What has being kicked out meant for you?
i feel that i have always been in the middle, traveling moving in between things: my gender, my homeland & being american-born, being kicked out and paving new home. being kicked out made me understand that i had to create pamilya on a daily basis, it has meant that i’ve had to become more critical of those i love as well as the larger systems that are supposed to be supportive of youth—whether it’s social services or law enforcement. it has meant feeling displaced, lost, unloved. it’s meant being queer and trans seeking something beyond the white american and heterosexual dream. it’s mainly meant that i had to be resourceful in my loneliness and hopelessness.
What role has art & writing played in your life, and how do you see that as part of community building?
writing and art have been solace since i was a wee little guy. i come from a long line of ancestors and dope queer people of color who’ve used these same tools to dismantle our fear and our helplessness, to question the systems that ache us and create us into dust. each piece i write, every poem on stage, is a conduit, a channel, a recipe to build home with any stranger willing to listen. art and writing help us plan out the hope, action, movements and the needs we deserve for ourselves. we get to revise and unlearn with a pen, a film, a dance and create a dialogue for people to not only witness, but respond to.
in my experience i think that art and writing can serve as a keen sense of self-love, a ritual to honor yourself and those that hunger for more from this world. we get to celebrate, prod, show our messed up parts, hold them up, disperse our brave parts and reflect on our integrity. we get to imagine and carve out a world for ourselves. if it weren’t for art, survival would be impossible for many of us.
What has being part of the Kicked Out anthology meant to you?
being a part of kicked out is an honor and also difficult to digest. thousands of LGBTQGNC youth still face many of the same elements that you’ll read in this anthology. they are receiving pop tarts and transphobic advice from social service agencies across this country. trust me, i do the work and still see the grotesque lack of support they receive. they are fleeing for their safety and still manage to vogue, dip, write, fall in love, laugh, feed themselves, in spite of all the ish that they’ve been through.
this isn’t a culmination of outdated stories and testimonies, it’s still very a pressing and painful issue, surviving homeless as a result of being LGBTQGNC. this book is a way to vision beyond and with the quantifiable information—all those statistics and articles about a community, without the community’s voice at the center. KICKED OUT is an intimate view of how many us feel/felt. the anthology gives us depth and complexity, gives us the power not to be overlooked anymore, but to spell out what we survived and its aftermath.
What are three things people don’t realize about being kicked out?
1) even in places that serve LGBTQ youth, there is abundant transphobia. transgender youth deserve the support from staff and institutions that are willing to learn about transphobia and heterosexism. it’s not just about providing an hour of counseling once a week, it’s about really educating ourselves on how trans/gender non-conforming(GNC) people are wrongfully treated. staff and management have a responsibility to seek and constantly be trained in multiple oppressions including transphobia. good intentions aren’t enough for youth, but mindful and educated compassion, that’s how you can shift this system, i think.
2) adults need to be supportive of youth voices and really listen to them. to hold space and not steal it or boss or make assumptions or try to be a savior. i witness this behavior all the time and it’s a hot unproductive mess. being kicked out as a youth in an adult straight white system is an unbearable thing. the communities who are most affected, deserve to be leading the conversation.
3) yo people—not everything is about just being LGBTQ. a lot of the youth i work with and from my own personal experience, have to face not just being queer and homeless, but acute racist harassment and brutality from the cops, from social service agencies, from foster care, from health care. we have to talk honestly about the scope of oppressions that affect homeless LGBTQ youth. so many of us are people of color and/or immigrants previously facing economic disparity. LGBTQ youth of color are creating families on the pier in NYC or roaming about in boystown in chicago, faced with overlapping queer phobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, age-ism, and mortal danger along with being kicked out. thank goodness for organizations like FIERCE, who have this comprehensive understanding. to silence the multiple facets of being kicked out is a devastating and unsustainable approach.
What is one message about homeless LGBTQ youth you hope people take away from reading Kicked Out?
ah, i hope the audience take away a thorough understanding and eventually the hunger to help LGBTQ homeless/kicked out youth with their kicked out LGBTQ youth vision at the forefront.
and just sayin’—-this book is for us. it’s for us who don’t have the privilege to write right now cuz food is scarce, you’re cold, and ain’t nothing but a fix or a f*** to get you through. but you write it down anyway, you smile anyway, you cherish yourself anyway. i probably don’t know you, i am not in your place right now, if you get to read this and get to publish or create your own art, we are a part of a surviving and fabulous lineage of hot queers & trannies. i know it may not feel that way, but you deserve more than a book. oh and if you are still listening/reading, you do deserve more than what this world has shown you, so create it for yourself and with the people who believe with you. i know it’s hard, every adult and person has a chance to do shoot you down, let them do that hateful work. your work is to be brilliant and create change for yourself and your communities if you can.