September 28, 2011

That Society I Heard About

I wonder if I would have been part of that society.

The society I read about in college.

The one the kids in California may learn about someday,
If the bigots and politicians and religious folk just stop.

If they just stop already.

Just because one does not like the color green,

Or agree with it's place on the color wheel,
Does that mean it's not to be taught?

I wonder if I would have had meetings in my apartment.

And if so, I wonder if that's where I would have met my partner.
Even in a different era,
I would of still went for the smart ones,
The movers,
The shakers.

Cause I need that.

I look for that.

And I said, "my partner."

Not my husband,
Because even when I do quick math,
It's not enough.

It's not enough time for equality to come.

I'd be waiting a long time.

Fuck, man, I'm already tired of waiting.

And we only just started.



Is it here yet?

It takes time,

they said.
It takes time,
they say.
It takes time,
they will say.


How about now?

Maybe if I was a part of that society,

Maybe I would have goals for those in the future.
A kid, like me, with dreams propelled by fears.
A goal for that kid who would have a different life than me.

A different path,

a different struggle.


Are we getting closer?

I would scream at him,

Well, all of them.
But, I would scream at that one kid who I know would change things.

He, or she, would not be the loudest.

Or the natural born leader.
Or the one calling the shots.
But, he,
or she,
would be the one to change things.


Wait, where are we going?

We've passed 2011. But, I'm still here.

We're still here.
Don't go on, please, cause it's real now.



Stop, I'd say, slow down.

Please, enough.

This is my life, now, not those of activists in the past.

They devoted their lives to me,
To those of my generation,
And my fate is not going to be crammed into four pages,
Those pages in a back of a fucking history book.

It's easy to read.

"Rights denied. Marriage Banned. Unequal Treatment."
But, what does it mean for the millions of people,
Whose lives are summed up in a few words?

The one in the waiting room,

For equality,
For change,
For her partner to die.

And I said, "her partner."

Not her wife.
But when she does the math in her head,
It does not come out right.
And she does not understand.

It takes time,

they said to her.
It takes time,
they say to her.
It takes time,
they will say to her.

I wonder if I would have been part of that society.

I wonder if I would have had meetings in my apartment.

Welcome, all, welcome to the first meeting of the society.

Excuse me, I would say, I meant to say,
The Mattachine Society.

Thank you for coming.

Sometimes, I wonder.

About the past.
Sometimes, I wonder.
About the future, but then, I think about the past again.



Thanks everyone for coming,

I think I would say.
Or I think I would hear.
Something along those lines.

And then something that would change America.

And the world.
Not right away, but over time.

Now, everyone, settle down.

Let's get started.

September 18, 2011

My Visit to El Salvador

During the summer of 2009, I had the amazing opportunity to spend two weeks traveling around El Salvador. As a college sophomore who had been to Jamaica the year before doing similar service work, I have to say that this two week trip changed me. 

It was the trip where I started to question humanity, question religion, and simply, question the motives of those in the United States and abroad. 

I often flash back to one day in specific -- sitting in a field near a small village while listening to the lone survivor of a massacre. His family, friends, and neighbors were raped, tortured, mutilated, and all were killed. I will write in the future about my experiences in El Salvador and what I learned about the Salvadoran Civil War, but for now, I would like to share some beautiful pictures from my trip to a country with an ugly past.

The photograph above is one of my favorites. While walking down the street in the small village of Suchitoto, I spoke with a local and she wanted me to take her picture. She had never seen a digital camera before and I was happy to show her the portrait.

September 15, 2011

I Lived With Illegal Immigrants In Anaheim

A few days after graduation from college in Buffalo, New York, I packed up my car, drove across the country to Los Angeles, and started to pursue a career as a writer. 

During the first few weeks that I spent interning at The Advocate, the oldest running LGBT publication in the United States, much talk was surrounding Jose Antonio Vargas -- a prominent gay journalist who "came out" again in June 2011 as an undocumented immigrant. 

I sat at my desk and thought about my white, upper-middle class hometown, the diverse city I spent four years during college, and the week I spent living with illegal immigrants on the outskirts of Los Angeles.

Growing up in Western New York, I went to the largest school in Erie County, yet in a high school of over 2,000 students, I honestly can't recall one student or teacher that was Hispanic. I can count the number of black students on one hand. Things changed when I went to college in Buffalo, which is a very ethnically diverse city, in addition to being one of the most segregated in the nation

Still, living on the East Coast, the immigration debate seemed to go over my head and did not appear to affect me. Then I moved to Southern California.

When I arrived, I met a friend of a family member who used to live in Anaheim. "Hey, Jeffrey, he's a great guy, and he lives just outside of Los Angeles. He said you can stay with him until you get on your feet and find a place of your own in the city. No problem!" My uncle said a few days before I made my journey westward.

Spending a few days in Anaheim did not remind me of an American city, but seemed to be very similar to San Salvador, El Salvador -- a place a spent traveling for two weeks during my sophomore year of college. Many of the places I went, the people did not speak English, and I was able to get by since I speak conversational Spanish.

But, I still thought, "Really? In America?" I did not think this in a bad way or a way that looked down upon anyone. It just opened my eyes that overall, America is far from the "American Dream" stereotype that most like to portray to the world.

Staying a few days with Juan helped me realize that illegal immigration extends much further than popular beliefs and myths.

He had a successful business, he rented a house to other illegal immigrants, he paid taxes, he had pain and regret, he had happiness and joy, he had struggles and triumphs; he may not be a natural-born member of America, but he was for sure a member of the human race.

He told my friend and I stories that I will forever keep with me, and stories that had me question the humanity of both Americans and Mexicans.

Maybe I'm naive, but for me, it's not about money. It's not about language. It's not about status. It's about making strides to a better America. It is often said that putting fences up don't keep others out, it keeps yourself in.

It's sort of funny when you think about it.

Los Angeles is the American city that is known to be the most selfish and coldhearted and the person that opened his home to me was an undocumented American; he asked for nothing in return. And for that, I will never forget.

I am an advocate of The Dream Act and an advocate of immigration reform.

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