By Manuel Estela
On Wednesday, March 5, 2014 a panel about different families called “Queering The Family: Confronting the Myth of Mom and Dad” (Queeriando La Familia:” Confrontando el Mito de Mamá y Papá). The moderator Jocelyn Géliga Vargas, Professor at the University Puerto Rico- Mayagüez, continued to introduce the keynote speakers. There were approximately 30 people seated at the event.
The panel was about diversity in familial compositions in contemporary Puerto Rico. Each of the panelists spoke about their experiences in a “queer” family style and how there are many families in Puerto Rico that are very different. The panelists were asked about the identities and labels of a “queer” family. The speakers responded with how their life experiences were reflected as their identities in a “queer” family.
Each keynote speaker was asked to explain their own definition of the word family “family”. Shariana Ferrer, Puerto Rican feminist and activist of human rights,explained about the identity of a diverse family between friends and said “how all sons are cousins”. Zulnette García Ramos, feminist and Project Coordinator of the Protected Permanent Housing House of Julia de Burgos, said that a family is people in which they share a daily link that understand what it is and understand how hard it is. She also said that a daily cycle are “people in which you know you have a door to knock.”
Elga García Casilla, Officer of the Grievance Committee at the UTIER, explained that a family is a social institution that it is part of the economy. She also explained about how family is also a diverse support network which consists of solidarity, love and friendship.
Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, Puerto Rican novelist, short story writer and essayist, explained about her experience about being a lesbian, and said that it was all right and that it wasn’t an option the “closet”. She has accepted in protecting her lifestyle and was not going to keep it a secret from neither her family nor the world. Arroyo Pizarro explained how her daughter reacted to her being a lesbian mother and how she was happy about it.
Then she explained her experience in Ghana, Africa where it is illegal to be a lesbian. “It was a frightening and difficult experience”, since she was even threatened by one of the locals in which yelled “Go back we kill lesbians”.Afterwards she explained her view whether Puerto Rico had any progress in accepting the concept of a queer family. She said that there is still much work to do but there has been an advance since people are starting to recognize and accept the idea of a “queer” family.