THIS IS HOW IT IS

I’m sitting here and just thinking of the gay experience. Being gay at the times I was young till now. Yes things have changed but not by much. I am an entertainer, a performer in all mediums of art, a facilitator for workshops. I try my hardest to make a safe space for everyone. All the while I am fully aware that in doing this I am breaking many misconceptions of what people think about when they see and hear that I’m gay.

I’m honest with myself and very transparent when I say that at no time in my life, since young till now that I was able to hide my gayness. I was extremely flamboyant as a child. There was no direction or example for me to follow growing up. For me being gay meant I wanted to be a girl and I wanted everything that was attached to that narrative. Well all the good stuff- boyfriend, husband, home and children. In a nutshell I wanted to be loved, to be accepted, to live a normal life that every straight person had. Little did I know that that was going to be far from the truth I was to live. There’s no narrative supporting this. All that the world knew was that what I was was demented, deviant, mentally sick. There was never a day from friends to family that did not remind me how sick it was. Television depicted me as either a murderer or something to laugh at. In turn that was what I saw as well and didn’t strive for anything better. I was defeated before I even knew what the war was.

This story didn’t get better for me till I really started taking this talent I have to a serious level. When I decided to attach a voice to myself, a voice that came with a story, a voice that had a lot to say was when the signs all loaded to myself. That I would have to find a place within myself that was willing to peek away at every thing that was told me, that had to take everything I experienced and put it away, not let it East away at me into my belief system. It still didn’t mean that I was going to have a hard time. Hatred of who I was still existed and it came in a more sinister way. It showed itself with how people treated me.

Until present moment I still bump into people, especially men mind you, that don’t feel I’m worthy of the money I ask for. I bump into ones that don’t take me serious enough though I have the credentials. They sit to do business with me and I can tell that me being openly gay is a huge factor to how they expect me to not only act but settle for. I see how me being gay isn’t enough to make me one of the boys!

I am no stranger to fighting. I am no stranger to being looked down upon just because them being straight makes them feel that they are stronger, that they have the upper hand. They couldn’t be more farther from the truth.

I always say- when dealing with people stay open to their experience. It always adds to the unique factor. I have pulled myself from so many things. Some at my own hands because I didn’t know better. Some because I had no sense of who I was fully. Some was from people that were able to take advantage of this situation. No matter what it was I pulled, scratched, fought, held on and at times went in with eyes closed out of fear, but I moved forward.

Not as I get ready to embark on a whole different level I am fully aware that my peers those in the business won’t encourage. I am sure when I reach out they will look at me like I have 2 heads and each one is painted differently. I’m ready for this. I am the underdog all the time. I will rise. I am sure with scars but I will be here because if you don’t believe in yourself then no one is.

WRITING LIFE

So I have decided to put together all the writing I have done about my mother for my 2Nd book called Unmothered. I wrote the whole year on anything and everything that struck a chord with me. It varied from memories to being in my feelings. I have been taking care of my mother these past 5 years and it has been many things. One of the things is clarity. There is a certain level of acceptance I have been given when it comes to her and things that have happened in my life. The difference in this perspective has really made me look at her in a different way. There isn’t so much anger. There isn’t so much blame. It has made me realize without knowing that I broke a serious cycle of abuse and hurt.

Many times I’d love an apology or some type of words from her but at her ripe old age of 71 it’s not going to happen. Mommy’s memory isn’t sharp at all. I get glimpses of her when I play the old music as I clean out cook. It’s in those moments that I see her. The old jibarita that took a plane and landed in Nueva York. The young vivacious woman that dressed to the 10’s and still believed in love. I see the pero Rican proud woman that struggled and fought for her right to live. This is the mommy I see before kids, before death, before heartache, before the beatings, begged the betrayal. She sits on the sofa and sings those old boleros going back to those days of no worries. When she ran away from Puerto Rico with a promise never ever to return. She sings with authority and strength, one she has when promises were young and naiveness was still fresh in her heart.

When I gathered these essays and put them together I started to get nervous. Every part of me told me that this was going to be a journey I will live through but it will be hard. It will bring me through many emotions and discover things I really #1 didn’t know I felt and #2 have to come to terms with. I have to say that as scary ad it feels I an fully ready. It’s no coincidence I get to have her with me at this point in her life. I an aware that she is here fire me as much as I am for her during this time. I embrace it all.

So this the journey to writing about being Unmothered while still having a mother. That I find peace after all has been written.

WEEKEND

There was the weekend parties or get together. Mommy would host.

There would be beer and Bacardi

running, flowing freely.

There was the loud salsa

playing,

everyone trying to speak

above the music while

downing shots and chasing it with beer.

Brother and I slept together those days

One of our beds was coat check.

It was these days

her alcoholism was subtle

It was safe. It was joyful,

Full of laughing and lipstick and dancing.

Hung over or not

She was the mommy I knew, recognized

quiet and reserved

but

Still

Boisterous.

She was all good and cleaning

She was basic mommy

The one I got

In spite of my anxiety

in spite of her not noticing

In spite of feeling unsafe

GAY PRIDE

I didn’t ask to be gay. It wasn’t like I woke up and said I’m so tired of being straight let me be gay today. It isn’t like I made the decision to live a life with guaranteed ostracizing and pressure. I was born this way. It was so weird to hear the straight version of boy meets girl. Boy dates girl. Boy marries girl. In my head I automatically identified it with me being girl. It was nerve racking to know that by the time I embraced being who I was I had already overheard through adult conversations that being gay was one of the worst things that can ever happen to a family. I had already heard it was embarrassing. I had heard it was just wrong, an abomination, a huge disappointment. That you hide shit like that. You wasn’t a man if you was gay. I heard that being gay meant there was something wrong with you, a deviant, a freak of nature.

I knew and felt that I was none of those things. I had to stand in my truth even if I did it silently. I had heard of ways parents were dealing with it. Some forced religion on their kids. Others made their kids go to therapy. Some shunned them all completely throwing them out to live on the streets. All of this when in actuality they didn’t have a chance. They were born this way. The battle to be gay is disenchanting. You don’t get medals of honor or loud cheers. Parents aren’t equipped with a How-To book with raising children let alone a gay one. As with all things it’s day to day and more than likely hour by hour.

All we gay kids need is that loving embrace, that reassurance that you have our back no matter what. We need that safety because we are going to know how wicked this world is.

MUSIC BIRTHED ME

As a kid I loved dancing. I know that everyone loves dancing but I LOVE dancing! I was never able to afford the classes. Let’s face it we were dirt poor. Besides even if mommy had the money she wasn’t going to invest in something that didn’t guarantee a future. So I took it to the streets. The streets taught me to dance. It was on that hard concrete that I learned how to do turns. I was already learning how to make something so hard like concrete work for me and make it into something elegant and pretty. I learned how to express all my anger in the 2 step. It would show itself in the stomping of the feet and the aggression. I danced because it was survival. I had no voice so this was the only way I would be able to let shit go.
Every record I heard I learned it to every detail. I knew when the drums were going to drop. I knew when the bassline would start. I knew where the break down was going to start so I can give it my all. I knew when the chorus was taking me home. Everything about the music spoke to me. The jams at Red Hook Pool park, the block parties where the electricity was taken from the light post, the weekly jams held at church halls anywhere they played music I went.
I was a good dancer. I was fucking real good dancer. I was able to change from masculine to feminine at the switch of a beat and not blink an eye. Dancing was the one thing that was mine. I was in control. My body was mine. It was also one of the very few things that made me believe there was a GOD. When I danced I didn’t think. I just let go. I opened up my mind and followed whatever it was my body wanted to do. This was the streets talking through my body. This was my body letting go of pain and fear, of not having enough, of not being able to, of just existing, of not having enough love. Dancing for me was a statement saying I am here and that I am visible.
When I danced I had no fear when it came to battles. I was never intimidated at all. Many guys slept on me. They thought that if I was gay all I knew how to do was vogue but they were dead wrong. I danced. I danced with my heart, my soul, my spirit guides. I danced as if it was going to be the last time I was going to ever hear music. I danced like it was salvation and this church was giving its last sermon. I loved it. And for the record I won all my battles and yes I knew how to vogue, very well. I finally found something that no one can take away from me. I found the one thing that I was so good at and it was natural. For a very long time that was all I did and I must say I actually believe that it saved me at a time in my life when I didn’t have any direction.
From Thursday to Sunday I was in a club dancing. I didn’t go to mingle or drink or talk I went to dance. If you wanted to find me in a club listen to the music and you will know where to find me. I have a serious connection with music. I can’t even tell you the times I went to a club and cried while I was dancing. There was nothing going on in my life I was crying because the connection I had with music and spirit was indescribable. It was a warm overwhelming feeling that surrounded me. There was a calmness within the chaos right there on the dancefloor within my body and I thanked every part of it every single time.

WHY THE ADDICT RUNS

It’s not the drugs, it never is! It’s always about the pain, the trauma that manifests the run. That is what addiction is- a run! It’s about not wanting to deal! It’s about not wanting to feel! It’s about not having the proper tools in which to cope and accept that pain IS part of this process called life. It’s in the tiredness. It’s found in the relentless day in and day out, every minute at times seconds of feeling the need to run, escape and hide. It’s holding on to the weight of pain that makes an addict run. It’s the fear of the unknown under the guise of everyday living. Then it’s accompanied with the questions. What will happen if I cry and feel all this? What if I allow myself to feel all this anger? What will I become after?

It’s the carrying of shit that was piled on you from others at such a rate that the ONLY survival tactic you have is to run. There is no voice attached to your thoughts. There is no hero in sight with a deep enough level of understanding. So you run in hopes that this pain doesn’t touch you, that it doesn’t make itself seen. Some addicts run for years, some for months but at one point they get tired and that’s when drugs enter the situation.

Once they feel that instantaneous relief it becomes love at first sight. Finally they are not feeling, there is no more fear, there is no replaying of trauma, there is no pain. There is silence. There is deep breathing. There is relief. There is forgetting. It is in this last phase that it then becomes visible to the outside world. The more we don’t want to feel the harder we run. The harder we run the more we use drugs. Addicts become so hellbent that they don’t realize it’s slow suicide, that this using of drugs and all it entails is the last attempt of the addicts spirit crying for help.

Not many make it to sobriety or recovery. They run so hard they die in the process of masking the pain. They die not knowing that though hard it is possible to live without drugs.

I was that addict! I was a runner! Now I am clean over two decades. It’s not an easy task but a hard day clean by far is better than a hard day on drugs.

WATCHING MOMMY

She will never remember the things done. Her memory leaves daily. Some days are great. The voices of the oldies bring her nostalgia of youthful days in Puerto Rico. They are not laced with laughter. Just brief moments of green plush trees, dirt roads. The other memories remind her of early New York. One that greeted her with loud noises, of hustling on the streets, houses overcrowded with families and roaches, meals as basic as white rice & eggs, poverty on a level that coming from Puerto Rico’s poverty was rich by many standards. She heard salsa when it’s lyrics were saturated in heartache and heroin.

As I blared those old songs she would sing the words “todo tiene so final, nada dura para siempre” and laugh. She would then go into memories at how she was young, fashionably dressed and ready to dance. She would be smiling the whole time while remembering. She would be living and present in that moment, shaking her shoulders as if she was doing a salsa step. It is in these moments that I see who mommy was- before me, before the death of her 2 daughters, before the drinking. It’s in these moments I see Rosa Castillo.

TO ALL THE BOYS I LOVED BEFORE

Sitting here thinking how I have left marks on so many Boys in my lifetime. Some were loved way more than they deserved, some left with scars as deep as the ones I received, some left with forever memories of could’ve, should’ve, would’ve. All in all I assumed responsibility for it all.

These boys meeting me thinking that I am their experiment. The I want to know what it’s like to kiss a boy, the I’d like to try it with you boy, the Im not gay but I’d like to have a fling with you boy, the don’t tell nobody I’m on the low boy. Each one wanting to take what they can and leave me in a dark secluded place, with promises of meeting me once the night sky has grown black. Placing me along with the shadows and things that can camouflage in the darkness. These boys who have conquests to set, measuring their masculinity on their penis size.

Little do they know that it is all to be an infatuation birthed from curiosity that blooms into a crush that scares them into sprints, for to face the feeling they’d rather hit a wall and knock themselves unconscious. Lord knows how many times I’ve heard them blame it on the alcohol. I being so insecure allowed them to go with that lie that I digested so as not to feel the sting that yet again I wasn’t worthy to be publicly loved.

Then there was the ones that truly loved me. The boys that against all odds made me feel special. Wether publicly or not the conversations we had, the intimate moments shared, the breaking nights of laughter and just kisses these boys never ever went for a 2nd experience. I was their first and the last. We parted knowing it got deep. We left knowing that if we had made a conscious decision to roll with it the after effects would be super pivotal and wether it would be good or bad we couldn’t deal. These boys who though years have passed and lives were built we still greet each other with butterflies in our stomachs, huge smiles and amorous hugs that for those very brief 5 minutes silently we lived that moment in time.

To all the boys I loved before thank you! For whatever experience it left whether bitter, sad or amazing it taught me. Each one walked away with a piece of me and vice versa. Each one served purpose and to be honest I’m not all that mad at them. I think with honesty and really take in the fact that had it been the shoe on the other foot in a past that was a whole lot less accepting and tolerant I would have also acted the same.

ADDICT

I get it, when I see the junkies that look straight out of the 80’s. The are dirty and look homeless. Their behavior brash and aggressive. Some smelling real bad. I know them. I understand them. I also understand the ones that maintain a job, barely making rent but keep the facade that all is well. All dressed up and well perfumed but behind closed doors they smoke or sniff the night away. I know these individuals because I was them once.

I get the extreme pain that they are in. They prefer to not mb themselves so as not to feel and face the pain it realization. What so many can easily work through for them it’s devastating.

I knew a crack whore who was in her orine the highest paying nurse but came home one night from her shift and found her home vacant, no husband and no children. It left her so bare that she signed out on life. Then there was the man that was a college professor teaching math. He had an incredible mind and absolutely joy to speak to. His wife died and he no longer saw purpose. It was too much for hm to bare so he let it go and went to the streets.

These affects that we look st at times in disgust or not Willie my to understand are individuals that just weren’t given the tools to cope. Some were brutally abused as kids and ran off. Some of them hit the streets and made heads or tails of life as they went. Some Tek into the arms of someone worse than what they ran away from. Some through live were introduced to it from a loved one. The bottom left me they don’t want to feel, they done want to realize. It’s just way too hard for them to carry or come to terms with do the run and run to whatever can take them outside if themselves. For some it’s sex or food or shopping or drugs or love. It’s such a Gard cycle to break especially when the ones who inflicted it are called family.

Can addiction be arrested absolutely! But the work is arduous and painstakingly deep. It requires letting go pf all you learned in terms of coping, it’s communicating, it’s being so raw with yourself that not even your own shadow has space to hide in. It requires forgiving those that hurt and betrayed you. It requires forgiving yourself for not knowing, not understanding. It’s about going back to the very young you. The you that this all happened to and nurture it back to the present with kindness and love and patience. It will not happen overnight. This part of the journey is for the long haul. It starts with commitment the one trait addicts are extremely flawed in because the commitment is with self and addicts don’t know this.