The Gran Varones is a legacy project that uses video and photography to tell the stories of Latino & Afro-Latino Gay, Queer and Trans men. Our stories shine light on what being “out” and “proud” means to us, our families, and our communities.
happy pride! go out and fag the hell out! be queer as fuck! disrupt the narrative that we must hide and be ashamed of our of existence! be loud and be proud!
bbbbuuuuttttttttt, here are a few reminders for today:
the stonewall riots were the single most important event that inspired the LGBTQ community to rise up against police violence and homophobia. if there were no stonewall riots, which were led by queer and trans people of color including most notably marsha p. johnson and sylvia rivera, THERE WOULD NO PRIDE PARADES.
stonewall was a riot! remember this whenever you witness protests by black and brown trans and queers folks. remember this before you curb your mouth to say “this is pride, this is not the place for protests!”
pride is a celebration that exists because of protesting and rioting. here are three things that “protesting” has provided us cis-queer and gay men.
1. because of the stonewall protest, WHICH WAS A POLICE RIOT and led by black and brown trans women, we can dance and drink in a club without worrying about a police raid.
2. because queers yelled, screamed and protested the closing of bathhouses, we can suck dick at the baths.
3. many of us are ALIVE because queers challenged THE MUTHA FUCKIN’ GOVERNMENT AND PHARMACEUTICAL COMPANIES for basic HIV treatment!
so the next time we are twerking our asses off in the club, remember that protests provided us this privilege.
the next time any of us are sucking dick at the bathhouse, remember that protests provided us that privilege.
the next time we and/or our friends, family, or partner are taking LIFE-SAVING HIV MEDS, remember that protests provided ALL OF US this privilege.
so before any of us go damning, judging and condemning those who protest against systematic oppression, we need to come out of our ivory towers and into the streets in honor of; trans women, fags, queers, dykes, gays, drag queens, freaks and everyone who protested so that so you could shake our asses at pride. MANY OF THEM WHO PUT THEIR BODIES ON THE LINE DIDN’T EVEN LIVE LONG ENOUGH TO ENJOY THE PRIVILEGES WE TAKE FOR GRANTED.
elder once told me, “whenever your heart gets broken - feel the pain,
feel the ache and then get the art out of it.” i was just 18 years old
when he was sharing this gift with me. i remember loving the dramatic
overtone of the comment more than i thought i understood it. it wasn’t
until 20 years later while i was standing in my mother’s hospital room,
on father’s day, that i fully understood the gravity of what was told
in early june of 2015, i was agonizing over a job offer that
required me to move to washington, dc from philadelphia. i was petrified
because 1: i had never lived in any city other than philadelphia; 2: i
would have had to leave everything i worked so hard for in philly; and
3: i was afraid that i would fail. i must have called everyone under the
sun to pick their brain. i had built a strong case as to why i should
go and an even stronger case as to why i should stay. i still could not
make a decision.
i called an old friend who knows all of the
wonderful and not so wonderful things about me. he is also one of the
most honest people in my life. i presented him with both of my cases. he
didn’t reply as first but after a minute or so, he responded with “you
gotta go. you gotta take it. you will be fantastic in dc and even if you
fail, all the things you will learn inside of that failure, will be
good too.” now it was me that was silent. he must have sensed my fear
because he then said, “we won’t turn out like our mothers. that time has
passed. the cycles we have been trying to break are broken. know that.
you will be ok.” he then added, “and gurl, we already the most
successful heauxs in our family so we good.” i laughed, he laughed but i
promise you, we were serious.
it was in that conversation that i
knew that i would be moving to dc. it was in that conversation that i
found a way to let myself off of the hook. i have broken the cycle that
has plagued my family. i had just been too busy running from my past, my
pain and trauma to really enjoy it. i was ready to embark on this
a few weeks later, my younger brother called to tell
me that our my mother did not have much time and i needed to come
immediately. “she wants to see you,” he said. i booked my flight to polk
county, florida and by coincidence, it was father’s day weekend.
admittedly, i did not want to make this trip. what gave me the most
anxiety was knowing that i would have to be in a room with family that i
had yet to completely forgive. my mind, body and heart still remember
the abuse and neglect. while i have written poems and stories that have
helped to move in a different spot of that pain, it is still there. in
fact, i was so anxious that i made my younger brother promise not to
“leak” the information that i was coming to florida. i also made him
promise that he would not let people make me feel unsafe or try to take
photos with me. god bless his heart because that boy did just that.
family did try to take photos with me. i politely declined. i was
questioned as to why i was able to take photos of people but no one
could take photos of me. i replied “because this request was in my
rider. talk to my management about negotiating changes for my next trip
here.” they laughed. i laughed but i promise you, i was serious.
sitting in the hospital room watching my mother go in and out of
consciousness, i watched her grandchildren play. i watched her children
laugh. i watched their wives and girlfriends make small talk about
parenting and doing hair. i endured my sister begging me to take a pic. i
compromised and gave her my phone number and said that i would text a
pic of me that has been already been filtered for posting. she laughed. i
laughed but i promise you, i was serious.
back to the hospital
room and it’s being full of people. i was harkened back to my childhood.
our house was always full of people. it was always full of people the
world did not want. in the 80’s, our house was always full drag queens,
transgender women and a few of the gay teens from the neighborhood. in
the 90’s, our house was full of her friends who did not always have
consistent housing. i hated it! there never seemed to be space or
silence. while my mother did make sure that i had my own room, in a
house with just two rooms, i felt like 6 brothers was enough. i thought
“why did we have to have other people stay with us?” i resented it. so
much so, that even now my closest friends have only been in my house a
handful of times. this is because i have grown so guarded when it comes
to my space. but here i was, in a hospital room, full of people that
even “woke” spaces do not welcome. this time i didn’t resent it. i was
instead filled a humble pride, immense joy and gratitude that my mother,
even in her last days, was surrounded by people who were returning the
love that she had provided them. “y’all muthafuggas ain’t going home?”
they laughed, i laughed but i promise you, i was not serious.
monday, june 22, 2015, after surviving poverty, crack addiction and the loss
of a son, my mother, rosa m. ortiz-fonseca, took her last breath. with
no fuckin’ resources, she raised 7 boys on her own. she housed people
who had no place to go. she fed the entire block when she cooked and if
you fucked with any of her kids, she would beat every ass on the block.
my mother was a warrior. she was a giant. this is the spirit that lives
i accepted the job and moved to dc a few weeks after my
mother’s death. i am still learning to get used to my new life in dc. i
am still learning to live in a world without my mother. even two years
after my mom’s death, i am still learning to be – period.
elder once told me, “whenever your heart gets broken - feel the pain,
feel the ache and then get the art out of it.” it was the art that kept
me present and provided me a foundation to stand on whenever i felt my
legs would give way at any moment. the art saved me and i got to share
it with my mother – until the end. here, i share these pictures with
- louie a. ortiz-fonseca
my mother being provide pain management medication
my two brothers and their two friends
family and friends in my mother’s hospital room
my brother tony. he is the brother mentioned in the story.
my brother alfredo with his son
nurse prepping to medicate my mother
i fed my mother her last meal. it was chicken noodle soup.
so yesterday our twitter was lit. normally it’s just two of my friends ❤️ing and retweeting our shit but yesterday, the white gays were calling us all kinds of racists. of course, the day immediately after they cried and took up all kinds of space at vigils for the many black and latinx queer and trans folks lost in the pulse shooting.
normally, i never engage on twitter cuz it just ain’t my thang. mainly because i need more than 120 characters to let a fool have it. anywho, we got tweets about how the rainbow flag is not about race. we even had a few folks ask, “where is the white stripe!?” one of those folks was a latino dude who says he was asking about the white stripe because he is not “racist.” someone told him that working to ensure that white gays have a space everywhere - even on our twitter page - makes him “not racist.”
admittedly, i was not initially sold on the new flag. but chyle, but i saw how pissed and upset white gay men and hoteps were about the black and brown stripes - i was with it. i’m petty so anything that pisses yt gays and hoteps off, ima support. lol
here is the thing tho, redefining and owning queerness on our terms has always been a fight for black and brown folks ESPECIALLY for trans, gender non-conforming, gender non-binary folks. we have always had to face resistance every and anytime we wanted to carve out a space for ourselves. for some white cis-gay, our audacity to claim space on this earth is a direct affront to their commitment to dominate all spaces.
the new flag aims to recognize black and brown folks that continue to be marginalized within the lgbtq community and pride movement. the new flag DOES NOT cure racism. but my question is, why are we ok with waving the original rainbow flag at corporate sponsored pride events that are largely organized by white cis-gay men where cis-het performances pander to our community for coins does but fall silent when black trans women are murdered? why are folks more vocal about the black and brown stripes than they are about the violence black and brown bodies are subjected to every damn day?
don’t like the flag cuz it’s not visually appealing to you? cool. don’t wave it then. but if you are offended and appalled by the purpose and representation of the black and brown stripes, then you need ask yourself a few questions about what inclusivity really means to you beyond words that are not followed by action.
if you hate the new pride flag but have remained silent about the confederate flag, then i invite you to ask yourself a few questions. if you have remained silent as the alt-right and current administration has used the american flag to intimidate non-white americans, then i invite you to really have an honest and intentional conversation with yourself about what inclusion really means to you. you may find that while you are not racist, you may be hella anti-black. we all have our work to do. being mad at black and brown stripes is not where you start.
on this very day last year, we screened our documentary at the fifth annual latino film festival. we were the only film to highlight an experience from the latinx queer community.
i remember being ecstatic. our modest documentary was shot partly with an iphone 3 and with absolutely no budget. never did we imagine that our project would be a part of any film festival. needless to say, we were crying tears of joy.
we spent the entire day at the festival lifting the voices of queer and gay latino men. so much so that we were too tired to go to any after party. anthony, sean and myself just went home to rest. philly pride was the next day and i had three gv interviews scheduled.
we planned to share these pictures the following monday. we planned to share our joy with you all. that did not happen.
the following morning, i got several texts about a shooting in orlando. details were far and few in between. i wasn’t sure how to progress the information, however little. i had a busy day day ahead of me and was trying to stay focused.
as i made my way through philly pride with my then 13 year old son, i began to get details of the massacre. i saw anthony, who is generally has the emotional capacity of a brick, tear up. this is when i knew i had to stop and feel the impact. i began to finally check for details on cnn. this is when i broke. my son asked my i was tearing up. i told him. he was silent. we were all silent. we had literally spent the past two days lifting voices of the community that was murdered.
we spent the following months processing and trying to heal.
we have not shared these pics until now. one of our proudest moments exists with one of our most saddest. our lives and the lives of many queer latinx were different on june 11, 2016. we all awoke to a very different reality on june 12, 2016. however, our stories did not start or end on that day. our stories and our legacy continue.
*please excuse any typos. wrote and posted while out building community with varones at pride*
you would think that yt cis-gay men would learn to keep their condescending mouths shut but they don’t learn. ever. they do, however, love to tell black and brown folks what to do, think, feel and say.
earlier this week, news broke about a top doc at mazzoni center, the largest LGBTQ agency in philadelphia, being on paid leave amid an internal investigation of alleged misconduct of a sexual nature. what does that mean? well, that can mean a lot of things but as a former employee of mazzoni and as a philadelphia resident, i can say that for years there were whispers about boundaries being crossed with clients. if you have worked in non-profits for as long as i have, you know that these accusations are seldom investigated or even addressed. this is because it would shine a terrible light on the agency, and that could potentially jeopardize funding. so it is often swept under the rug, ESPECIALLY if the accusations are made against a person who is in a position of great power - ya know, like an executive director, manager, or doctor.
anywho, after the news broke, about 30 mazzoni center staff members WALKED out! this is huge because front-line workers are often bullied into silence out of fear of retaliation from leadership. but hunty, on tuesday mornting, mazzoni staff said “fuck it! we stand by our patients!” this is also huge as patients, clients, and participants of LGBTQ and HIV orgs are often erased and minimized to deliverables. i can also tell you that it took me years to unlearn that agencies were more powerful than community. i can learn that as service providers and activists, our commitment should always lie with community. so kudos to mazzoni front-line staff for literally standing in that commitment.
naturally because mazzoni center is nationally renowned, many community members came to the defense of the agency, its CEO nurit shein and their top doc, robert winn. of course, this was no surprise because people defended iCandy’s owner after video surfaced of him joyfully saying the N-word over and over and over again. iCandy is a philadelphia bar located in the gayborhood, but the defense of mazzoni’s CEO and top doc that i found to be the most ridiculous was that of bruce yelk. apparently, he is the producer of Distrkt C in washington, dc. let’s take a look at his post.
oh bruce, where the fuck do i begin. oh yeah, i know - SHUT THE FUCK UP! he calls the current “mazzoni issues” a “witch-hunt.” LMAO!!! demanding that mazzoni center keep patients safe from predatory staff is a “witch-hunt”? you’re hella whack bruce! he also goes on to state that “there would be no mazzoni center without nurit shein and dr. winn.” as a former staff member, let me say that it is the FRONT-LINE staff that keep the patients and community members coming back. it is the FRONT-LINE staff, who are often overworked and underappreciated, that keep that place from folding. the only thing nurit provided was a safe space for dr. winn to exist without any accountability. how do we know this for sure? a fuckin’ former board member went on record just two days ago stating so in a piece written by timaree schmit forthe philadelphia weekly. mark coyne, a pharmacist who served on the board of directors for mazzoni center for 8 fuggin’ years from 2008-2016 confirmed that allegations against dr. winn were brought the attention of board during his term. he also stated that CEO nurit shein did not take the allegations seriously because they were made anonymously. ya know, as a sexual abuse survivor, i will tell you that telling someone is HARD AS FUCK because people still refuse to believe sexual abuse victims. also, medical providers have a lot of power. to be forthcoming about a doctor’s misconduct, especially a doctor who is so beloved by the community, could potentially put one’s medical care in jeopardy, especially if you’re poz.
mark coyne also stated in timaree’s philadelphia weekly article that a former board president received an anonymous letter from staff members detailing allegations of sexual relationships between dr. winn with “one or two patients.” it gets fuckin’ better. the former board president does what she is supposed to do and calls an emergency meeting to address the allegations and nurit shein shuts her down! so yeah, bruce, tell us again how there would be no mazzoni center without nurit and dr. winn?
bruce then goes on to defend nelly fitzpatrick, former director of LGBTQ affairs in philadelphia and pa house representative brian sims who both waited too damn long to address the anti-Blackness and racism in philadelphia’s gayborhood. brian sims himself has said that he dropped the ball. but according to bruce, brian got “bashed” for not “speaking up on 1 issue.” yeah, he said that. according to bruce not speaking up and against racism in the gayborhood is not a big thing. lawd!
bruce also goes on to write that DC’s gay scene “cares about each other, works together and conducts themselves in a respectful manner.” which one of us is gonna tell him about the DC’s racism and anti-Blackness in the gay scene - especially at JR’s?in the event that you missed that story bruce, read all about it here.
so it gets even better. when someone challenges him on the dress-code at woody’s, a philly gay club, and how the “no timbaland boots” was rooted in anti-Blackness, bruce responds with this:
i should mention that the owners of woody’s have gone on record stating that there is no dress-code and nor has there ever been.
yo bruce, which “culture” wears timbs and “thinks nothing about punching someone before talking about the issue?” i am not wearing timbs right now and i still wanna punch you. then when he was challenged about his white privilege, this fool responds with:
why do i bring all of this shit up? great that you asked. well ya know the lgbtq march on washington is happening the same exact weekend as capital pride and bruce, who is the producer of District C in washington, dc is slated to make some major coins. i am thinking for any of us who are planning to be in DC that bruce doesn’t deserve our coins. it’s clear who he values, and it isn’t those who are not white and in “leadership” positions.one more thing bruce, your beloved doctor just resigned.
so i am tired of typing and centering this wack ass cis-yt gay dude and i will leave you with this queer proverb by xin ania: