Queer Digital Stories: Looking Back This post is the first in a series written by participants of our queer digital storytelling workshop. Below is the film created by Jacque Larrainzar, Omecihuatl, followed by thoughts about the experience of making this film.
The journey to create Omecihuatl started many years ago. I could say it started when I was very young and I was trying to makes sense of gender and sex. From a very young age I felt different, not girl, nor boy. I could not find my place in the universe. I felt lost, afraid and alone. Many years later, while I was doing research for my Queering the Museum Digital Story Project I found an interactive map of gender diverse cultures around the world. The introduction to the map said: “On nearly every continent, and for all of recorded history, thriving cultures have recognized, revered, and integrated more than two genders. Terms such as transgender and gay are strictly new constructs that assume three things: that there are only two sexes (male/female), as many as two sexualities (gay/straight), and only two genders (man/woman).” (“A Map of Gender Diverse Cultures” from Kuma Hina at PBS.org) These words confirmed something I suspected for a long time: There had been a time when my kind had a place in society, where we were part of a community and played a role. I started to look for the history of “my tribe”. I remembered a story I had heard as a child on one of the many trips I took to Teotihuacan with my grandfather. In 1992, I found a place in Mexico, Juchitan de las Mujeres, where gender and sexuality were very different from the construct imposed by Europeans on indigenous cultures.
There I learned that gender non-conforming people had been the first to die during the war of Conquest and its tales and lives erased in the name of a new male dominated religion. Many of my friends died after being tortured, others disappeared. As in many other places, their stories had been erased from History. Today, LGBTQ people all around the world face the same dangers. I have been involved in the fight for LGBT and indigenous rights in Mexico from a very young age. I was more naïve than fearless then, I had been beaten up in the streets several times for “looking like a man” but when I found out that I was on the government black list for giving shelter to women who were organizing an independent union, for providing safe sex education to transgendered women in Chiapas, and helping teachers demand a fair salary, I had no idea of what I would have to face. In December of 1994 I was held against my will, raped and tortured for three days. I was told rape and torture would “cure me” from being a pervert. It did not work, in 1997 II became the first Lesbian from Mexico to receive political asylum based on my sexual orientation. I have continued to work for the civil and human rights of my communities and I laugh when I think that the work that almost killed me in Mexico has won me many awards in the U.S. – I guess, Citizenship has its privileges.
I believe my story is one of many and these stories deserve to be kept and to be heard by others. Only then we will be able to break and overcome the cycle of violence that has taken so many lives over so many centuries.
Omecihuatl is the story of a personal journey to find my place in the Universe, an attempt to reclaim a legacy lost to me over centuries of oppression. It is a small piece of my soul that remembers and honors the lives and stories of all those, who like me, have struggled to find a place in the world and have had to fight to claim and Identity. Is a story about being undocumented, in more than one way, of coming out to find joy in being.
Omecihuatl is a story lived everyday by many others with whom I share the work to achieve justice and equality in a world where claiming to be indigenous could be more dangerous than claiming to be queer and where claiming both might mean a dead sentence. Is also a reminder to those who do not understand why we are “this way” that nothing can keep us from claiming our ancestry, our gender, our sex, our history, that we will always choose not to live in shame and to fight fear.
This little film is a small seed that I hope will bloom into a thousand flowers.
QTMP Film maker and Artivists.