Category Archives: Writing

Clips, published articles, freestyles

Here, Queer, Going Everywhere: #FlyingWhileTrans and Remembering #Pulse One Year Later

Hey people. I hope that, wherever you are, you’re being extra gay, whether you’re gay or not. (Yes it DOES make sense.) Today I wanna share two works of mine that went live last week. The lighter one is an up-to-date, well-researched, comprehensive guide to navigating air travel across different trans identities. Save a trans person some stress and share this one with ’em.

Screenshot 2017-06-21 at 19.08.40
Via Cheapflights.com

The other piece is a personal essay reflecting on the one-year anniversary of the #Pulse massacre that I wrote for Bitch Magazine. I traveled back to the times in my youth that I spent in Orlando and mused on safety, solidarity, queer Latinidad, loss and mourning, and the importance of the LGBTQIA+ movement.

Silence can only be used as a tool for survival in the short term, elsewise you’ll get gangrene of the throat. I had chosen sanctuary over blood, to live unapologetically like the other sociocultural rejects who paved the way before me, even if it meant living under attack—at the end of the day I could return to a home of my own, even when that meant no home at all.

Give it a read, share it if you’re into it, and most importantly, understand, uplift, and join the radical efforts taking place by POC and trans+ folks in pride marches across the country this June, like the #NoJusticeNoPride protest in DC last week. Corporate, mainstream, pro-police prides belie the history of Stonewall and oppress people under attack by those powers today, and they have no place in our movement.

Screenshot 2017-06-21 at 19.28.35

I’ll be back Monday to share an interview I did with the one and only Shailja Patel. ‘Til then, take care of each other and raise hell. They’re not mutually exclusive!

We Belong Here: Women of Color Write Travel

Hey people. So last week, a new travel platform for women and nonbinary people of color launched called On She Goes, and I’ll have a recurring column up there on travel books authored by women of color. A lil background on the series:

People who look like us are often relegated to the backdrops of travel narratives as smiling spiritual guides on the white woman’s journey, or as nameless bodies warming the beds of the heroic, white, male adventurer, which makes taking up space in travel writing a radical act for women and gender-nonconforming folks of color. This series will speak to writers of color about their novels and memoirs of navigating lands, languages, and themselves—and most of all—about taking up space everywhere we go.

My first talk is with Nia Hampton, author of Cicatrizes, a book about a young Black woman leaving Baltimore for Brazil at the height of the Baltimore Uprising. About the book, Nia says:

I would describe Cicatrizes as an offering. It’s a book of poetry, prose, essays, pictures, and even a spell. It’s something whimsical at times and unbearably heavy at other times. It’s an experience, really, of what moving to Salvador from Baltimore was like for me as a young Black girl.

3001B_Bani_Amour_Nia_Hampton_gumroad-coverpics_0417
Cicatrizes cover art by Maya Rodriguez/image courtesy of Nia Hampton

Read our talk in full here. Full disclosure: I edited this book! Working on a blog post, essay, narrative, or manuscript and looking for feedback or an editor? Check my Services page and get in touch.

Writing About Ecuador’s Feminist Movement for Teen Vogue

Hey people, today I’m sharing my op-ed for Teen Vogue on the Glorious May Revolution of 1944, a day when radical Ecuadorian women overthrew the sitting fascist president of the country. The takeover of the government palace was led by communist Nela Martinez, and almost a century later, I found myself in her home, which her daughter had opened up for Marcha de las Putas – Ecuador’s answer to the Slut Walk movement – meetings. Here’s a bite:

Nela was a communist, an Indigenous ally, and extremely critical of colonization. She and Cacuango, along with others, founded the country’s first Indigenous rights organization and started the first Kichwa-language newspaper. Nela also started the first feminist newspaper of Ecuador, Nuestra Palabra, or Our Word. In her 91 years, La Nela founded a number of groups for women and workers in Ecuador, as well as the Continental Front of Women Against U.S. Intervention, and an anti-Nazi group formed to eradicate totalitarianism in Ecuador to expose dangerous ideas as fascist and combat the spread of false propaganda. La Nela also once said, “Women are the memory of time wasted and reconquered.” What a badass.

IMG_1733
Portrait of La Nela by Pilar Bustos

Growing up, I felt like I had nothing I could read about in Ecuador in English at all, and what was out there was messed up or misinformed in some way. Not much has changed, you just got white guys writing academic papers on us like they’re some sort of authority – and then there’s travel writing. ::Deep sigh:: That’s a chasm that needs to be bridged. Since I started writing travel, I’ve constantly struggled with how I depict my (other) country to largely white, Western audiences, and it’s real. But I’m also proud to be doing this work and exposing a few more folks to what Ecuador means for Ecuadorians. Read the article in full here, and if you’re into it, go ahead and share that shit, or tip me. And as always, if you got thoughts, you can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I’ll leave you with this:

The Women’s March crowd could learn from the radical feminist history that we in Ecuador honor. As in La Nela and Cacuango’s day less than a century ago, the threat of fascism is again spreading across the map, and we’re going to need more than pussy hats to fight it. I look back to the spring of 1944 and feel the weight of the baton pass to my generation. The fate of these lands still rests in the hands of young women and nonbinary visionaries, and if we want to avoid another world war, we’ll need to heed La Nela’s words — reconquer wasted time, and bring about a more feminist future.

Living for the Legacy: On Misogynoir and Climate Disasters

[Feature image from the 5th annual Congress of Afro Ecuadorian Women, 2016]

Hey people. I’m in the midst of packing to leave Ecuador for EcuaYork, my home-away-from-home-away-from-home in Queens, rather reluctantly, but also ready to see my people and eat all the things and enjoy la primavera. My knee is all messed up and my back is already aching at the thought of having to endure two flights tomorrow, but that’s #travelingwhiledisabled for ya. FYI: Yesterday’s POC Travel Book Club talk was riddled with tech issues I’m still tryna resolve, but we will be rescheduling so wait up for the next newsletter.

Today I’m sharing part four of my series on climate disasters and oppression for Bitch Magazine: Misogynoir and Climate Change: How Disaster Relief Fails Black Women. Mad thanks to France Francois and Jeri Hilt for talking to me about their experiences and thoughts on these issues. Jeri’s piece, Marine Botany and Standing Rocks, which is accompanied by video footage from a spiritual retreat for Black women in Puerto Lopez, Ecuador, absolutely blew me away, as did her piece in Bitch Magazine, There Are No Survivors Without Scars, that I pulled from for my essay.

I decided a few years ago to live for the legacy and not the details, to build for three generations ahead because some battles have already been lost.

Jeri Hilt

With this essay I focused on the cumulative effects of environmental racism against Black communities coupled with the heightened levels of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) that women, feminized, and gender non-conforming people are often exposed to in the wake of climate disasters, all which further burden Black and Afrodescendant women whose businesses, families, incomes, and livelihoods are put in jeopardy due to climate change. I also point out how the institutions in charge of distributing aid to those in need during and after disasters are flawed as fuck, and finally, stress how important it is to support environmental and climate justice work led by Black women if we really care about you know, the future of the planet. Read the essay in full here.

Also also: this series was just featured in Longreads’ Rising Up Against Climate Change: A Reading List, which was put together in response to the Science and Climate Marches. I’ve been hoping (for a while now; gotta get my shit together) to put together a comprehensive list of E+CJ groups led by BW to throw your dollars at instead of the goddamned ACLU and SPLC and probably Greenpeace or whatever liberal white folks are pushing at the moment. Stay tuned.

Going Beyond the Binary

Hey folks,

A few months ago an essay of mine, Beyond Binary, was published in Archer Magazine’s THEY/THEIRS issue dedicated to non-binary gender identities. It’s the first time my travel photography has been published in a print magazine, and an internationally-circulated Australian one, at that!

IMG_1016
Archer Magazine Issue #7

It is when I’m moving in between places that I feel the most pressure to be pinned down. As a travel writer and diasporic person of color I spend a lot of time in transit, and it’s this condition that reveals to me time and time again that places, like identities, are always in flux, and that borders aren’t as binary as they’re made out to be. Borders, like the gender binary, cut right through me, through so many of us. They attempt to neatly and quietly delineate difference no matter how much it continues to overlap, intersect and blur. It is between the constructed binaries of place, language and gender that I feel the most at home and most under attack, for it is these in-between spaces that are the most heavily policed.

Screenshot 2016-12-10 at 15.28.21

Get your copy of the magazine here or see where it’s stocked around you here.

Getting Real About Decolonizing Travel Culture

Hey denizens of everywhere,

I wrote an essay on decolonizing travel culture as the introduction to Muchacha Fanzine’s Decolonize Travel issue and just published it on Medium. Give it a read, print it out and fold it into your passport books, critique and analyze it, share or shade it, or comment below. A slice:

How we move through the world, whether it’s how we or our ancestors came to be where we are now; a trip to the bodega as a visibly trans woman of color at night, or to countries we have no connections to but are guests in, varies phenomenally from person to person, but those journeys are all informed in some way by capitalist imperialist cishetpatriarchal white supremacy.

In “getting real” about this topic, I wanted to reiterate some points that I see getting lost in posts and such about “decolonizing travel” that are necessary to the discourse. I don’t want this to be some sort of trend or shorthand for “diversity.” Central to this is…

If communities don’t have sovereignty or the self-determination to shape how they want their cultures to be consumed or communicated, their economies to be governed and their environments to be treated, then tourism and travel culture are only a continuation of imperialist practices.

Read the essay in full here.

Threshold of Revelation: A Queer Disabled Killjoy on National Themes

Hey People,

I made it safely to Ecuador just in time for the locura of the presidential elections. I’ve left Quito and am just outside of Puyo, listening to wild birds call out to each other in tropical song and small white dogs bark at big brown dogs in the dirt roads of the neighborhood. The Talking Heads’s This Must Be The Place plays in the background. I wanted to share my latest work, Threshold of Revelation: A Queer Disabled Killjoy on National Themes, with y’all. It’s about the play-turned-TV-mini-series Angels in America, disability and Trump’s America, or whatever. A slice:

While we collectively watch the dismembering of the Affordable Care Act, a piece of legislation that was insufficient in a healthcare system that’s world-renowned for its lack of humanity, in 2017, the face of disability is white. The face of “the LGBT community” is white. But how can the face of HIV/AIDS possibly remain white, over three decades after its outbreak in the US, despite all evidence to the contrary?

Read it in full over at the Philadelphia PrintWorks platform. If you’re into it, please share. I have so much news and so little time so I’ll have to see y’all again next week. Keep calm and carry – I mean, fuck shit up, please.