As a feminist, I’m most interested in dismantling the ways that the state not just fails to protect, but actually actively harms women and gender non-conforming folks, and I think that’s the thread that connects a lot of the work that I’ve done and want to keep doing.
As an immigrant queer femme Latina, how is this work personal for you?
It’s personal in so many ways – from not being eligible for any financial aid when I started college because I didn’t have a green card, to operating from a place of fear in my political activism due to not being a U.S. citizen, to the many ways I experience racism, misogyny and xenophobia in the movements for social justice I’m a part of. My work is personal because the things I work on are issues that affect me, the people I love and the people in my communities.
But I’ve also been really conscious of the ways that I come from a place of privilege. Sometimes my family struggled when I was little, but we always ate and were housed. I’m an immigrant, but I’ve never been undocumented, and now I’m a U.S. citizen. I’m Latina, but I’m light-skinned, which means that cops for the most part don’t stop me. I’m queer and my family struggled with that for a while, but now my entire family – here and in Venezuela – knows and accepts my partner. My femininity means that I’m constantly harassed on the street by gross dudes, but, because I’m cis, I’m not fearing for my life at every single one of those interactions.
You head Feministing Jamz, a column on feminist music and artists. What role does music play in your social justice work?
Feministing Jamz was born out of both my love for music and frustration with the popular perception of what is "feminist" music. There’s this perception that feminist music is a white girl with a guitar, and that’s limiting and obviously racist. Like, if you like Ani DiFranco or came into feminism through Riot Grrrl, that’s cool I guess, but I never really connected with that. I wanted to write about the ways that women of color have contributed so much to my feminism, and continue to contribute to the feminism of women of color everywhere. Black women like Lil’ Kim, Salt-N-Pepa, Missy Elliott and TLC really talked about issues of pleasure and sexuality and even hard-hitting issues like HIV when few people were, and female MCs are the lifeblood of hip-hop in Latin America, talking about colonization, globalization and patriarchy. Queer, trans and gender non-conforming people of color are making some of the most interesting music out there right now in a bunch of different genres. You don’t have to be a dirty white girl for your music to count as feminist, and it’s important to make space for that.
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