Looking across the social mirror

By: Jennifer Maldonado Rivera

 

“A vision of reality and love.” That is how Axel F. Sánchez Steidel, director, writer and actor described his play “Del Otro La’o del Espejo,”presented by the Association of Students of Drama in Education (AEDE, for its acronym inSpanish), on Tuesday March 4, 2014 at the Amphitheater Ramón Figueroa Chapel as part of the activities of the “V Coloquio: ¿Del Otro La’o?: Perspectivas sobre sexualidades queer”of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez. 

 “Del Otro La’o del Espejo” comes to the public with a humorous and sentimental character and with a strong critique of society. Based on the stories of four main characters: Karina, Christian, Héctor and Raúl, the performance pretends to share the reality and suffering that most of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and transgender (LGBTT) community lives.

“I want to bring a message of understanding and union to the LGBTTQ community, express Axel when he was asked about the purpose of his performance “Most often we hear people negative comments about them, criticism, bullying and rejection, when you really have never taken your time to understand the story behind every gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and transsexual around them. The play is titled “Del Otro La’o del Espejo,”because transport audiences looking through the mirror behind which we hide much, projecting only a reflection that is accepted by society. It is a work to raise awareness in viewers and that when they return to meet a member of the community, take the time to listen and put aside marginalization,” said Sánchez Steidel in reference to the purpose of his play.

The performance began with the song“Que nadie vea,” by Guatemalan artist Ricardo Arjona which talks about homosexuality. It was interpreted by the student Jensel Rivera.

Then, the audience heard the story of Karina (played by Lizmarily Rodríguez) and Laura (played by Leira Sánchez), a lesbian couple who plans to have a child with the help of Laura’s friend but lover and enemy of Karina, Paco (played José Santos).

Then, the audience was introduced to the story about Cristian (played byRicardo Rivera) and his boyfriend Ismael (played by Abdiel Martínez), who always tries to hide his sexual orientation and his relationship because of what society could say.

The third story showed the struggles of Héctor (played Axel Sánchez), a transsexual young boy that hides his true identity to his male chauvinist and abusive father (…Wilfredo Guilloty) and his mother Gloria (…Daydelisse Rodríguez).

Finally, in the fourth story appeared Raúl (…Jensel Rivera), a young member of the church who is judged by the pastor of the congregation (Ashley Justiniano) for his sexual preferences. Surprisingly, all stories remain unfinished; letting the imagination of the viewer decide the possible ending of the stories of Karina, Cristian, Héctor, and Raúl.

The performance was as part of the V Colloquium, which is an initiative of students and professor of the UPRM-RUM to promote equality, acceptance and love for the LGBTT community through a variety of activities.

 

 

The weapons of art, poetry, stories and justice

By: Jennifer Maldonado

“I write not for entertainment’s sake, but to empower those who have felt oppressed, repressed, disenfranchised, downtrodden, invalidated, misunderstood, silenced and voiceless. I hope that through some of my musings, mis/adventures, experiences and life journey that you will be able to see a little of your story in mine and that you’ll be able to find your voice and continue to empower others as well,” express the philosophactivist Toi Scott.

Toi Scott performed the act titled Putting Down the Master’s Tools, Using Our Words/ Stories/ Art to Queer Social Justice; in the Amphitheatre Ramón Figueroa Chapel at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez on March 6. His performance was part of the “V Coloquio ¿Del Otro La’o?: Perspectivas sobre sexualidades queer,” held at UPRM March 4- 6.

In blog (http://www.afrogenderqueer.com/), Scott identifies as a transmasculine author, spoken word artist, food justice activist, medicine-maker, anti-racist and anti-oppression organizer/diversity and gender workshop facilitator, playwright, filmmaker, journalist, health advocate, and curriculum developer from Austin Texas.

Scott is a young man that has workedhard over the past 10 years toenforce hisperspectives andpursue racial and gender justice and the eradication of oppression and disparities within the economic, food, and health care systems and other issues.

In his performance, Scott shared with the public his story about how he began to ignore society’s heteronormatives, how his journey as a “philosophactivist” beganand his message about gender, race, health, herbalism, and justice through his written stories and poems  that speak about his identity such as “Survivin’”, “Blanketed: A Story about my Heritage,” and “Gender Poem”.  

Scott also he described the struggles he has faced as an African-American person who feels like “a man with a woman’s body.” He described how he feels, acts, and dresses as a man but biologically he is a “woman.”

 Undoubtedly, the performancePutting Down the Master’s Tools, Using Our Words/ Stories/ Art to Queer Social Justice,brings to take courage and confront injustice with the weapons of art, poetry, stories and justice. Scott;s performance encouraged the public to imitate him and go beyond the rules that society imposes that are to be followed.

Scott’s current writings and projects Afro-Genderqueer 1 and 2, Philosophactivism, Queering Herbalism and the Herbal Freedom School sessions, The Genderqueer Files, La Qolectiv@ and Resistencia: Sangre (Scott 2014), which are available in his blogs: http://www.afrogenderqueer.com, http://www.philosophactivist.blogspot.com, and http://www.queerherbalism.blogspot.com. 

Romance from a Different Perspective

By: Glorinés Ruiz González

On Wednesday, March 5 as part of the “V Coloquio ¿Del otro la’o? Coloquio de  Sobre Sexualidades Queer” a film screening was hosted by  Professor Lissette Rolón Collazo at the “Salón Tarzán” in the Student Center of the University of Puerto Rico Mayagüez campus- UPRM.

The movie screening schedule located at the Salón Tarzán in the student center of the UPRM.

Rolón Collazo introduced “The world Unseen,”  a 2007 historical drama film written and directed by Shamim Sarif, adapted from her own novel. 

The movie portrayed the lives of two women living in South Africa during  the Apartheid.  An event that took place in there in the 1940´s and was a system of racial segregation enforced through legislation by the National Party governments of the country.

The conflict of the story revolves around two Indian South African women Miriam and Amina living in South Africa who fall in love in a racist, sexist, and homophobic society.  The first one; Miriam, is married and has children and the other; Amina, is much known for her liberal and revolutionary ideas.

Fifteen UPRM students attended the activity and participated in the discussion panel that was held after the screening by Rolón Collazo. The panel was centered on questions asked to the public in which the present student’s gave out their perspective and reviewed on the main issue portrayed in the film.

Humanities Professor Lissette Rolón Collazo discussing the film with students of the UPRM.

Humanities Professor Lissette Rolón Collazo discussing the film with students of the UPRM.

The professor commented “even though it has passed a lot of time since the apartheid was held in South Africa LGBTT sexual preferences are still an enigma and taboo in society caused by lack of tolerance and by the moralist culture”.

The V Coloquio ¿Del otro la’o? Coloquio sobre Sexualidades Queer is held on campus every two years and is centered in providing different orientations for the university community. The event was held from Tuesday, March 4 through Thursday, March 6 and took place in different sites on campus following a schedule that usually began at 8:00 a.m. and ended at 11:00 p.m.

 

 

 

 

 

QUEER Sexualities and Legal Appliances

By Glorinés Ruiz González

A presentation of two student’s investigations was held as part of the V Coloquio ¿Del otro la’o? Perspectivas sobre sexualidades queer, which took place from March 4 through March 6 at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez.

Thirty people, including students, professors, LGBTT community leaders and state police department representatives, attended.

Graduate history student Antonio Ramos began the panel presenting his investigation titled “Tran-sexuality in police women.”. Undergraduate student in comparative literature Nivializ Toro López also presented her investigation titled “Prostitution in Puerto Rico, Sirena Selena, Isabel Luberza Oppenheimer and the journalistic discussion about prostitution.”.

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Graduate history student Antonio Ramos presenting his investigation.

Ramos discussed how his investigation will be focusing on the challenges that women face when taking on a job in the state police department, which is predominantly dominated by men and how that has affected their sexuality to overcome gender preference in this carrier.
On the other hand, Toro López presented a discussion of the way prostitution is presented in the novel “ Sirena Selena Vestida de Pena “, written by Mayra Santos Febres. She discussed, the legendary prostitute from Ponce, Isabel Luberza Oppenheimer, and the ways prostitution is portrayed in journals in Puerto Rico.

Once the discussion was over the session opened up to a discussion with the audience. Representatives of the state police invited students to keep them informed and to form part of their current investigations.

Also the LGBTT committee of Mayagüez discussed their efforts to join forces with the state police and fight the prostitution dilemmas that take place currently.

In addition it was discussed the social impact the presented issues have on the community and the different views on how the students can expand and immerse in their investigations.

 

What is Latin America doing for the LGBT Community

By: Christian J. Lorenzo

Sociologist Salvador Vidal-Ortiz was the keynote speaker in the second keynote address scheduled for the V Coloquio ¿ Del Otro La’o?: Perspectivas sobre sexualidades queer’’(V Symposium Perspectives on queer sexualities) on Thursday March 6, 2014 at the University of Puerto Rico- Mayagüez.

Dr. Vidal-Ortiz started nearly at 11:00 a.m., with an audience of approximately 80 people, explaining the terminology and definitions of queer studies words such as heteronormativity, transsexual, transgender and emphasizing why they are different.

The researcher then explained some of his research in Colombia where he studied trans women and why they are migrating to Bogotá. He said that the city find jobs for these women if they leave sexual work but usually these jobs are very harsh.

The keynote speaker also talked about Bogotrans, a fashion show during fashion week in which trans women model. He said that each year different women are selected and trained to participate in Bogotrans.

Professor Vidal-Ortiz covered all his slides in almost 45 minutes to leave a space for discussion with the public. During the discussion section Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes, professor at the University of Michigan, asked Vidal, how the government helps or if there were any programs dedicated to trans men in Bogotá. He answered that there were rumors of making a similar activity to Bogotrans for trans men but apart from that there was nothing that he knew of.

The colloquium is celebrated every two years since 2006. The last edition of the ¿Del Otro La’o? featured keynote addresses about sex and embryology and another one about criminalization and homophobia.

The main topic in this year’s event was discrimination, not only because of sexual preference but also because of race and/or political beliefs.

Vidal-Ortiz‘s keynote address was attended by approximately 80 people. A moment before the keynote address started the stage was decorated with trees.

Salvador Vidal-Ortiz is associate professor of sociology at the American University in Washington, DC. He is better known for his award winning book “The Sexuality of Migration.” He graduated in sociology from the University of Puerto Rico – Río Piedras.

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Salvador Vidal listening to Lawrence La Fountain-Stoke during the discussion session.

Jan Carlos Colón, 20, a UPRM student majoring in biology who attended the conference said “it was very informative.” He learned the difference between transgender and transsexual and thought that other activities such as the previous panel were more interesting.

Abolition of the Duck

By: Christian J. Lorenzo

On Wednesday March 5, 2014, Lawrence La Fountain-Stokes and Aravind E. Adyanthaya presented the book “ Abolición Del Pato” (Abolition of the Fag) in the University of Puerto Rico- Mayagüez during theV Coloquio¿ Del Otro La’o?: Perspectivas sobre sexualidades queer(V Symposium Perspectives on queer sexualities).

The book presentation took place at the Ramón Figueroa Chapel Theater and began at 11:00 a.m., 30 minutes behind schedule.

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Adyanthaya, in the left, and La Fountain-Stokes with the volunteers on stage.

At the beginning of the presentation the theater was in silence and only 40 people, including staff members, were present. Moderator Mariam Colón read the biography of La Fountain-Stokes. Then Adyanthaya briefly explained how he knew La Fountain and why he liked the short story performer style.

Adyanthaya then asked the public to come on stage to do an exercise. Approximately 15 volunteers went to the stage. Adyanthaya asked the participants to perform a short story from La Fountain-Stokes’ book. Suddenly the theater was loud and the people on stage were all talking and performing the story.

After the exercise, Adyanthaya and La Fountain-Stokes sat in the middle of the stage and Adyanthaya started to ask La Fountain-Stoke questions which he was supposed to answer with a “yes,” “no” or “I do not compute.” After he finished with the questions he revealed that most of them were from the book and in some cases La Fountain-Stokes did not agree with what he had written.

After this exchange La Fountain –Stokes briefly talked about some of the symbolisms and characters in the book. Then he read one of the stories from his book.

La Fountain-Stokes is known for his short stories and poetry. His first book “Uñas pintadas de Azul /Blue Fingernails” was published in 2009 as a collection of 14 short stories. The book “Abolition of the Fag” was published in 2013 by Terranova Editores.

Xavier Diaz, 20, a nursing student at UPRM, liked how the presenters involved the public in the activity. “It was funny,” he said. Diaz attended the IV symposium two years ago and noted that this year’s attendance seemed lower.

On the other hand, Carol López, 20, a chemistry student at Interamerican University- San Germán, came to accompany Díaz but in the end she said, “I think I liked it more than him.”

Spirituality As Means Of Resistance

By: Johan S. Rodríguez Cabán

 

On March 5, in the Celis Building of the University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez a conference was held where three panelists talked about spirituality as a tool for resistance, specifically for the members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual Transvestite and Transsexual (LGBTT) community. The atmosphere intensified as ideals came up for discussion and opinions clashed, debates formed and views were challenged.

 
The panelists were Dr. Pedro de Jesús Colón, Fernando R. Lanuza, and Aixa Rodríguez.

 

In the first presentation De Jesús Colón, who has a doctoral degree in theology and is a member of the LGBTT-friendly christian church Iglesia Nueva Creación in Cabo Rojo, discussed new methods for interpreting the bible in specific verses that were allegedly against homosexuality and fomented homophobia.

 
Dr. De Jesús Colón referred to people whose faith is in the older interpretations as fundamentalists; furthermore, he explained how the fundamentalists have used these interpretations to their advantage and convenience. Inadequate use of the holy bible, he argued, has created disputes between Christians.

 
When asked about what the mission and purpose of his Christian life was Dr. De Jesús said in an interview he added that his Christian mission is “to reconcile the believer’s faith with his sexuality.” He explained that this is not equivalent to promoting homosexuality in Christians but to “healing these people who have been hunted down and emotionally scarred because of their sexuality so they can then decide on their spirituality.”

 
The second panelist was supposed to be Fernando R. Lanuza but he could not attend so he had a representative give the power point presentation for him. This second presentation focused on creativity and happiness as contributors to a person’s spirituality; presenting happiness and creativity as means of resistance to the powers against a human being.

 
Lanuza also favored resistance over opposition because opposition makes believe it is unconnected to such power while resistance is inherent.
The last panelist was Dr. Aixa Rodríguez, professor in the UPRM, who spoke about the life of Bayard Rustin and his struggles.

 
Rustin was an African-American homosexual. He was a pacifist leader in the fight for equal rights for African-Americans. Mentored by A. Phillip Randolph, he was main coordinator of many events for equal rights, although he had to be disguised as associate director when he was blackmailed for his sexual orientation.

 
All the panelists brought up different views on spirituality; however the one which caused much controversy around the audience was the first panellist Dr. Colón. Surprisingly the first person to confront Dr. Colón was a member of the audience who identified himself as a homosexual.

 
He questioned “Why force a gay interpretation of the bible when it is better to lead a secular life?” Dr. Colón replied, “we want to be part of religion because we believe in it. We have decided to stop running. Maybe you have decided not to believe because of personal experiences but there are homosexuals who have faith.”

Not A Typical Play

By: Elbin G. Torres

The “Coloquio ¿Del Otro La’o? Perspectivas Sobre Sexualidades “Queer””is an organized by students and professors of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez to foment dialogue and debate on issues related to non-heteronormative sexualities also known as LGBTT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual).

This event consisted of many activities from March 4 to 6, 2014 in the UPRM Campus. One of them was a play called “La Llamada de Lauren” (The call of Lauren), which was shown on March 5 in the Ramón Figueroa Chapel Amphitheater. There were about 320 persons attending, many were UPRM students and some of them were of the lesbian and gay community. The rest were parents and professors of the campus.

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A scene from the play “La Llamada de Lauren”.

“La Llamada De Lauren” was about a man that dressed himself as a woman to satisfy his own desires. The wife then dresses herself as a man to continue the game but she noticed that he was for real and ended the game. He ended up going to the carnival dressed up as a woman and she ended up in bed crying because her husband was a transsexual.

At the end of the play the actors and the organizers gathered at the scenario and introduced themselves. After that, they started a forum and answered questions from the public.

Christian Tejada, an UPRM student, said: “We did not attend because we were interested, we were invited by our friends.” Anthony Pérez, Tejada’s friend and UPRM student also, said: “I do not agree with the themes presented in this play.” A few persons left in the beginning of the play when the male protagonist was dressing as a woman.

Dr. Roberta Orlandini, professor is the Department of Humanities at UPRM, introduced the play. “This play represents the frustration of men and women that are not satisfied with their body or sexuality, they recur to dressing up as the opposite gender and in occasions even operate their bodies in order to be satisfied,” Orlandini said.

 

Not The Usual Movie Presentation

By: Elbin G. Torres

With the purpose of debating on issues related to non-heteronormative sexualities a group of students and professors of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez organized a film screening for the V Coloquio ¿Del Otro La’o? Perspectivas Sobre Sexualidades “Queer”, held at UPRM from March 4-6.

The film Gun Hill Road was shown on March 5 at 3:30 p.m. the Tarzán Room Around 20 persons attended, many of them were younger people and the rest were professors and adults.

The film was introduced by Dr. Lissette Rolón Collazo, professor in the UPRM’s Department of Humanities.

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Dr. Rolón presenting the movie Gun Hill Road to the audience.

The movie was about a Puerto Rican transsexual boy who was living in the Bronx, New York. His dad just got out of jail and began to have problems with his son’s sexual orientation. The father ended up in jail again due to his bad conduct and social behavior.

“I feel totally identified with this movie, I have a cousin that it is transsexual and I know how hard and difficult it is for the family to understand him,” said Stephanie Vélez, a UPRM biology student who attended the screening as a member of the Coloquio’s organizing committee.

A man in the front of the crowd reacted different to the movie. He said: “It is not natural people being transsexual. The father of the boy was correct in the way he reacted to the situation, I would have done the same.”

Dr. Rolón quickly redirected the crowd’s attention to prevent misunderstandings and explain key aspects of the film. She was protecting some of the students she knew who attended the screening, who were members of the LGBTT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Transsexual) community.

“We can notice that although the movie is set in the United States, the presence of American and white people is barely seen. This was to emphasize the social problems that Puerto Rican families, who migrated to the U. S., were living in the 50’s.” Dr. Rolón mentioned.

As soon as the discussion was over, she exhorted people to go to the activities that were left of the Coloquio. “It has been a pleasure. If you want you can come next door to the Ramón Figueroa Chapel Amphitheater to see the two activities that are left, one of them is a performance and the other is the closing ceremony.” Dr. Rolón concluded.

 

Transexuality, Slaves and Freed Women

By: Jessier M. Rodríguez Vega

This past March 6th, 2014, the V Coloquio del Otro La’o: Perspectives about Queer Sexualities presented a panel titled “Sexualidades Queer y Aparatos Estatales” (Queer Sexualities and State Devices.) The members of the panel were Antonio Ramos Vega with the paper “Transexualidad en la Mujer Policía” (Transexuality in the Female Cop) and Nivializ Toro López, with the paper “Prostitución en Puerto Rico, entre esclavas y libertas: Sirena Selena, Isabel Luberza Oppenheimer y el discurso periodístico sobre lxs porstituxs” (Prostitution in Puerto Rico between Slaves and Freed Women: Sirena Selena, Isabel Luberza Oppenheimer and the News Speech about Prostitutes). The Coloquio was held at the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez from March 4-6.

The panel by Ramos Vega, a graduate student at UPR-Río Piedras, and Toro López, an undergraduate student at UPRM, began with an introduction by Dr. Aixa Rodríguez, professor at UPRM.

 

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Antonio Ramos Vega with the moderator of the panel.

 

Ramos Vega, also known as “Toño,” is currently developing his thesis about female transgender in the police force. He exposed his point of view and then he cited a variety of articles in which the disadvantages of female police officers vis a vis their male counterparts were discussed.

On the other hand, Nivializ Toro López brought as resources, two novels: Sirena Selena and Isabel Luberza Oppenheimer. She gave a brief summary about each novel and shared the fact that even on campus, prostitution takes its place.

 

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Nivializ Toro López reading a paragraph of “Sirena Selena and Isabel Luberza Oppenheimer.”

 

After the presentations, a very interesting session of questions concluded activity. Surprisingly, there was an agent of the LGBT community in the audience and there was also a woman who was in the SWAT team of Puerto Rico.

They extended an invitation to “Toño” for a visit of the Police Department so he could acquire more information about females and members of the police force that are open to the LGBT community. For a moment, Nivializ’s topic was undiscussed but people from the audience started to ask various questions about her topic and shared the discussion of the books.

When the session of questions was finished, a SWAT Sergeant from Mayagüez district, shared and experience of a friend that was in the police force for a couple of years. In the past, females in the police force had to sign with the acronym “HP” and their respective name. According to her tale, the female police officer was insulted and this is why today they sign like agents and use their respective name.

The panel became an emotional space in which the audience had the opportunity to look back on, partake of, and someone began to mourn when she remembered that her child was a victim of discrimination for being a homosexual.

 

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