by Ana Tiffany Devez
Fernando was the most beautiful piece of cishet perfection I’d ever known, from that slick pompadour to his perfectly shined shoes. “You’re not my type,” I purred, explaining that the people I dated were the radical, reborn Zapata type. Che tattoos, long hair, patchouli, but Fernando was downright clean. We hit trouble on our first date when he complimented my English. “How did your English get so good?” He asked. “How did yours?” I replied.
See, in Fernando’s world, “radical” was a bad word and socialism was the hot new thing. He didn’t understand that for some, la causa isn’t about ethics but about survival. The need to speak or scream against every detail of our oppression, from the murder of our sons to the hypersexualization of our daughters, comes from a place of rage and fear. He didn’t see that as a Xicana, I was born into a line of women who have suffered the brunt of patriarchy and survived, that I’ve been revolting against machismo since before my infancy and have little tolerance for its noise.
As Xicanas, we fear for our bodies. We live with the fear of being raped, murdered, forced to birth children we don’t want or be found unworthy of birthing babies we pine for. We fear for our children, with their canela skin and countercultures. We worry that someday our baby could be the next one whose name we repeat at marches, at protests, in riots. We fear for our people, their homes, their water, our stories, of which precious few remain. Fear makes the rage of our convictions so desperate it makes the difference between the liberal and the radical – we don’t have the choice to ignore the sly trends of patriarchy because we recognize that if we don’t plant our feet deep into this ground of rage and lucha, we die.
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I wanted to believe that with enough time and debate Fernando would discover that he was Xicano. And debate we did. We spent weeks enthralled in novels of definition, in literary exchange, wrapped in sheets and sweat and saliva but never found common ground that didn’t involve angry, incredible sex. He resisted me in ways and for reasons that I couldn’t identify or understand. When I called out a person’s exercise of white privilege, he accused me of racism. When I tried to explain the concepts of safe space and equity, he pushed back with arguments about self-segregation and equality.
Then 49 people were massacred in a gay club in Orlando. When we heard, I thought he understood. We had discussed my attraction to women at length. He knew my friends were almost exclusively queer Xicanxs. We spoke about the action organized by my peers at a local gay bar as a reclamation of the safety of queer spaces. We, as queer Xicanas, came together to honor the victims of Orlando in Xicana fashion: con un altar y mezcal. We sat together and whispered the knowledge that it could be anywhere, at any time. It could be us, tonight. My own privilege as a cis woman whose sexuality isn’t an immediate threat to her life on a daily basis struck me fiercely. I replayed conversations I’d had with friends who don’t share this privilege, who live their lives fueled with rage and fear in the fight against machismo. I didn’t trust Fernando to understood the way intersectionality operated in the tragedy of Orlando, the ways in which this was a blow to our community as Latinxs and members of the LGBTQ community or that I made it a point not to invite him to the event specifically because he was a cishet man with no place in this Space. However, I did invite him to give me a ride home after the event.
The night went the way Xicanx celebrations of death and mourning go, it floated like the chinampas of Xochimilco, in color, light and dark. In magic and in tears, quiet, then furiously loud. By the time Fernando arrived, I was full of mezcal and brujeria, and swimming in the strong waters of Xicanisma after a night of reveling in the presence of the most powerful Xingonas in Chuco. “I want you to meet some people,” I told him.
Somewhere in the course of small talk with the queer Xicana community of El Paso, however, something went awry. Before I knew it, my beautiful specimen of cishet liberalism was strutting his patriarchal privilege and the small circle of mujeres that remained came down on him hard. His fragile male ego was cracking fast. I explained that because he was the only cishet man in this Space, the fact that he was dominating the conversation with questions that reeked of racism and privilege was highly problematic. He disagreed voraciously, was thoroughly shut down and then it happened. He walked out.
He left me there, abandoning me to my safe space. I invited Fernando to share this moment in the wake of a tragedy that touched my community on multiple fronts, but his hostility illustrated how cishet privilege and entitlement operate in microaggressive ways that effect macroagressive acts like the massacre in Orlando. This is why we fight for these spaces, why we demand to speak as loudly as we see fit, why we place so much value in the opportunity to address microaggressive hostile acts rooted in homophobia, patriarchy, and racism. I wanted him to recognize the systemic patriarchal nature of our oppression(s), but he didn’t understand the way in which what he did that night had any relation to what happened in Orlando and ultimately, that was why I let him go.
When Fernando walked away, I felt every moment in which a man, pinned under the privilege of patriarchy, had reacted with cruelty, violence, or abuse to the beautiful face of my Xicanisma. Even our best—the educated, artistic men who demanded women who challenge them, who hold their own, who live in the light of guerreras like my mujeres—even our best shrivel under the force of the Xicana and refuse to hold accountability for the moments in which they fail to check the ways they participate in systems of patriarchy that contribute to very real acts of violence. Watching the way he walked away, masking that limp in a strut, I saw the facade that he architected fall away, and the way that my safe space exposed him.
Ana Tiffany Devez is a Xicana writer, mother, and community educator from El Paso, Texas. She graduated with honors from UTEP, where she studied Literature and History. She works with various non-profit organizations and museums to help preserve Xicanx culture and history through writing, performance, and community education.
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