people are seeing a growth of me from the beginning of my career until now. I am actually very relaxed about releasing this album. I don’t have anything to critique about this. It’s perfect as it is.

“Silhouette of a Black Queer” is available on all music streaming sites. 

Interviewed and Photographed by: Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca

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may 9, 2001: the day my brother died.
[this story does NOT include descriptions of violence. i do NOT go into details about of his murder. i am sharing my story of that night and the following week.]
it was damn near close to midnight when my mother...

may 9, 2001: the day my brother died.

[this story does NOT include descriptions of violence. i do NOT go into details about of his murder. i am sharing my story of that night and the following week.]

it was damn near close to midnight when my mother called from florida to say “something happened to nicholas. can you go see if he is ok?” i lived in west philly and was somewhat pissed that i had to find a ride to north philly to see what was the hell was going on. i didn’t find one and wound up riding my bike to temple hospital.

as i walked towards the emergency entrance, i saw some faces that were somewhat familiar. some of them were family members that i had long stopped fuckin’ with and someone were friends of my brother. they were all crying. i prepared myself.

i walked into the hospital and someone told the doctor that i was the brother. the doctor said, “follow me.” i remember counting the number of steps i was taking before we pushed open the doors. i knew that i was stepping toward a different kind of reality.

my memory picks up after coming back out from the room. i think it was my aunt wanda, whom i had not seen in years, that made the announcement. i remember a woman collapsing. i remember black and brown men crying. i remember standing in the middle of this chaos and thinking “i don’t want to hug any of y'all.”

i stepped outside the hospital to find the nearest payphone. i made a collect call to my mother. my step-father adam picked up the phone and i think i said, “he passed.” i could not bring myself to say, “he died.” i could hear him tell my mother and i could hear her scream. she got on the phone and said “p-wee, tell me where is nicholas?” i think i told her. i don’t remember.

my memory picks up with me riding my bike back from north philly to west philly in the middle of the night. because i remember rehearsing how i was going to call out of work just hours later. i was room mates with my boss and wasn’t sure if should tell her before she left the house or after she arrived to the office.

my roommate knocked on my bedroom door and asked “want a ride to work? i am leaving now.” although i had spent the night rehearsing for this moment, i didn’t know how to say it. so i just said, “i can’t go into work today. my brother was murdered.” she must have known that i was in shock and said “get dressed. we are going for breakfast.” .

my mother arrived in philly the next day, one day before mother’s day. i remember her shouting after hearing nick’s friends talk about getting airbrushed shirts made - “i know y'all getting me and my son p-wee a shirt. and we ain’t paying for them! nick is my son!” we got our shirts.

nick’s funeral was a few days later. i read a poem. i didn’t cry. i thought that if i did, i would never come back from my grief.

the day after the funeral, i drove with my mother to florida. we drove in my brother’s car. we didn’t talk. we cried.

the airbrush shirt still fits me. it has been folded up since the day of his funeral. i finally had the courage to take it out of closet a few days ago. i am afraid to wash it. but i am no longer afraid to speak of this day. sometimes i am afraid that this will always hurt. i am also afraid that one day it won’t.

louie a. ortiz-fonseca

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I was supposed to go on a date on Monday with a conventionally attractive thinner guy that didn’t end up happening. I don’t usually share these things for obvious reasons but mainly because there is this prominent notion that fat people don’t date or...

I was supposed to go on a date on Monday with a conventionally attractive thinner guy that didn’t end up happening. I don’t usually share these things for obvious reasons but mainly because there is this prominent notion that fat people don’t date or that fat people have a hard time finding love. I was hesitant that by sharing this, I would continue pushing this narrative that romantic love doesn’t exist for fat people and the truth is that whether we’d like to believe it or not - fat people are in healthy monogamous and non-monogamous relationships everywhere despite how real fatphobia is.

I was also hesitant to share this because I don’t want anyone feeling bad for me or “sad reacting” to this post because believe me, I know how fucking gorgeous I am and I don’t intend to create the false pretense that I underestimate not only my inner beauty but also the very handsome butch-kween that exists on the outside.I came to the conclusion, though, that if I did not share this and if I kept this to myself, I wouldn’t really be helping me or anyone that lives frustrated with how easy it is for thinner gay men to quickly dispose of beautiful people like myself.

I guess what I am trying to articulate is that fatphobia and gay body fascism are really antiquated in the ways in which they perceive beauty in general. Like, the more I embrace who I am and try to look at my body as the treasure it is, the more I understand white supremacy and the european standards of male beauty and whiteness.

And this is how I know that I am closely connected to myself.

Like, I know that guy I was supposed to go on a date with on Monday is still cute and these realities don’t all of a sudden detach him from his conventional attractiveness. He continues to exist and continues to date and fuck (and good for him).

But so do I, and this is the very truth: I will continue to date and fuck too even as fatphobia exists and disregards how beautiful our bodies are.

The inclination to believe that bigger bodies do not exist in sexuality is boring because we are having lots of good sex and we are enjoying it. I don’t think unlearning the hatred of my body has been the hardest part because everytime I look in the mirror, I realize how bomb I am. I think the most challenging part has been celebrating that I too am sexual and romantic and deserve a shit ton of dates on Mondays.

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This picture was taken in June 11, 2003 on my birthday. I just turned 17 and we went to Red Lobster to celebrate.
Well, that day was an emotional day for me. I was getting ready to be put in the juvenile system and preparing to go into placement.

This picture was taken in June 11, 2003 on my birthday. I just turned 17 and we went to Red Lobster to celebrate.

Well, that day was an emotional day for me. I was getting ready to be put in the juvenile system and preparing to go into placement.

At that time, I was coming into terms with my sexuality and felt like no one in my household understood me or related to me. I would run away from my home or come home late at night. I would just to go out and be with my friends who I felt accepted me because, like me, they were going through the same thing. My little brother was  affectionate and loving and that day. I remember him trying to cheer me up and just wanting to put me in better spirits. As you can see from the picture with our mom, he was always making funny faces, and always had a smile and laugh that brightened my world.

Although that day was an emotional one, it was a life lesson that guided me on the right track to better myself and to come to terms that my family did love me regardless of what mix of emotions I was going through. And at the end of the day accepted me for me - gay and all!

Thinking about that still gets me a little emotional.

My brother was murdered on April 10, 2016. I’ve been slowly dealing with his death. I miss him like hell, and just want to speak to him or hear his voice one more time. It tears me a part to know he’s not around and sometimes I just like to make believe that he’s really not gone. I pretend that he is just temporary behind bars. But the reality of the situation is that he’s not. He is gone.

I also look at it as I have come a long way from that 17 year old boy and if it wasn’t for that life lesson, I probably wouldn’t be the person I am today.
Xris Rivera, Philadelphia

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in our community it’s kinda taboo to talk about mental health, it’s taboo to talk about depression, we don’t talk about anxiety or things like that. i remember the first time i ever talked about depression, i was in high school and i was brought to...

in our community it’s kinda taboo to talk about mental health, it’s taboo to talk about depression, we don’t talk about anxiety or things like that. i remember the first time i ever talked about depression, i was in high school and i was brought to the church so that i could confess my sins and that was supposed to cure me of my depression. but instead, it made me feel worse. i remember crying after the confession because i felt that god was punishing me. i felt like i did something wrong or that it was my fault that i was feeling this way. 

a few weeks ago, with the advice of my aunt, she told me that i should see somebody, talk to a theorist, talk to a psychiatrist. talk to them about why i randomly feel so terrible, why i would self-harm and why i would feel like there is a gray cloud over me all the time. again, i thought it was my fault. so one night, it got really bad and i self-harmed, i was planning on killing myself. it got that bad that i was like “what is the point of living?” i didn’t see a future, i didn’t see any good things and i just thought “let me just end it now.” luckily my cousin and my best friend came over before i could do anything and so now i have been taking medication, i’ve been talking to a therapist, i’ve been fighting just to live my life. i shared my story on facebook recently because i want to not be ashamed. i want others to not be ashamed. i want us all to know that we are not alone.

alexander velez
camden, new jersey

interviewed and photographed by louie a. ortiz-fonseca

if you’re struggling tonight, remember that the Lifeline is here for you, 24/7 at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). reach out if you need someone to talk to.

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[wrote this last year. wanted to share again. love & light to all of us who are redifining and recreating the meaning of family]
we didn’t grow up celebrating noche buena. my mother didn’t bake cookies and we didn’t drink coquito. chyle, i didn’t...

[wrote this last year. wanted to share again. love & light to all of us who are redifining and recreating the meaning of family]

we didn’t grow up celebrating noche buena. my mother didn’t bake cookies and we didn’t drink coquito. chyle, i didn’t even know what a parranda was until i was well into my 20’s. my mother, who was essentially estranged from her family, didn’t have any traditions to pass down. so christmas and every damn holiday were like tuesdays and thursdays - we just got through them. the saving grace was that we got through them together.

so when my mother moved out of the house right before christmas in 1993 to live with her boyfriend, i struggled to get through the holidays alone. i could have gone to a family member’s house but my brothers and i seldom felt welcomed so i just stayed in bed that entire day. i know this because i still have my diary from that year and this is my entry at 8pm on december 25, 1993:

“i didn’t feel good today so I just laid in bed. today was not a good day. i got some chinese food and watched TV all day. I just ironed my red pants. i am wearing them with my red suede vest that chiqui stole for me from kmart. that’s my homegirl. i wonder what she is doing. i am going to get dressed and dance. i finally learned some new choreography.”

i remember dancing for just a bit before oscar called me to ask me what i was doing. of course, i didn’t tell him that i felt like shit, alone and sad - i was too ashamed. i like to believe that he knew because he said “bitch, what you doing? i am on my way to pick you up.”

it wasn’t long before he was at my house. to my surprise, he was with jose. just a year earlier, i thought i was in love with jose. we were actually pen pals for a few months before he dumped me via letter. but i digress. us three varones wound up at vicky’s house. she had the house to herself. we spent the entire night laughing, dancing and singing to our favorite songs. i am sure i danced the janet “if” routine because i did that shit everywhere i went. it was my one cool trick.

i remember feeling like i finally belonged with the “cool” kids. vicky, denise, jose and oscar, not only went to school together and summer camp together but they also worked at mcdonald’s together. they did everything together. so being with them on that lonely day, meant the world to me. it was my introduction to “chosen family.” it would be this memory that would help me set the foundation of what i wanted my chosen family to be and to feel like.

it was one of the last times we would all be together. maybe the universe knew because vicky had just a few more shots in her kodak disposable camera for us to capture this night in a photo. i cannot remember who shot the photo or who’s idea it was for us to pose on the steps.

we all drifted apart and lost touch by 1994. jose moved to puerto rico. denise moved to new york a few months later and i have not seen either one of them since. vicky passed away a few years later. oscar and i tried to hang on to our friendship but time and life proved to more than we could handle.

the holidays are always hard for me. i am a parent now and i don’t have those “traditions” to pass down to my son. i don’t bake cookies but i have friends that do. i don’t make coquito but i have friends that do. while i don’t celebrate noche buena, i do travel to new jersey to have christmas dinner with my cousins, my aunt and my nieces. i still have never been part of a parranda but it is on my bucket list. i still struggle with the shame of not having passed these traditions down to my son but it becomes easier every time my son reminds ome what we did the year before. he reminds me that our tradition is simply being together.

i share this story because it is my hope that if you are feeling alone, isolated and down, please reach out to your friends. i also hope that friends will check in and reach out to those of us in your life who may not have “families” to spend this day with. it is crucial that we remind each other that we are loved and that family is what we make it.

holidays will always be hard for me. i will always struggle to refine it. that’s okay because now i am no longer as afraid to reach out friends and ask “bitch, what you doing?”

- louie a. ortiz-fonseca

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It still startles me when I realize how much I look like him.
11 years ago today is a day that is burned into my memory. I got a very bizarre and disturbing voice mail from my father in the wee hours of the morning. I tried all morning to call him...

It still startles me when I realize how much I look like him.

11 years ago today is a day that is burned into my memory. I got a very bizarre and disturbing voice mail from my father in the wee hours of the morning. I tried all morning to call him back. Pleading he’d answer because, I knew. I just knew.

Several hours later I got the call that he took his own life literal seconds after that last voice mail. I remember it like it was yesterday. Mi Tia called - told me to sit down, I lied and said I was. ‘Mija, Papi is dead. Please, you have to come. He took his life.’ I collapsed on the bedroom floor like a jellyfish thrown to the ground. I threw up on that floor, layed in a fetal ball and wept until the capillaries in my face burst. I flew to him the next day.

I’ve carried this weight for over a decade and I imagine I always will. Today, as it is every day, my wish for him is peace. The peace he clearly didn’t find in this life. Peace for the children he left behind. I am the oldest of 6. Peace for those who loved him and those he destroyed by his actions. I’ve granted myself, and him, forgiveness - but this ache will always remain in the place where I should have had a dad.

I hope he found that peace. I don’t see his face as often, anymore, when I close my eyes, but occasionally I am still knocked over by the crashing waves of his decision and the PTSD left in its wake. Today, I choose for him and myself, positive affirmations, love, and most of all … Peace.

Namaste, Pop.

If you feel suicidal: Text HOME to 741741 from anywhere in the USA, anytime, about any type of crisis. 24/7 support, anonymous and free. Reach out. Give tomorrow a shot.

Josh Ortiz
Cape Coral, Florida

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i see some of us are back to not believing women. i see some of us are back to body shaming.
for years, when thin dudes wanted to hook-up with me, i felt lucky. i remember thinking “wow. he wants me!? ima do anything he wants in bed!” and because my...

i see some of us are back to not believing women. i see some of us are back to body shaming.

for years, when thin dudes wanted to hook-up with me, i felt lucky. i remember thinking “wow. he wants me!? ima do anything he wants in bed!” and because my self-esteem was shit, i did every and anything - not out of pleasure but as some fucked-up form of gratitude to the universe for “providing” a guy who wanted to fuck my chubby ass. it took years of healing and forgiveness for me to (somewhat) move past that kind of thinking and being. it took me years to COMPLETELY believe that i was fuckin’ sexy regardless of who believed it or believed me when i spoke it.

so when y'all discredit and/or make fun of usher’s accuser because of her size and appearance based on your FUCKED-UP metrics of desirability and fuckability, you reveal so much about yourself and how you feel about yourself.

i send you love & light because i remember feeling so ugly about myself that it manifested in very ugly ways. hope y'all get healing. i hope we all get healing.

louie a. ortiz-fonseca

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