What’s Love Got to Do With It?

There are so many indicators that remind me that winter is coming: The evening sky dims darker much quicker, the leaves tone down to browns and yellows, the Starbucks cups turn into a glowing red… And with this transition comes “cuddle weather.” So maybe it’s the weather letting me know I’m single, or maybe it’s the pictures on Instagram with my friends and their significant others, or my family asking me yet again “So have you found your future Mrs. yet?”

Anyway, yes, relationships are on the mind.

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And what I’ve been commonly hearing recently, probably due to those dreaded get-together family holiday parties coming up, is the question: “How am I going to introduce my partner to my family?” And I don’t mean because some people have quite literally forgotten how to formally introduce someone. I’m talking about how you introduce your partner who is of another culture to a family that is less than accepting.

It would be a lie if I said racism, prejudice, and cultural judgment are dead. Even though families aren’t as traditionally oriented as they were 10 or 20 years ago, there’s still a value placed among families to date within “our own.” We see this in the interaction of parent to toddler with remarks like “oh what a cute little toddler, you’re going to find a beautiful Latina for a bride one day!” “I can’t wait to see you married in a big beautiful Christian church one day!”

It’s in this multicultural, socially evolving world we live in where we experience people completely different from ourselves. There’s this clash between personal and family life where I hesitate to link together. In this sense, my question has often been: “How am I going to introduce my partner to my family?” When you’re a queer Latino brought up in a traditional Catholic household that’s bringing home someone completely different, there’s a little embarrassment to say “yea… all those racist, heterosexist remarks… that’s where I come from.”

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And to be fair, yes, families of color that were oppressed had to learn that it was only safe to date amongst the same color. There are valid reasons that some families reinforce these ideals, also seen in religious pedagogy of finding the ideal partner that understands what values we’re supposed to follow. And it’s unfortunate that we often use the excuse: “well it’ll just be easier to date someone Christian/Asian/the opposite gender (if you’re sexually fluid and not strictly interested in only one gender) because it’ll ‘fit’ better.”

Realize that an intimate partner isn’t a piece that’s supposed to fit into your puzzle. They’re someone who will offer romantic companionship and be a person you can connect to in ways you can’t with your family. When my sister brought home a Japanese young man, my parents were initially surprised, and let down when they asked “is he at least Catholic?” They went through a phase where they partook in some offensive comments while he was in the other room. But after a while when it was clear that he made my sister genuinely happy, they realized he was part of the family already and they could not reject him without rejecting my sister. THEN I politely taught them why the language they used is not acceptable.

So to answer the question: “How am I going to introduce my partner to my family?” Tell your family about your partner before-hand, and do the same with your partner. Wear something nice, ask your partner to do the same, and then ask your family to do the same. Know that each person in that room loves you (or at least really likes you and it might turn into something even more serious later on) and bring together your family and personal lives.

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I’m Coming Out… I Want the World to Know… Got to Let it Show….

October 11th marks National Coming Out Day! Woohoo! It’s time for the Queer community to celebrate their identity in the loudest way possible! Cal State L.A. played host to a National Coming Out Day event yesterday, where we decorated our Union plaza with rainbows, stationed resource tents, invited colleges to show their support, gave away free ice cream floats, and listened to some rocking beats from DJ Gingee.  

Everything went smoothly and the day was filled with good vibes, until people started to approach me with a troubling question: “Why is this day even important?” To people that have never had to defend their sexuality and celebrate their sexuality everyday with social acceptance, it seems logical that they would be oblivious to the fact that some people are threatened with shame, humiliation, and even death for declaring that their sexuality is queer.

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Queer, by definition, is being not of the “norm.” This theory is extended into sexuality, where a person is deemed queer when a person is not of the “sexuality norm.” In a social world that stresses relationships to be composed of one man and one woman, we see Queerness is a variety of ways. A man kissing another man; that’s queer. A woman in love with a Trans* individual; so queer! An open heterosexual couple that are swingers and invite different people into their bedroom; so queer I can’t even.

And the thing about the label Queer is that it was once a derogatory term, but is now reclaimed as a proud identity. Queer has been used as an accusation and a taunt, but those who have been insulted for being queer now say “Yea, I AM queer, amazing, and I’m not hiding it!”

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Today is not a day to pressure everyone to come out. It is a day to celebrate the instances where people choose to come out, and revel in the communities of people that have come out. It’s also a day where we show support to those that are in the process of coming out. For the entire year is full of heterosexism, we have one day where the focus is on us, and our journey. That is why this day is important.

UndocuQueer: Lulu Martinez & The Dream 9

Lulu Martinez is currently being held at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona, a holding facility for undocumented immigrants that has a disturbing history of detainee suicides, cover-ups of deaths, and general mistreatment of detainees.

Martinez is a queer college student who left Mexico at the age of three and eventually settled with her family in Chicago. She has come into the limelight recently for voluntarily deporting herself to Mexico to raise awareness of the need for immigration reform, to cast light on the struggles of immigrants, and to represent the UndocuQueer movement, a movement that highlights intersections of ethnicity, queer identity, and immigration status.

Martinez and eight other undocumented youth comprising the Dream 9 group were detained for attempting to reenter the U.S. through the Nogales port by petitioning for humanitarian parole, which allows immigrants to enter the country temporarily if they are facing a compelling emergency. The petition was denied.

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The group, dressed in graduation gowns and wearing mortarboard caps were taken to Eloy, after petitioning for asylum (which admits immigrants who are being persecuted for religious, political, ethnic group membership, and nationality). It is uncertain at this point whether they will be released or if they will be deported back to Mexico.

The Dream 9: Lulu Martinez, Lizbeth Mateo, Marco Saavedra, Ceferino Santiago, Maria Peniche, Luis Leon, Adriana Gil Diaz, Claudia, and Mario Felix have all been living the U.S. since they were young children and all qualify for the Dream Act. Many are established community leaders; they are valedictorians, track stars, Model U.N. Ambassadors, law students, volunteers, and activists. Supporters from both sides of the border are working to get them released.

The Dream 9 also has its fair share of opponents who think the group is protesting the wrong way and that the youths are acting “entitled” since they had all been previously well-situated within the U.S.

The group’s journey has drawn attention to how dangerous it is to cross borders, how challenging life is for undocumented immigrants (especially the children who are brought to the U.S. at a very young age) and how difficult the legalization process is.

The protest has raised questions regarding what it means to belong to a community, a country, or a home. The Dream 9 have been living in the U.S. for most of their lives, so how do we define whether they are more or less American than anyone else?

What do you think about the Dream 9? Is their protest effective?

-Rebecca