Monday, January 26, 2009


Yadira ArroyoIt’s just another morning at the corporate coffee shop where I work. I can see the golden rays of our L.A.-faithful sun kicking it on the sidewalk. I shift my attention to my job and systemically scan the lobby for tables that need busing or things that need arranging, but find everything impeccable; I’ve done my job well. I lean against the counter behind the register, and take a self-allotted break from nothing. My mind momentarily lingers on the thought of getting paid as the clock ticks. The prospect of one more dollar is unexciting though, so I am forced to thrill myself otherwise.

I drag my eyes slowly towards the undeserving Ripple TV screen and catch the horoscope frame. Intrigued, I walk closer to the bait and can see the first four: Aries, Taurus, Gemini and Cancer. Filled with mystic anticipation, I wait for the screen to change so that the next four are revealed.

"Don’t fret about circumstances. Your boundless energy is perfect for making life a bit easier to live," reads the Virgo horoscope.

I gush at the liveliness compliment. Why, thank you, Mr. Ripple.

My circumstances sure are dire.

I walk sluggishly back to the counter and place my hands in my apron pocket. I wait for customers who find nothing interesting happening in Downtown L.A.’s business district on a sunny Sunday morning.

I look around and see that my supervisor is in the back room. Good. I round my painted lips, bend my tongue inside my mouth and start to whistle the Star-Spangled Banner. Suddenly, I see myself marching in a patriot parade, red-white-and-blue glitter bikini and all. My hair is yellow and my eyes are blue and well, it’s just not me. I snort to stop myself from laughing.

I look through the glass doors and finally see someone approaching. Even from inside the store, I can see that his jean jacket is faded and that his dirty blonde hair is, well, dirty. He reaches for the door handle and I straighten myself up.

"Hi!" I greet him.

"Hello there," he smiles. "Refill."

At that moment he presents his cup, and I cock a mental eyebrow. The paper cup is tattered and filthy; I keep a pleasant front.

"I always wanted to be a barista," he starts.

There is a sneaky quality to his tone, as if he was cunningly flirting with the spoken word, but I relate nonetheless. At one point, I too had believed that this was the dream job.

"I am the only one in my family who has not been a barista," he continues.

I fake a chuckle now, not because I am snobbish, but because his simple comment just turned into a customer story.

Taking the sad excuse for a liquid-holding container in my hand, what I should be doing is demanding to see some proof of purchase.

"Dark or mild?" I ask him.

"Dark," he chooses. "I’ve applied to work here before, but you know what always gets me?"

"What?" I ask him.

"Those damn questions! You know, the ones that are really obvious but that try to catch you in a lie."

"Yeah," I say, my attention on the cup. I try in vain to lock the lid on its worn-out rim. Doesn’t he know I could burn him?

"They’re so obvious though," he repeats.

"Yeah," I say.


A week later, during a weekday-morning shift, my coworker begins to tell me.

"There was this man who came in yesterday," she says. "He pulled out a dirty, old cup and when I didn’t give him the refill, he started yelling at me."

"Was he blond?" I ask her.


"Well, what did he say?"

She rolls her eyes.

"He said, ‘Go to hell, you fucking wetback!"

I snort. ¶

Las Dudosas

Iris Arcón
Bisexuality could have stopped the ban on same-sex marriage. I know, you’re all probably thinking, "What the hell are you talking about?" More open people, less Mormons, and fewer hateful people could have stopped the ban on same sex marriages. But isn’t bisexuality somewhat like that? It can be said that bisexuals are open to either a man or a woman, right? Some see it as confusion, while others see bisexuality as the place in between. A place where you have chosen not to choose. You are not on a "side" yet. Oh, that infamous "side." The side that changes you forever. Ni de aqui, ni de alla. Estás dudosa o dudoso. However, you choose to define bisexuality, I do believe that everyone should be bisexual. Bisexuality could help us understand sexuality in so many ways. More importantly, the hostility towards bisexuals that might exist out there, especially towards bisexual women, need not be necessary. Before I dig myself into a deeper grave with my fellow lesbians and gays (or anyone else reading this), hear me out first.
I’ll start off by painting a picture of the kinds of hostility that I have noticed in the "gay world." Ask most lesbians and gays in the bars of Los Angeles and they’ll tell you their thoughts on the fallacy of bisexuality. Many who identify as lesbians and gays do not believe there is such a thing.

Ask any straight woman or man however, and they’ll say that bisexuals do exist.

I have noticed a difference between the reaction to bisexuality that some gays and lesbians express. Tell most lesbians you meet that you are a bisexual woman, and you’ll get an immediate "look." A look of, "Then why the fuck are you wasting my time? There’s no such thing as bisexuality." It’s a look that says, "Well you’re either in or you’re not in. You cannot be both." As a woman trying to find a good woman where my options consist of the few gay clubs and a friend of a friend of a friend that knows a lesbian (that might be single), the search can be very frustrating. I understand that lesbians are looking for other women with whom they can have stable, loving relationships and that they do not want to be left for a man, but nobody wants to be left for anyone else, man or woman, right? Maybe it is the betrayal for another man that might make lesbians think twice about getting involved with bisexual women. I do not quite know. Whatever it is, I do believe the attitude is completely unnecessary.

In contrast, a bisexual man can tell a gay man that he is bisexual and the response will be completely different. The gay man will immediately say, "Oh, don’t worry hon’, you’ll be gay soon." The reaction to bisexual men versus bisexual women makes me rather upset. Why do men get to be bisexual with less judgment while women get "the look?" I have never come across a gay man who realized he was straight after all and then started dating women again. I have also never come across a bisexual man who did not turn out to be gay over time, but I would love to meet one though. That would be a great experience for men, and it would help us understand sexuality. Bisexuality in all men could help them understand what it is like to be part of an oppressed group, as well. If all of the men and women that had voted for the ban on sex-marriage had been bisexual, they would have understood us more. Could that have helped us keep same-sex marriages?

So, why is the reaction different for bisexual men and bisexual women? Why is society still harsher on women than on men? Even more importantly, why are lesbians and gays harsher on women than on men? Shouldn’t gays and lesbians know what it’s like to be in situations where there are all sorts of pressures from family, religion, and culture?

Homosexuality is completely different for men and women. Society has constructed our culture to believe that men are puñales upon any sort of contact with the same sex. Any sexual arousal that comes from being attracted to masculinity is considered well, gay. For them, it’s put quite plain and simple. Men cannot go back. They have already betrayed heterosexuality. When it really should not have been. That is why the reaction at bars is always, "You’ll be gay soon." That is also why it is easier for men to be gay. I am not saying this in terms of who gets harassed more (men or women) or who can get away with this or that more. That would be putting two oppressed groups in a competition over which one is more oppressed and it is certainly not what I want to do. I am referring to this in terms of the path to a "defined" sexuality, something that is more black and white. It is easier for gay men to identify as gay men because of what they should never ever do: enjoy sex with another man. It is not the same for women though. But why?

There are certain pressures that women experience, but men do not and they never will. If men grew up to be either gay or straight, they were always raised to be straight men. Gay men were raised to be heterosexual and to marry a woman. Men were raised to receive servitude from women and they were taught to be dominant and in charge. Yes, I acknowledge that there are also many abusive same-sex relationships, but gay men were still not raised like Latinas. I, as many other Latinas do, know exactly what it feels like to grow up a Catholic girl with the constant pressure to serve the men of the house. I know what it feels like to have been raised with the concept that "true love" and "the one" will only come from a man. I have had heterosexuality and traditions hammered into my head ever since I can remember. I am a woman: a bastion of my culture. My children will inherit my culture and in order to do so I had to understand that for women things are a certain way. I could never relate to it of course, because I never saw myself married to a man, let alone serving him. But that was how it was shaped for me, for us. Men never experienced this.

It is that quest to avoid continuous sexism that has made female sexuality more fluid. Gay men, being men, have never and will never have to flee sexism like women. That quest to be treated with respect, equality, and as wonderful, beautiful women that we are has been the reason for much judgment on behalf of many. And it should not.

A week ago, I met up with a friend of mine at a bar. We talked for hours about stuff going on, including the women in our lives. In college, like many other women, she came out of the closet to her friends as bisexual. She started her first long-term relationship with a woman about a year ago. It was a relationship that not only made her acknowledge her lesbianism, but unfortunately it also left her emotionally damaged. Even though it hasn’t been the relationship that she had wished it was, she knows she’s a lesbian.

"I met a guy the other day at the bar."

"A man?"

"Yeah. He’s so nice to me. Doesn’t treat me like shit. Makes me feel good again, you know?

That’s what I need right now."

"Yeah. I can tell. There’s a smile on your face now."

"I haven’t met women. And well, you know how hard it is to meet good women."

"Yeah. I know."

Many lesbians and gays might say that she doesn’t know what she wants, that she’s confused; how can she go back to a man? She needs to choose a side.

This all brings me back to Proposition 8. We all know what it feels like to be judged by our love for the same sex. We have all experienced it and many of us will continue to experience it. This is exactly what we are doing to our fellow bisexuals. Yes, some might turn out to be straight. Many will also be either gay or lesbians. Some will choose not to choose.

But, no matter what happens to them and what "side" they have chosen, they will all know what it feels like to be on our side. They have experienced it. They have walked in our shoes. The ones that have figured out that they are straight, know exactly what we go through every single day in society. They have stepped outside of their privilege bubble and they have lived as an oppressed group. That in itself means so much. Isn’t that sort of what we would like to get across to the entire nation in the first place? Don’t we want some sort of understanding from the heterosexual majority? Yet, we cannot give that understanding to bisexuals? How can we expect understanding when we cannot give it to each other in the first place? I believe that if everyone were bisexual, we wouldn’t have had a ban on same-sex marriage. If everyone could understand and experience what it is like to be a lesbian or gay, they would not have taken our right to marry away. Bisexuals, no matter what "side" they choose, are our allies.

So, lesbians, chill the fuck out with your "looks." Straight men and women, please become bisexual. Gay men, stay bisexual. And you bisexuals, just stay cool. ¶

Give Me Patience


The ‘My Class Schedule’ section of the MyCSULB university registration website is looking back at me. It’s on step three of the ‘Drop Class’ menu. That means that my classes have been dropped for the semester. That is, the two classes I thought I’d be able to afford this semester. There is still hope I’ll come up with the money, sign up and be able to breathe again but in the meantime, I’ve got no classes.

And I’m not scared, really. Stressed? Yeah. Scared? Not so much. Every single semester is the same thing. Never the expert in financial management, I always seem to be caught with less money that I thought I had. It’s not like I can fall back on a financial aid check. As an undocumented immigrant, I get none.

Every single semester is the same old routine. As I frantically search for every single option in order to gather a few extra cents, all I do is give myself a headache and sweat way too much in the hand area.

The thing is, I’ve reached the point where I’ve accepted the fact that I may or may not go to school this semester. Or the next semester, for that matter. I’ve not given up yet, but I cannot allow this burden to eat my mind away. It’s not a careless thought or a step closer to being a college drop out. It’s about accepting what I have, what I can accomplish and what I cannot change.

"God, give us grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed, courage to change the things that should be changed, and the wisdom to distinguish the one from the other."

Never the most religious Catholic in my family, I’ve looked back over and over at this quote. I’m not sure if I believe in God, but I am certain that there is a higher being out there who looks after us.

Because my father is a recovering alcoholic, I know that Alcoholics Anonymous attendees have adopted the quote as part of their 12-step program to find a better and sober life.

Like an alcoholic dealing with a disease they cannot seem to shake off, I cannot change the fact that I am an undocumented student. But it’s hard to not want to crawl into a hole when the people working at Brotman Hall give you a certain look when you’re inquiring about deadlines and it’s getting pretty close to the beginning of the semester. A look that says, "Look at that student, leaving things for the last minute. He deserves no help." But, who can blame him? He doesn’t know that I’m an undocumented student who lacks funds to pay his tuition in a timely manner, that I used the $500 scholarship that I won last semester to pay my share of the rent. He doesn’t know that this past Christmas, not a single member of my family got a present from me since I was broke and there was no chance of getting a few extra hours in at work due to this failing economy.

He doesn’t know.

As of today, I’m without classes because I have no money. That simple. But even if I don’t go to school this semester, furthering even more my graduation date, I know that I will be granted some sort of serenity to accept my current situation. Even as I type this, I find some sort of comfort in knowing that there will be more semesters ahead of me.

Students and professors reading this, please don’t feel bad for me. Students, take advantage of every single penny the government gives you to further your education. Professors, teach your students not just the theories of the brown individuals who made it possible for us to walk on this campus, but also about the actions that they can do to change the laws that stop students like me from getting an education.

I may or may not see you next semester, but whatever my faith is, fill your brain with lots of fancy words and stand out from the others. ¶

Change is Us

Jesús Iñiguez

So, Obama’s finally in the big house.

It was a relief to see the voting machines working properly during this last election process, and it was exciting – and surprising, honestly – to see that most votes were counted and accounted for. The American majority has spoken. On January 20, 2009, the entire world tuned in to hail the man who had changed the face of politics forever.

The world – as Americans know it – has started to show major fissures in its foundation. Seems like everything is imploding into itself and the collective paradigm is shifting and reaching for a greater good. Everyone is rushing to adapt with the times. The rest of the world is finally exhaling sighs of relief, patting Americans on the back as if saying, "Congratulations!! You’re finally catching up with the rest of us."

But I’ll be honest with you all. Personally, I’m not sure how confident I am in the incoming administration. Over the years, I’ve grown to be quite distrustful and suspicious of all politicians. I’m sure many of you have developed a similar attitude towards the major players in the political arena, who seem to only cater to corporate side deals that allow them to gain and eat their slice of the American pie. The notion of inclusion into a cultural melting pot has been put on the backburner, and we’ve all been simmering in the slow-rolling boil of exploitation.

But, I can’t deny the response that Obama has created amongst the masses of struggling working-class folks, the imaginations of young impressionable minds, and in the hearts of many hopeful souls. He has stepped up and revived hope in many individuals who have lost faith in their participation in democracy. His words and aspirations have inspired many to seek an opportunity for participation and discussion. And no matter where one stood on the political spectrum, "change" was the key word.

But, he can’t do it by himself.

I feel that we, as a nation/society, have finally truly taken the first step towards achieving change. Many folks are finally talking. About transformation and (r)evolution. They’re expressing their hopes, praying for strength, and working towards making amends. They’re connecting with each other across faiths, borderlines, color-lines, lifestyles, and political affiliations. The trauma of the past eight years, along with the multiple ongoing global catastrophes of today, has brought many of us together, encouraging a healing process. We’re beginning to understand that we’re all in this together.

The first and most difficult step has been taken. As a people, we’re no longer standing silent, fearful and hopeless. We have assumed responsibility for our voices and our votes. We have found it in ourselves to participate in a belief that we’ve been promoting and pushing onto the rest of the world. We have voted for change.

In order for us to alter our political reality, we must maintain our focus on preserving communication. It would be a disappointment to see people turn away from our newly elected president after having placed our collective anxieties, worries, and hopes on his shoulders, along with the expectation that the administration work out all the kinks and issues without our input. Though Obama has undoubtedly become synonymous with the will and optimism of the disenfranchised, he is not by any means our savior. Obama simply represents an ideal that we have all yearned to seize and dream for.

This is our time. We are now confronted with an opportunity to reconcile and rebuild. It’s time that we hold those who abused the public trust accountable for their misdeeds. It’s time that we speak louder and that we continue to stay involved in the happenings of our government. It’s time that we progress as participants in a democracy, that we strive for peace, and that we work towards resolving the many internal national conflicts.

It’s time that we evolve as human beings.

In the meantime, let’s maintain our channels of communication open. For 2009, I hope to see folks open themselves up to new possibilities.

Change is here. We just have to make it work for us. ¶