When I was 22, I moved to San Francisco to pursue an MFA in acting. I was already dating women but was straddling the bi now gay later lifestyle as a way to keep things copacetic with my family and to socially stay afloat. I moved in with my Uncle Ricardo, a giant 6’3’’, 74 year old Latin Diva, who looked like Father Christmas, with a long white beard and who only wore overalls. He lived with his partner (marriage wasn’t legal) Danny, who looked like an exact tiny replica of him.
It was a very San Francisco entry into the city. The neighbors grew weed and when they heard I was staying over they showed up at the door with a big bag of bud as a way to welcome me to the neighborhood. Danny and Ricardo had a room in their house they called the crazy room- a den with three walls of windows where they had held party after party and every time, they would add to the disco balled chaos of all the things stuck to the walls and hanging on the ceilings by hanging even more stuff. So when you were in there, there were fans and dolls and painted underwear, tinsel and all sorts of other things sticking out of every inch. In fact, there was still a forgotten Christmas tree in one corner that had been put up in the 80’s, crystallized in time, along with its lights and tinsel.
Uncle Ricardo was the black sheep of the family. My dad never mentioned him until I was headed to San Francisco. Even so, he readily received me into his home in Bernal Heights and let me carve out a space for myself in the hayloft of the amazing once-barn he had connected to the main house to make it bigger. He pampered me and fussed over how little I ate and treated me as if I were his own kid. He was like my gay mom. He would cluck away in his thick Latin accent, telling me stories as he cooked, wagging his finger or a huge knife at me and letting me know his mind. I loved spending time with him and hearing about gay San Francisco. It was a complete education. His tales were amazing and also heartbreaking since ALL of their friends, not most, but all of them, died in the 80’s with the AIDS crisis. Only Danny and Ricardo were left standing, afraid to drink, or smoke, or do anything unhealthy that they might be next in line. Living with them was like living in Armistead Maupin’s Barbary Lane from Tales of the City. And he was my perfect Mrs. Madrigal.
Historically, I’ve been a terrible gay person. I’ve never been good with any and all of the different labels, not even knowing what some of the letters In LGBTQAAI stand for till recently. (Did you know one of the A’s is for Ally? That’s cool. Inclusive. So, you’re in there too. We’ve thought of everything.) I hate parades and big crowds of people. I’m not a fan of glitter or dressing up, or Cher for that matter. Which I know makes me sound like a grump. But it’s the truth. I’ve used my platform in the past few years to support the trans community, mostly because I’ve lived the dangers of not being represented and know how meaningful it would’ve been to see someone like me. And it’s way I can contribute- represent! Without putting our stories out there we are invisible. So it’s a way of etching ourselves into existence.
It’s June and Pride month. It’s also the 50th year marker of the Stonewall Riots, which was bravely spearheaded by trans women of color. And for some reason I have all the feels and it’s getting to me this year. So much has changed and so quickly. And I’m changing also, slowly, but oh so quickly as well. It’s uplifting. I mean, a gay man is running for president. And yet, there’s always the backlash that comes with all the forward movement and all the things that are yet to be done. Trans people, specifically trans women of color are still being slaughtered out there. It makes me feel my privilege big time, I’m painfully aware I stand on their shoulders. Being educated, passing for white, and being female to male trans, I definitely don’t walk around in fear all the time. It’s really a wild time to be alive!
If you have curiosity, or want to learn more about the LGBTQAAI community, or just want to get wrapped up in to a magical story, I recommend watching the new Tales of the City that Netflix just released. It’ll make for a nice Pride commemoration/celebration. It is one of the best representations I’ve seen of the community out there. And it is shot and told beautifully. Also, check out this little video I was a part of: Diverstiy of Pride. May we continue to find the strength to walk down this merry road, together.
And if you want to map your heart out to better understand your feeling-scape, come to the beautiful yoga space at The Curative (376 Broadway, 9th Floor @Waverly) THIS Wednesday June 12th, from 6:45-8:15 to learn more about the ancient Basque art of mapping out your heart. We will practice for and hour and then have a little discussion/practicum for half an hour. Perfect to celebrate everything you love in life regardless of your preferences and a nice way to release what you don’t. Email me if you want to come, $30. If you can’t afford it right now but want to be there, shoot me an email.
Cheers (honorary and not so honorary) Queers! And Happy Pride!!!