Las circunstancias de mi vida me han hecho experimentar situaciones complicadas y algunas veces algo inexplicables. Habiendo pasado por difíciles procesos en mi familia de origen y después de ahí llegar a la edad adulta con muchas expectativas; por fn creí que corregiría el pasado infantil que estaba lleno de dolor y carencias. Los sufrimientos sin superar que llevaba en mi espalda por tantos anos me hicieron acostumbrarme al peso que ellos tenían que yo no lo note por mucho tiempo.
Esa carga era pesada pero solo la note el día que tuve mi propia familia. Es que no era posible vivir en dos tiempos; el pasado y el presente. Así que lo que hice fue bloquear mi pasado. Viví enteramente dedicada a mi familia para sacarle adelante lo mejor que pude. Con todo y mis carencias emocionales comencé mi camino expresando y sintiendo felicidad en mi propia forma. Hubo desencantos, tristezas, y dolores. También como parte de la inexperiencia se manifestó la sorpresa con cosas nuevas debido a mi ignorancia. Cosas pasaron al igual que el tiempo. Mi familia creció y con ello también mi amor por ella. No tenia tiempo mas que para vivir a día. Nunca me cuestione el propósito de la vida. Ósea lo que le daba sentido a mi existir. Parecía que cada cosa nueva o cada conocimiento era el que me formaba el carácter y que me haría ser madura o mas inteligente.
No pensaba que estas circunstancias eran algo pasajero y que estas situaciones no se quedarían conmigo. Ni las cosas buenas, ni las malas, ni lose objetos, ni los conocimientos, ni la pareja, ni los hijos prevalecería para siempre conmigo. Al fin cuando uno muera solo será el recuerdo para alguien o una foto para mostrar a alguien. Simplemente, alguien para recordar. No debo dejar que las circunstancias, ni ningún evento me definan. Soy libre de tomar un camino y ese camino es el de hacerme cada día feliz. Nuestro Creador escribió en nuestro corazón la verdad. Solo tenemos que vivirla. Una circunstancia seria un evento que me marco mi vida y la impacto de tal manera, que me hace sentir feliz o desgraciada, pero tal evento es como un cortometraje cinematográfico que comienza presentando el tema de la película, los desarrolla y le da un fin que puede ser predecible. Ya sea feliz, inconcluso o trágico.
Pero dejar que la película de nuestra vida sea determinada quien soy es injusto por que cada día tenemos la oportunidad de seguir dictando un principio o un final de cómo nos gustaría que sucedieran las cosas. La verdad es que ni el cine se logra terminar los proyectos a la primera. La perseverancia, la practica, y el arduo trabajo e inversión son la formula del éxito. Y por supuesto tener un buen elencos y director de escenas. Nuestra vida es mas que una simple película económica que busca ganancias monetarias. Nosotros queremos ganar mas que un simple billete. Nuestro propósito va mas alto e involucra el amor y el deseo grande de ser aceptados. Sepamos que estamos equipados con todo lo bueno que el creador nos dio y solo debemos comenzar a creer. El sentido de mi vida no lo definen las circunstancias sino ese amor con que aceptas todo lo que me pasa.
I used to anticipate reactions,
Which turned me into a gentle observer,
Because I was afraid to rock the boat,
What if they didn’t agree?
I felt responsible for only offering
Universal truths I mean…
Who can argue with that?
I was scared to be labeled,
So I remained “mysterious”
Because that was easier than to navigate
Easier to mold than a defined label,
People misconstrue too often,
Myself not an exception,
And I was never confident
I’d have the opportunity to clarify,
Who asks for it anyway?
Who wants to be defensive?
But now, I realize that’s not living bravely
And I want to be beauty In mind and soul,
I want to be me,
Only then will my caged thoughts
Be free And somebody might love
That unseen part of me.
I used to want to fall in love
Because I saw Nicholas Sparks Create a fantasy from up above,
It was never perfect
Yet the characters were Beautiful and passionately in love;
I realized this movie screen love
Was a buildup to sex,
The excitement And the “butterfies,”
The obsession with “them”;
Watch closely They dance with their eyes,
Talk with their bodies,
And enchant with their lips,
“ L o v e”;
But love is not true If it dies;
There should not be an end Which is why people
Spend their thoughts
Trying to recreate
The everlasting love Seen in Nicholas Sparks movies
Because it seems eternal,
And true love it,
Passion and lust is not;
But who can really help it,
I love to believe in fantasies,
Those who don’t
Are called cynical,
Neither is better,
Neither is worse,
Both are equally insulting,
Living in a dream,
Living in reality
Who even decides what reality is?
What’s to say my dreams
Only because I am the sole observer;
Because they are real to me,
I live in them But it is just me…
Does that make it any less real?
Our dreams are a collective reality
So why do we all portray such fantasies
Superficial versions of love?
Instead of finding
That love from a movie myth
I’m finding someone
To share realities with.
I seriously don’t know who I would be without her,
She is my living, breathing, beautiful other half,
We have made it so far from where we once were,
We traveled through separations and tribulations
Mostly unscathed because we stuck together,
Though teachers wouldn’t let me visit her during school,
I would sneak out to make sure she was ok
Despite breaking some silly recess rule;
I always had to make sure she was not sad
Because for some reason
She always seemed so fragile
Crying when saying goodbye to dad,
Or when trying to pick a side in the mess;
I saw her so fragile…
But she started to cry less and less,
The process slow and gradual
Because with a huge heart she was blessed;
I think I looked after her so much
Because I knew if she were to shatter
I would not only have to pick up her pieces
I knew that without her whole self, I did not matter
It is important to recognize that one is not one
But half of their other half,
The once you would choose over anyone,
And readily defend them on their behalf
I cannot say that I am just me,
That my race, class, and family
Are the most important parts of my identity,
Because all I hear in those words Are me, me, me;
No, I recognize that I am just half a soul,
Without my sister I would be a sad girl
Because I could never be whole;
I can only speak for myself
When I say that she is the glue
That keeps me together when I’m torn,
That she will stick around forever like a tattoo;
My identity cannot be defined by any intrinsic category
But by that one person that completes my developing
by Celeste Martinez De Luna
I was ready I was apprehensive and I was scared and I was excited
After 9 months this is what we have been waiting for.
As I turned the corner and walked into the room I
stood at the foot of the bed gazing at the beautiful creature that had just been
brought into this world.
For that split second,
this slightly yellow, Jaundice colored baby had
become the sun to my sunrise,
for that moment she had become the apple of my eyes.
She was the owner of my full attention.
My younger sister has just been born
as I hold her and feel her warm flesh
She is out of the womb fresh;
Her eyes reek of innocence and her skin sparkles with
I can still see the residues of mucous.
But…I cry, I cry from both my eyes
One for the joy, one for the pain
I turn away as they begin to stain my cheeks.
Not because I am weak
But because I have realized that her future is not what
it seems, She will be reminded everyday of her enslaved
She will be seen through vision blurred by
with no visine to cure the irritation of those that see
her through red eyes
and enraged minds.
She will know that we were saved by Kings, Martin
And although she finds joy in parks now, she’ll know
we found hope in Parks, Rosa
Who sat, no I mean stood up to those that would
see her strung up to wood.
My sister will know that even though we are free,
We still scattered the trees and even today we still
suffer from Modern Day Lynchings,
But there are no longer trees and ropes,
but thoughts and words that provoke the
entanglement of our throats.
She will grow to love her brothers,
I will teach her love for her sisters
As she grows I will guide her on the path where she
knows her past.
This Little baby, My little sister, will learn, will grow
To be confident, honor her past, her history
She’ll know that she has the power to change her
future and to become anyone she wants regardless of
the history she carries in the curls of her hair, shade of her skin, and the curves of her hips
by Lexius Waltar
This piece is to bring visibility to the transmisogynistic violence that transwomxn of color and assigned-male-at birth, gender non-conforming femmes of color have to navigate. At first glance, it looks as though the figure is running, but it is actually painted using my body face down, dead. It highlights certain parts of my body that I fear are hypervisible when I perform my gender in certain ways and could be “the reason why the violence happened”, as some would say. It is the constant fear of being clock’ed and then my life clock no longer running. This painting is a call out to the men who want to ‘explore’ us on the DL but then reject and harm us in public. It is a call out to the gay, white men that take credit for the work of transwomxn of color and then let us die. It is a call out to mainstream feminist who exclude their trans sisters- and GNCfemmes- of color and let us die. It is a call out to end the sanctioning of state violence that keeps exploiting our bodies. How much longer will the clock keep running? How much much longer will you keep letting this happen to us? We are tired of running.
“You are not allowed to forget about us. I will not let you forget about us.”
For Trans Day of Remembrance and the fight for Trans Liberation.
You don’t have to be white to be a white supremacist.
White supremacy by my definition is operating and making efforts to keep the status quo of whiteness going. Dr. Dennis Childs said that, “we cannot mistake the skin color of who enacts a white supremacist act for it not being white supremacist.” I bring this up because my school (Yes, MY school) UC San Diego has a white population >25%. This means that the rest of the student body is in someways facilitating the anti-blackness that happens on campus. To my people of color (POC) out there thats been shooting with me in the gym this isn’t a call out to you. This isn’t a call out to any individual. This is a call out the facts. This is all to the point of bringing up substantive and descriptive POC representation. Descriptive POC representation is when a person of color is in a place. This is very important and allows for much progress in society. Substantive representation is when a person, regardless of their race are in place fight for the rights of POC. This important for us to understand because if you are a POC and still perpetuating white supremacy you are no better than Don Lemon and Ben Carson. I really hope that people can take small steps to decolonizing their minds. Small steps could be having a conversation about the origin of a lot of the history. If most of the history you have is based off of American high school education please be open to new thoughts and ideas that are contradictory to those engrained facts that are written by old rich white men. I say that knowing there is a privilege I have of being in college and not having to worry about day to day survival. This is not a post of elitism but rather a post about questioning everything and everybody at all times. (I wrote this listening to Father’s Who’s Gonna Get F***** First? album)
by Andre Thompson
Amy B Hoang
The First Time I Learned About America
It came before anyone provided me with a definition, before I learned in school what Independence meant or who the Founding Fathers were.
It wasn’t big. At seven years old, the larger history behind my immigration hadn’t concerned me yet. I didn’t care about nation, nor was I seeking opportunity. I didn’t know that I was “Asian,” hadn’t learned yet about race. I believed that Vietnam had been all of it, the entire planet. The only thing I understood was that we had moved far away and were never coming back, and that parents, my sister, and I were going to sleep in this room called a garage where my aunt used to put her cars but now there are beds.
The First Photo I Took in America
My parents, my sister, and I had just been picked up by my dad’s family at the airport.
I was wearing a stiff plastic headband that tugged at my scalp but managed to feminize a bit my dull hair which had been cut short like a boy’s. I had thrown a massive fit at the salon, especially at the moment when the hairdresser scraped her razor along the nape of my neck. Later my mom would explain that she didn’t know when would be the next time I could get a haircut, that was why I had to endure looking like a boy.
Over the years, I would closely study that photo of my family and my dad’s family at LAX. There was my uncle, my grandpa, and my aunt’s family, including my cousins Lucy and Sophie. Lucy was smiling broadly and Sophie wore a mischievous sideways glance, as if to foreshadow the legacy of biting, hitting, and hair-pulling she would later inflict on my toddler sister. As for my parents, I don’t have any post-Vietnam recollection of them looking as radiant as they did in that photo. It wasn’t so much their well-rested youth that was foreign to me. I wasn’t sure what I was seeing. Was it merely the combination of brazen optimism and wide-eyed alertness? It was something in their expressions, something which conveyed the impalpable quality of adult innocence.
The First Word I Learned in America
When we arrived at my aunt’s house for the first time, two things happened. One, my sister sniffled and sat down on a plastic blue stool in the living room. Two, within seconds Sophie pushed her off and yelled, No! You will get the chair sick.” My dad’s family laughed and insisted that of course, my sister was welcome to sit in the chair.
Sophie scrunched up her face and, verging on the brink of a fit, insisted that she couldn’t. And so the adults relented in her favor, as they would in the future, even as my mom showed them the bloody scratch marks on my sister’s face. Kids will behave as kids, they explained.
As for me, I would never protest hard enough whenever Sophie terrorized my little sister. I too wanted a spot in that plastic stool. This was my first lesson on the capacity of humans to be cruel when it came to territorial matters, and my own complicity when it came to my desire for inclusion.
We went to the garage where we were to live for very low rent until my parents could afford their own place. My grandma showed me my bed, which had pink sheets with wands, tiaras, and the word “PRINCESS” printed all over them. She explained that “princess” was the English word for công chúa.
“In my eyes,” she told me, “All my granddaughters are princesses.”
The First Toy I had in America
She wore a frilly bonnet and a white onesie. She came with a plastic bottle. As I turned her on her back, her eyelids slowly closed, and when I turned her upright, she was awake again. When I picked her up, she wailed like a baby robot. When I pressed on her stomach, she wailed like a baby robot. When I accidentally dropped her down the stairs, she wailed like a baby robot.
My mom’s friends had taken me to the theme park and gotten me a battery-powered baby doll. I used to dread those trips because we always had to sneak out the back door or else my cousins would find out and my grandpa would yell at my mom. Then we’d return home and Lucy would be mad at me for a day.
“Waahhh! Waahhh! Waahhh!” My grandpa finally snapped from where he was sitting at the dining room table. He walked down to the garage. I stared silently at him, doll in arm, shame flushed all over the face. “Do you know that Grandpa hates that damn doll of yours? I hate it.”
I knew. To this day I have contemplated why he hated it so much. I knew he hated my mom. I knew he hated the side effects of us living here. I knew he hated a lot of the things that I did, perhaps even me. I had forgotten to flush the toilet once and henceforth, despite my record flushing, he would complain that my excrement lingered and smelled.
After we moved, his love for me grew, my love for him grew. Maybe he had simply resented me before, the product of my parent’s union, which had delayed my dad’s entry to the United States. Maybe his love for my two cousins had been so deep that he couldn’t love anybody else who shared their space. My aunt cleaned my grandparents’ room last year and found a box of handmade cards collected over the years. Of the countless cards they received from all six granddaughters over the years, they had only kept the ones from Lucy and Sophie.
When I woke up the next morning, I realized that my doll had gone missing.
The First Cheeseburger I Had in America
Lucy’s dad came home with McDonald’s after work. Lucy didn’t want the cheeseburger, so her dad gave it to me. I took it reluctantly, because I knew I hated bread. I only wanted the meat inside. I tried taking out the bread bun, but everything was stuck together. A fat slab of yellow cheese in the middle made the sandwich gooey like a string of boogers. I took a bite. Oh, my god. Little pungent and sour pieces, all over my mouth. Blech! I gagged. Disgusting. Not everything in America was better, after all.
The First Kiss I Received in America
I was the tallest girl in the first grade. Rotsen was second-tallest. We went to the bathroom together at recess. She wanted us to share a stall and take turns. After we were done she giggled and whispered, “You look like a boy.”
Americans, she explained, kissed on the lips. “Do you want to try kissing on the lips?”
I did. We each leaned closer to the other and pressed our lips tightly together. No open mouth, no pucker, just pressed lips, for some length of time. Her lips were dry and scaly like mine.
Did I enjoy it then? I don’t think I felt any particular way about it. I simply found it intriguing that Americans kissed on the lips. It didn’t matter how little English I knew or how few friends I had; I always liked school at that age. I thought my classmates were fun. Second only to Nickelodeon television, they taught me most of the things I knew about America.
The First Friend I Made in America
I was sitting cross-legged on the cool, stony driveway of a stranger’s house. I thought I had walked some mean distance, but in reality it couldn’t have been more than three blocks away. I was fuming with anger. “I’m not going back,” I staunchly told myself, “I’m not going back.” They’ll be sorry.
As an act of revenge, Sophie had spread toothpaste all over a stuffed bear my mom’s friend had just given me. Clamoring for justice, I went to my grandma, the same grandma who had shamed me for playing in Lucy and Sophie’s backyard even after I had resolved the argument with Lucy in which I told her I wished she hadn’t been born. Accordingly, I thought my grandma would like to be notified of this recent crime against me. Instead, she said, “Don’t you dare come to me again for matters like this.” So I tossed my slain bear into the trash and decided never to return to this horrible place.
Sitting on the driveway beneath the blue sky, I was beginning to feel quite serene.
Several minutes passed. My mom came around the corner and took a seat beside me. I didn’t know it then, but she had just been trailing several yards behind me. She said nothing, just held my hand as we both sat on somebody else’s driveway.
A few days later, my dad took me to Toys ‘R’ Us and told me I could pick any bear I wanted from the stuffed animals section. There were primarily white bears dressed in pink tutus and coffee-brown bears dressed in bows and suits. I chose a rather large, saggy bear that someone had dropped on the ground, whose color was an odd beige that wasn’t quite brown and whose coat already looked worn and matted due to its excessive shagginess. My college friends have remarked that Beary looks very worn down. Is it because he had been loved for so many years? In fact, I tell them, he had always been quite an ugly bear.
That night, I slept with Beary for the first time and told him about that morning when some boys at school laughed at the way I said “preschool” like “pri-SKOOL.” I didn’t want to be laughed at, but more importantly, I wanted to sound American. And so, in total darkness, and the company of a nonjudgmental bear, I contorted my mouth to make the sounds that I wanted to hear. “PREES-skool… PREES-skool.”
More than a decade has passed and I remember fewer things from two years ago than I remember from my first year in America, which remains vivid in my memory.
I am not sure whether to attribute my memory to the effect of immigration. Immigration has changed my life trajectory, splitting my ongoing reality away from the alternate reality of a parallel universe in which I grew up in Vietnam. Amy and Em My, we shared the same childhood up to the age of six, but since then have led entirely different lives. Immigration has shaped my vision; I had been a blank slate, mute and receptive, and thus my surrounding environment became the model for how I came to see the world, human nature in particular.
Yet I try to make sense of the first word, first toy, first burger, first kiss, first companion because I know that they carry something separate on their own. Sometimes I convince myself that in moving, a new part of me had been born. In all of their particularities, my firsts provided me with the context from the life which I had entered. In all of their materiality, they made up the texture of the landscape where I had become a part.
I played hard to get.
Said I was strong and independent.
I didn’t need anyone like you to live my life.
You went for the second try.
Only to be denied again.
The third time around, you caught me when I was vulnerable.
Emotions all over the map.
You said, “baby, let me take the wheel, I’ll give you a really sweet deal
I’ll hold your hand so you don’t feel alone
I’ll scare the monsters away in your sleep.”
But now we’re six months in and I’m having second thoughts.
I’m not sure if you’re the one for me.
But I don’t know if I have the courage to tell you.
I get nervous and sweaty at the thought of you not meeting my lips when I wake up.
Who will make me feel pretty?
Who will hush the negative thoughts?
Who will hold me when I have bad dreams?
You support me in so many ways.
But I think it is time to break up.
I think it’s time I find a new love.