First draft of a piece I’m working on for a QPOC zine.
I met my abuelita for the first time at my mother’s wedding weekend last summer.
I was so ready to hate her. Ready to hate her for rejecting and disowning my mother out of fear of la jota. And so I was ready to disbelieve everything she said to me and I worked hard to resists her stories and comments.
I steeled myself against her truths so they would pass me by unlike the years that passed by me without a single call, letter, or attempts at acknowledgement of my existence.
Sunday morning, with sunrise cresting, she sat me down over weak milky coffee and started to pour forth story after story about being a single mom and making ends meet, about the fighting and abuse between my grandfather and her, about the way she rejected the normal mujeres roles to live on her own terms, about the way she fought back the pressure to accept the abuse and the lies. It was hard to hear her pain, hard to hear the history that made her arrive at a place where her bitterness with life would make her capable of pushing my mom away. I didn’t hate her.
She would reject my interpretation of her life yet I found myself immersed in her queer history of redefining her body, of negotiating her femininity, of claiming with both fists the role of madre y padre, in rejecting her abuse and bashing back literally, and her queering of Mexicana identity within the confines of both what she was taught and what she had to learn.
After talking with my grandmother I stumbled outside to porch. I couldn’t help but think about my mom and her own relationship with her body, her womanhood, her manhood, her queerness. How she parented us to believe in fluidity of body, sexuality, health. That she gave up/lost her family in many ways to live as the queer person she was born. The way she smiles through crying eyes when she recounts the first time she was told to put a shirt on after years of running topless with the neighborhood boys, and the time she brought her partner home to closed doors many years later. I was heavy with the pain on either ends of the broken hearts of these queered and queer women in my family.
Sun shifting overhead, I looked back over my own understanding of my mom when growing up and how it was through filtered terms both fixed by society and through my own burgeoning queer sexuality. I went back to the time I asked my mom why she didn’t wear dresses like the other moms and the times I would ask her why I had two moms and no dad. I wondered what she thought when she caught me kissing the little girl from school.
And I was forced, with the sun in my eyes, to confront my own womanhood as a queer fat femme xicana. I saw the truth of my own watered down understanding of my culture because I was shuttle away from the center of my family’s roots to be safe in my queer mother’s arms. I had to acknowledge the way in which I think of my life as watered down and weakened. How I have yet to arrive at a place where I don’t see my neplanta history as anything but pressed and reduced like a silky sliver of a flower that once bloomed. And even more at the core, I felt clarity about the way my xicana roots feel unwatered yet my queer identity feels like natural skin that has been fostered in my mother’s strength.
A year later and I am still looking into the sun and blinded, seeking clarity and understanding. I’m left thinking about what it means that my grandmother never ever dated a man again—about what it means that my mother would be my father if given the opportunity—that my own legacy of relationships keeps me queer as fuck and jota chingona to my core.
I have to wonder that where I feel disconnect to culture that my queerness may in fact be my culture, legacy, mi historia, mi presente, mi pasado, my futuro.
And I am left with the unanswered paradox of if losing my mother’s tongues really has meant gaining my mother’s jota lengua.