March 11, 2016

An Old AIDS Activist Rages about Hillary Clinton

Folks, I'm having a hard time processing what Hillary Clinton said today about the Reagans and HIV/AIDS. So I just need to put some stuff down.

Today is tough. Right now is tough.

I haven't rage cried in a long-ass time. I've forgotten how rage tears give me a migraine and that my burning eyes and forehead ignite the tears on my face.

I won't be able to sleep tonight.

“It may be hard for your viewers to remember how difficult it was for people to talk about HIV/AIDS back in the 1980s, Because of both president and Mrs. Reagan, in particular Mrs. Reagan, we started a national conversation when before nobody would talk about it, nobody wanted to do anything about it, and that, too, is something that I really appreciate. With her very effective, low-key advocacy … it penetrated the public conscience and people began to say: ‘Hey, we have to do something about this too.’”

Nancy Reagan's death immediately brought up memories of friends I've lost. Memories of my days as an AIDS Activist. Memories of rage, of death, of fear and ignorance. Everything was a fight.

Miguel M. Morales at an ACT UP protest in St. Louis, Mo.
Me giving my mom a reason to pray the rosary.
We were in the streets, in the local government offices fighting against city ordinances.

We were in the statehouses, fighting legislation.

When businesses, both small and corporate, wanted to fire People with AIDS (PWAs), we fought back.

When the American Medical Association (AMA) wanted to institute mandatory HIV testing for anyone seeking medical treatment, we fought them and we won.

When the only form of treatment was a failed cancer drug, we fought the FDA and got new treatment options. And we fought the hardest against our president who let people die from ignorance rather than publicly say the word AIDS.

So when Hillary Clinton praised the Reagan's advocacy, I thought of my friends. I remembered how they gave their lives for this fight. When their immune systems were obliterated, they still showed up at protests. When their faces were covered with Karposi's Sarcoma, they volunteered to be our media spokespeople.

THEY were brave.

THEY deserve to be remembered for their advocacy.

THEY started the national conversation by screaming in the faces of the Reagans and the Bushes and the Clintons.

Hillary Clinton issued a tweet saying she misspoke about the subject and she apologized.

Sorry? My Bad? Oops?

An entire generation is gone. Hillary, you dishonored those fallen warriors and those of us who survived. We'll never know what we could have been had that generation lived. But we do know what we lost. We feel it everyday.

Because of you, not only did we feel the pain of loosing them all over again, we felt the rage.

Sorry didn't work then and it doesn't work now.

Miguel M. Morales at an ACT UP protest in St. Louis, Mo.
ACT UP teaching me how to channel my rage into action

March 7, 2016

Fat Writer at AWP

So my friend, Baruch Porras-Hernandez, posted the article below on Facebook. I adore him for many reasons but I'm inspired by how he embraces his queer brown fatness.

The article, about being fat while traveling, got me thinking of my upcoming trip to #AWP16.

In addition to all the preparations for panels, caucuses, off-site readings and other events, this traveling-while-fat stress is what's been occupying the back of my mind.

As the conference nears, this will move to the front of my thinking until the plan takes off, until it lands, until I check into my hotel room.

I've started doing things like walking stairs at work, not to get myself in shape or to be healthy, but so I won't be out of breath when I enter a conference room. I'll also carry a handkerchief to wipe my face because I don't want to be the fat sweaty guy.

Once in the conference room I'll look at the small seats and wonder if this will be the exact moment when one of those chairs, which has held bigger people than me, will break. Then everyone will look at the fat guy who broke a chair. I also try to be cognizant of my breathing because at some point, I'll get a dirty look from someone who doesn't want to hear a fat guy breathe.

I'll also have to figure out which clothes to pack -- ones that won't fight with me and that have some semblance of professionalism. I'll pack an extra belt just in case the one I'm wearing breaks. I'll shower at least twice a day because if there's a strange smell, people always look at the fat guy first.

This just part of what it's like for me to go to a conference.

There's a lot of reasons I'm fat and they are mine to examine. Yet whether it's travel or conferences or everyday life, I do my best not to let my size negatively impact or even harm on others.

Unfortunately, similar intentions are not always returned.

Me and my big fat attitude.

November 14, 2015

Lifting Sandra

I messed things up. I always thought there would be time to sit and have a chat with Sandra Moran. 

We work at the same place. We’re both writers. We know tons of the same people. I knew our lives ran on a parallel track and that sometime they’d cross long enough of us to talk about -- everything.

People who meet Sandra all say the same thing. She makes them feel as if they are the most important person in the room. I admit it always made me uncomfortable when she did that.

Every time I saw her or heard about her, she was rushing from one place to another. Sandra was always giving and teaching and supporting. 

So when she'd do that you're-the-most-important-person-in-the-room thing with me, I’d feel great but I'd also feel a little bit selfish. I knew I was keeping her from the other pressing thing that would eventually pull her away from our stolen moment.

We regularly threatened to meet up when we had time to talk. But I knew there wouldn’t be such a moment unless we were trapped in an elevator or we were in a hotel bar on the last day of a writers conference. Then we’d talk. I’d learn all the things I’ve read this last week about her on social media.

October 8, 2015

In Lak'ech Ala K'in | I am Another You. You are Another Me

I'm spending the morning in high school. Everything is much smaller than I remember ... except me.

La Clase

My friend Jackie Madrigal pioneered a US Latino Literature class at Shawnee Mission North High School in Mission, Kansas. She invited Chato Villalobos and myself to be guest speakers to help put some faces to Latino literature and to talk about the Latino Writers Collective and our writing processes. Both Chato and I are honored to be asked. Her curriculum is thoughtful and hits all the major notes in the rather large genre.

As this day grew closer, my social anxiety started to wrap itself around me. In fact, last night I spent some time thinking about how I could get out of this gig. Chato could do the presentation himself. He's a police officer and therefore automatically much more interesting, right? Besides I have to work that afternoon and there's a chance I could be late. My tummy still kinda hurts from when I was sick last week. Also my car is pretty old and I don't like to drive it more than necessary ...

September 24, 2015

What Does Your Name Mean??

For Wo Chan

it means you can't change it
just because you can't pronounce it.
it means just because you can't spell it,
that you can't throw in extra letters
or take others away.

it means you can't shorten it
because you think it's too long
or that you can "americanize" it.
it means when you accidentally
and repeatedly fuck it up,
you’re actually doing it on purpose.

it means when some people read it
or hear it’s soft vowels and rolling r’s,
that they will instantly hate me.
it means people will assume
that i speak Spanish.

it means people think they have the right
to interrogate me about
where i'm from,
where i'm REALLY from,
when my family came here.

it means people think i'm holding
or that i know where they can get some.
it means if i have the day off from work,
people think i'm unemployed.

it means when i use my credit card,
i have to show a “valid” ID.
it means when i do show my ID,
store managers look closely at it
to see if it's real.

it means when a friend says it,
tension leaves my body.
it means I am safe
and that good things
are about to happen.
when a loved one says it
it assures I’ll respond with my heart.

it means when i see it published
all the pushing back against
the bullshit that surrounded it
was worth it.

it means when people with similar names
see it in an anthology next to other
beautiful harmonious names,
that they can smile knowing,
but not fully knowing, the journey
it took to get them on the page.

it means we can love own names
and forgive ourselves
for all the times
we hated them. 

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