Intro: In any community it’s important that we take the time to check-in with ourselves and others to make creating the change we want sustainable. In this episode I’m talking to Matt, who has helped so many people at the Villa Vida do just that. We discuss his poetry, the importance of creating your own identity independent of collective cultures, knowing yourself enough to know who you aren’t, and our infinite capacity for love.
D: Let’s get started since we’re starting. A little bit late 10 minutes late. Thanks so much for your patience.
M: Oh, good. Thanks for having me.
D: You know, I love to be on time and our alternate universe.
M: Yeah, I’m never on time to anything. So for this, like, they’re internships here. I was like, no, I can’t play. Come like 10 minutes before 15 minutes before like. I can’t play around.
D: Somebody told you about that cultural kind of thing here.
M: I mean, yeah, I was. Aware of it here I. Just don’t care. But when it came to you, I was like if. You care care.
D: Oh, that’s awesome. OK, so first of all, thank you so much. I’m going to miss you so much when you go back. To the states. Who are you? What is your name?
M: Yeah. Thanks for having me. I don’t think I’m going back to the states, but I don’t think I’m staying in Vienna, but I don’t think the US is it right now for me.
D: OK. Definitely not Florida. No, that would be an adventure.
M: Yeah, that would be like. Swimming back to Cuba or something?
D: Not swimming back!
M: My name is Matthew and yeah, where to begin on that? I just finished my Masters degree in psychology, with an emphasis in counselling and I’m from Miami, FL. I’m half Cuban and half Colombian – my family. And I moved here about three years ago to do the degree. I am a dance instructor and I incorporate meditation into the Zumba classes and a little bit of dance therapy techniques. And yeah, I’m interested in holistic psychology. Holistic healing in general, taking different forms of alternative medicines and deviating from solely taught therapy. So I want to incorporate all of that. That’s my goal really at the end of the day and yeah, incorporate music, dance, art. And group therapy was something that was emphasised these last months in the internship here at Villa Vida because I had some experience already. Like I told you before, in class only, but the practical experience with that here I tried to run it like group therapy just for experimentation purposes and to keep also that professional boundary. You know, I wanted it casual. At the same time was like, like still creating those boundaries, you know where I’m not like someone, I’m just kind of the person facilitating. But being that I loved it so much, I really love group therapy, and especially for like the LGBTQ community, or like even for like, foster care children, something like specialised groups, you know, not just like. I don’t think I would do, I don’t think I would do anything in the clinical setting. Dealing with like bipolar groups or like this group or I think I would just wanted to like, communal spaces. You know, I think so. To deviate from the more scientific route, you know.
D: So what was your degree in?
M: Psychology, with an emphasis in counselling.
D: And you were an intern here at Villa Vida?
D: And you did these group discussions sort of like circles where people could talk with each other. Can you talk a little bit about like what came up and what your intention was for those groups?
M: Yeah. So, my intentions were to explore different facets of one’s profile, their psychological profile. So that included, specifically here that includes identity is a big part of that and sexuality is a big part of that. Community, interpersonal relationships, healthy boundaries. And also finding tools within yourself – which we didn’t really get into the practical aspect of that, it was more people – which still came out beautiful – It was more people, kind of just like bouncing off their own opinions and their own livelihoods, their own experiences. And then there was a little bit of debate. There’s not so much conflict there, a little bit of disagreements, but it was still very light-hearted in that sense. My intention is behind that was really just to create a safe space for people to talk about their life and their experiences. I got the feeling that a lot of people who did come, they didn’t have that or they were looking for that and those were the people who were the most talkative, interestingly, than the people who are a little bit more like just curious and they were a bit more. Those people, they, they really just wanted to vent. They just wanted to express something that maybe they didn’t have the friends with the community to do it with to do it, yeah, to do it with. And so you know, honestly really the offers that already naturally – like in all the events that you do in the parties and just the space itself. But I think this was, I think the intention behind it was coming from a more professional perspective. Like I don’t know professional was the right word but formal or like. You know you have like discussion panels and things like that, right? But it’s not as like interactive with the audience, right? It’s like people, experts talking and things like that, right? I think this was just like whoever you are, just whatever opinion, whatever experience you’re likely queer, who’s coming, and just you’re just going to share. Share your experience and you’re going to empathise with others, and you’re going to find a lot of, you know, healing involved in that because you, for someone who thought like your thought or your experience was its own island, it’s like you realise that you know you’re not alone.
D: Did anything unexpected come out of that for you? That you just you didn’t think that maybe this was going to come out for someone, or someone was going to walk away with this effect? Did any of that happen for you?
M: I don’t think there was any like revelation moment, but I think emotionally, yes, I didn’t, I don’t think I could have really expected what was going to unfold. But there are a couple of people who cried, and there are a couple of people who like said very intimate and personal things. And you know, the setting is, didn’t call for that. That was on them. There was nothing about confidentiality involved, and also like it’s not even a reoccurring thing that we’re going to keep seeing each other. All the practical figments of a clinical or therapeutic setting, whereas one would feel more comfortable to disclose such things, they did it anyways here. I, of course I would want them to be, to say that, but there were like 2-3 or two people who were bawling like in front of everyone and then someone else started, like it was like a chain reaction. And also that’s the thing I love about group therapy. It’s like not to like superficial like it, but it almost feels like you’re watching a movie unfold right? And I’m still part of that. But it’s beautiful because, like, it’s like everyone’s own little, like, not little, but their own dramatic, like comedic and ensemble of all these different genres of their life, you know, and one person starts crying and says something about their religious trauma with their family or something, and the other person is like, you know, they share their part and they get emotional. And then I’m just like, wow, there was like, some fireworks happening here, you know, in the in the, you know, when you reach a breakthrough, it’s a good thing. But it’s also a negative thing. Because it’s very invasive. So that to me, were beautiful moments. I don’t think I really expected that concept wise, not really like I don’t think so. I think that the like doing my research in in the psychology programme, I think like I have a clear or a good grasp on like where people tend to fault in their boundaries and a lot of like limitations in in their conflict or where trauma, kind of how it manifests in life and things of that nature. When it came to the abstract aspect of concepts like identity and sexuality. No, because I’m already so fluid in that like that, you can’t really surprise me in that. Like you can like. Anything goes in that sense. And everyone had so many opinions about identity and sexuality, you know, like just. Oh, one thing actually. One thing, yes. I like, for some reason I really liked, and I think it did bring something into life for me where people talked about queerness, rather than sexuality, and queer culture, and how that’s like kind of all-encompassing of so many different aspects of gender expression. You know what you wear, how you speak, how you present. But for some reason I think I still had like, I didn’t necessarily believe that, but I didn’t really affiliate so well with queer culture. My affiliation with queer culture was more coming from a place of sexuality, you know which, that to me, never really made sense because I don’t really like, I’ve never really like, emphasised my sexuality. One because it’s private to me, and also too, because also trauma and also a couple of other things. But for me it never felt like I’m not queer because my sexuality, I just like this, you know. But what is queerness than to me? And hearing people’s different understanding of their own queerness. It was so relative, that it was some, it was very comforting for me because I was like, OK, queerness is like this idea, you know, it’s like this. It’s like this. It’s not this like. Black sheep mentality. It’s so much more bigger and special than that. It’s like this. Like it’s just the deviation from the norm, which can be anything. Anything is weird and it’s like.
D: Everything is queer, everything is queer.
M: Everything is queer. Yeah, exactly.
D: But you know, queerness does have this kind of distinct starting point, which is around gender identity, sexuality and politicisation. And I think that that’s the thing that has really kind of caught me off guard about queerness being now, or the way that people are using it in the lexicon is that they mean LGBTQIA+. That’s what they mean. But when queerness first started being used, it had a very distinct political underpinning, which was around radical politics. It wasn’t like, oh everything about me is normal except for my sexuality or my gender identity. It’s like no, like, I reject normalcy. Yeah, I reject this kind of idea of patriarchy and heterosexuality as the starting point that we all have to sort of like measure ourselves by, the measuring stick. Queerness as a fuck you. Like that level of radical politicisation.
M: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Right, right, right. So you wouldn’t like pinpoint it down to just sexuality or gender identity?
D: I would say that that’s the starting point.
M: Is that not umbrella though?
D: That’s like the that is, that is definitely the umbrella. I mean like as the alphabet mafia has gotten bigger, right? Like it’s so much easier to say queer than it is to say, LGBTQIA+, right? So I understand that that’s why people are choosing to see, say it, queer as that. But the thing that I would like people, or I always try to remind people, and why there’s queer all over so many of my projects, you know, there’s Villa Vida, the queer community cafe. There’s this podcast, The Queer Truth, right? And you have to realise I started that 10 years ago, right. When no one was saying queer. And the reason why that that has always been an important term for me was because of the political implications of the term. Yeah, that, yes. You know, I am queer with regards to my sexuality, but I’m also queer with regards to my politicisation.
M: Should I interview you? Can you just like elaborate a little bit more on the politicisation now? Like what would be of like? What would be some attributes that you would say specifically that like, OK, like let’s say like I’m, like, fuck the patriarchy, I’m a feminist, let’s say, like I hit a couple of attributes that you assign to that, but I’m straight. Would I not be queer? If the starting point is sexuality…
D: The starting point is sexuality.
M: And then everything else aligns politically.
D: And then everything else aligns politically. When queer as a term started being used, it was as this counterculture term in in the sense of. Like there was this big push for oh, we’re just like you. Right. So there was this big PR campaign that was all about marriage equality. That was all about trying to convince mainstream society that we weren’t threatening and that, you know, we were brothers, sisters, cousins, uncles. And to get certain rights pushed through, for a certain segment of the population that could access those rights. The reason I gravitate towards queer is because I’ve never been a part of that segment of the population and there are many people that aren’t, and that I’m much more politically aligned with, that I wanted to be represented or I want to signify that I’m representing in my politicisation.
M: Yeah. Yeah. It’s like this. Like, we don’t want to be, we don’t want to be like them, that agenda or that message is kind of deterring away from the fact that that there’s something wrong for being different, right? But that’s what I don’t understand when it comes to queerness. It’s like is queerness just diverse, like it’s different? You know, it’s like. Because I do understand that it starts from a sexuality point. Or gender identity point. I’m just like, I’m more curious about like all the other aspects that are around queerness besides those two things, because those two things are quite obvious for me.
D: I mean, with the way I see that, is that that identity can be a point interrogation of all of these other kind of like political ideas, that’s the way that I see it. But like for you about being like, I want to come back to that point about you being private. I got my mom would have loved that, I have to say my mom would have been like, so happy if I was just kind of like bisexual on Wednesdays from 2:00 to 5:00 and only privately. I think my mom would have absolutely loved that. Where did that impulse come for you? That OK, I’m over here and my sexuality is over there and no one needs to know about that. That’s just me and me alone.
M: Yeah, I think that I think that that comes from a place of obviously suppression, you know, growing up and me just coming into terms really with my sexuality, just within the past, when I moved to college, when like six years ago for my undergrad and really started exploring that side of me and really started coming to terms with that side of me. But at that point, it was like something that, like I do take pride in my sexuality and I do take, I take pride in just myself in general and I have no guilt for it or anything like that. So right now it doesn’t really come from a point of suppression. I think starting point it came from a place of suppression, definitely.
D: Now let’s have it.
M: Now it’s no. Now it’s more like I’m like. It’s gonna sound pretentious, but I just, I’m more amused with the idea of having such an expansive identity and not really like allowing one thing to define me. I know that sounds very blah blah blah.
D: This is what I was teasing you about.
M: I know, I know. I know how it sounds. But that is how I emotionally and spiritually feel. And, you know, and I just, it’s difficult for me to. I mean, I’m moving. I’m living in Vienna, like I’m trying to move to another country. You know, I’m. I like women and I like men. I like you know, sometimes I’m masculine, sometimes I’m feminine, or in between or whatever. I don’t, I really do just like to have this diversification of identity. And for me like, yes, I am bisexual. That is not diversification. It is that, right? But it’s more like, I don’t know, I never really like felt like ‘Oh, I am bisexual’ so this means like, place me in this like entire, I don’t know, set of like personalities and people and places and this and that. And it’s just like I don’t want to be boxed into, you know, let’s say the name.
D: I think that this is this generational thing that we kind of come up against around like the purpose of identity and the uses of identity. I think the thing that we talked about before in our previous discussion was that I see a lot of people coming to me or younger people specifically coming to me and saying, well, identity is this thing that is confining, that is limiting. And I don’t want to put a stamp on me that says, OK, I’m this and then have people dump their preconceived notions of what that is on me. But from my generation, when, you know, like. You know, many of us died, right? I’m not, I’m not being hyperbolic when I say this. A whole generation of men my age are now dead. And for me as a woman, like, there were not a lot of sites of safety. The identity was this portal to freedom. The identity was this place where I could say, oh, OK, now if I hang out with other queer women, all of a sudden I can be fully myself. I can be fully myself. Not, OK now I’m going to be limited to who these queer women think I am – but more so, I can now express myself as I really AM, and as I fully AM. Where it was, if no one knows because I’m in the closet or because I’m in a place where I don’t have the safety to speak about being queer, for example, that was the was the lack of freedom for me. But I understand that that’s just coming from, that’s coming from very different moments in history.
M: I was gonna say, I think what came to mind as you’re saying this, that I think with the introduction of like, I’m a social media baby, I’m an Internet baby, my, our generation is that. And what we’re seeing online is like basically just overflow, or just really a lot of abundancy of information and through that lens we’re seeing such like a vast array of personality of identity, of who you can be, of what you can do, of like who you are essentially, you know. And I think that maybe perhaps it, before for you it was like you had only select options and those select options were like opening an entire portal into something new. Whereas the portal itself I think for my generation is, like everything.
M: Yeah, exactly. And it’s overwhelming, mind you. And there is probably, the thing is that one can argue that there’s an identity crisis, but at the same time, I think that’s the whole thing. It’s like deconstructing what identity is. But I have to say it in the group, like when we talked about identity, they made some good points about how like there’s nothing wrong with identity, or identity is like what you were saying, is a way to orient yourself in this world, right? And I understand that. I still live, I’m still queer, like I still, I still all the time identify myself as things American and Latino like whatever it is, a dancer and all of that comes with its. You know, so people are hypocritical because they pick and choose when they want their identity to be convenient for them. And you know all that stuff. But I think when I see that personally, it’s more coming from a place of my own discomfort of like. Yeah, of what I just said. Yeah, of that, I think it’s. Spiritually, it’s like I just, I feel multidimensional and so. It’s like you know. I also like the idea of just, continuously identifying also feels like some level of separation as well. To some extent I think underlying, you know, like Us versus them kind of thing, which it is societally, politically obviously there are is still that. But I think like the underlying principle of that spiritually. It rubs off on me wrong like, yeah, you know I don’t, I like this, you like that period. Like sexuality wise, queerness wise is perhaps something different than I would say, since we’re just talking about how queerness is. Am I rambling here?
D: But I also want to get back to you almost making me cry. I feel like there is some sort of, something, you got the juju going on the ‘come cry now’. I’m usually the one making people cry because as, I like to joke that as a barista and a bartender I’m a double threat. So, like people come, whether they’re, they’re drinking or not, they’re just like, so life story. Let’s go. Part 12345 and then they’re crying. Skip the small talk.
D: Skip the small talk.
M: What do you dream about at night?
D: Oh my God. It’s a lot, but I wanted to get to your book. So you had mentioned in passing like when we were getting to know each other that you were a poet. But then, when this book happened, I was, you know, I was a bit surprised. And you were like, well, can I do the launch? Can I do the book reading? And I was like, of course, definitely, I mean you have to. I’m just like, you know, like a lot of us, because I’m a poet as well. Now that’s where I get really private. There are many.
D: There are many of my poems or most of my poems no one will ever, ever read. But for you to be like yes, and I wrote, I did the book and I did the editing and I bound it and boom, boom, boom.
M: I’m not going to wait around for some publisher.
D: Eyes Drawn and Hallucinating. What inspired you to do that?
M: Well, my first poetry book that I released was Eyes Closed and Travelling and it’s an ode to really imagination and creativity with limitation, of the mind, of being a human being and meditation. Essentially, you know, your eyes can be closed or you can be unaware to some extent, but you can still, but that’s the first book. This book was an ode to that as well, and I wanted to keep it within the same theme I guess you can say. But this one was more like now I’m more conscious of the things that are happening around me because I’m, and woefully, to some extent, curating these energies in my life, sometimes unconscious, sometimes not. But Eyes Drawn insinuates that you know you’re an artist of your own being essentially, you know, and hallucinating. Because it’s a lot of things that I reference or talk about are quite surreal, and my experiences of how I explain my experience in a linguistic sense tends to be a bit more like what I was telling – I forgot your name, sorry, Michaela yeah – that it resonates more with me when I explain things, like at least in the written form, things that are personal to me and vulnerable in the abstract form creates some like cryptic language, some mystery. So that’s the hallucinating aspect, you know, and seeing an object in front of you, and there’s some transcendentalism in that as well, so. I know I’m kind of going all over the place. But for instance you look at a piece of leaf and that piece of leaf is a mirror for your life or, you know, for your queer identity or just simple objects in place. Simple, simple moments. Simple experiences that are drawn right in front of you through life or through your own conscious efforts or unconscious and it creates an entire ensemble of your reality and your reality essentially is your own hallucination. Not that it’s not real, but it’s your own private interpretation of how things are unfolding around you, I would say. I didn’t know you would want to talk about the book, actually.
D: Uh oh, uh oh, I had to like tag your things because I couldn’t find the page numbers. Is that on purpose?
M: I ordered accidentally like 50 copies and they didn’t have the page number so I was like screw this.
D: I’m not waiting for page numbers.
M: Like you’re gonna get when you get. You just enjoy the book if. You don’t need to read that. There’s like. 50 pages. You’re fine. I don’t talk about queerness, really, though in this book.
D: I noticed, but I want you to read that poem.
M: OK. How did I know you would?
D: Why? What?
M: I knew no, just really, intuitively, I promise you. I promise you. I had a feeling like I’m not even kidding, like when I gave the book. I was like – she’s going to focus on this one. She’s gonna, she’s gonna like this one.
D: I have other ones.
M: She’s gonna. I don’t know. She’s gonna like it or hate it. Or something. But she’s gonna. She’s gonna probably ask me about it. She’s gonna something about the poem.
D: I think it’s a good jump off point, but definitely I want you to read that poem.
M: OK. So they took a census today. Yesterday I lived 2 doors down from laughter. Grandma on a roller coaster, grandma on a roller coaster, grandma on a roller coaster, grandma on a roller coaster, grandma on a roller coaster. I had to keep myself reminded, foolishly, frantically for 5 minutes while searching for a pen to write it down. I was afraid of losing the thought. Fearful of abandoning the comedic spark. What would happen if I let the journalistic horrors sway my probably toxic positivity that I convinced myself of sometimes? I couldn’t take the chance. Tomorrow I’ll be 3 streets, a side, a tyrant. Crushed bones in Haiti, crushed bones in Haiti, crushed bones in Haiti, crushed bones in Haiti, crushed bones in Haiti. I sat on the Atlantic and waited for those bodies to emerge. And unlike our patriotic outcry, my idea of social action was to mourn my own detachment. I recall the social media frenzy about Caribbean bodies turned up ambitious and sour. Ones that dreamt to make a home out of double standards, a home that would seldom feel like shelter. I sat and watched what seemed to be the only real country and the thought of more bodies kept me coloured, discoloured. Even to me coloured, recoloured homes would hardly feel permanent either, and axiom of suffering unveils when our fantasies stare back at us. I am a victim of this bystander in an experiment that is somehow the noise of insufferable conversation. I hear talks about escape and post about finer lives all among, crushed, discoloured and uncovered skin and bone. Today they took a census. The man dancing in the front row, the man dancing in the front row, the man dancing in the front row, the man dancing in the front row. I searched deep to remodel the emotional martyrdom at stake. I felt like I didn’t have the right to comment on poverty, or communism, or freedom. I slept in boxes with guilty ventilation systems. I polished the global stage of the passport sold on black markets. Maybe I could talk about my double identity and triple standards. American. American enough? Latino? Not quite. Austrian? Too exotic for the likes of me. Maybe I should wage an oppression war so that I don’t remiss on privileges pressed over my sinful shoulders. Maybe instead I’ll just keep myself reminded of beautiful things and hope that if I cast a beautiful net, I’d catch only beauty, maybe. Today, they take a census today and they counted only what remained. Did you like this one?
D: I did like it.
M: Thank you. Yeah, I had a feeling you would.
D: Yeah, I mean like one of the things that I thought about when I read that poem is that, like, I think it definitely reflects a lot of what we spoke about with regards to our internal philosophies about like how we engage with the outside world and everything. For example, you’re going back to Florida. I’m sorry, you’re from Florida. You’re like – you said going back, you’re like, nuh-uh.
M: Ha. No, no.
D: You’re from Florida? Yeah. You’re families there, right?
M: Yes, I’m a Florida man, yes. But Miami’s not Florida, let’s get that right. Let’s get that straight. Miami is not Florida.
D: Yeah. Miami, right? Yeah. Just in the same way that Vienna is not Austria, right?
M: Exactly, exactly.
D: But right now, Florida is the epicentre of anti-trans, anti-gay, anti-black legislation. How do you engage with that? Like how like especially given that so much of your work is focused on psychological well-being and holistic well-being, how does one engage in a hostile environment while maintaining that well-being?
M: It’s interesting though, because when getting this internship, I like kind of came more into terms with the fact that I’m not really active politically, socially. You know, in that sense, like social activism and whatnot. And I think it’s not that I never had an issue with it, or I never wanted to do something about it. It was just more coming from a place where I felt like I also need to protect my own and doing that was coming from a place where I know my strengths are, which is psychology. So it’s like, how can I give back to the community and those, from that lens? So I that’s just maybe a little bit of a side note. Because I did become a little insecure here on that note. I was like, shit, I’m like, not really like, especially like here. The presence of it is so powerful. You know, it’s like you guys are getting shit done. You guys are like revolting against the you know, the conservative douchebags here and whatnot, and, like making statements, powerful social statements, public statements with just your existence and what you do. And I was just like, I don’t know how, I don’t know how to go about that externally and socially, because it just doesn’t, for me it feels like a little volatile and hostile and I’ve dealt with things in my life where I’m like I tried to ameliorate conflict, to the best of my ability and my way of doing that, my armour, my weapons of doing that – to my belief – is more so working on an individual level with that person. And having you know if they want to do that – like tell me your sufferings and then cry about it and then go out and protest about it, you know and like, OK, that’s beautiful. But as far as my externalisation of that like, that’s as far as it goes, really going back to Florida, like for instance, how I deal with that, I think I’m too busy dealing, trying to balance out the dynamics of my family then even, like, even curate the idea of how I’m going to manoeuvre policy wise. You know, I often think about, too, if I were to go back to the states, like right now in my life, I’m like, how can I even give, how can I give back, you know, socially? With my career, you know I’ve worked towards something in a job. It’s like, am I, I think I want to aspire to actually make a change. As cliche as that sounds, but you know, I’m 24 and I’ve just got my degree and like now it’s like career wise, what the fuck am I going to do? Who am I going to be in that lens, you know? And I often think like, damn, if I went back to Florida, like, could I, could I like, what could I do? Could I make a change? Could I like but, but from what perspective, psychologically? From what perspective therapeutically? That’s where my roadblock is and that’s why I really don’t step anymore into that – rather than just social activism on Instagram or something. But protest and all that stuff like I never, never really felt a calling to it, I guess, as selfish as it sounds, but it just didn’t. It felt like I could be of better service elsewhere. I guess you can say you know giving back here to the community was felt like something that was meaningful in itself, you know? I don’t know, but maybe.
D: And very directly of service as well. So you’d like to see an impact happen right away and in some ways, activism feels like too much of an abstract action to take while also causing a lot of psychological anguish.
M: That’s an interesting perspective. I didn’t think of it like in the immediate sense like that, but that could possibly be it. Yeah, the abstract sense. It’s confusing, you know, I mean like. There is one cynical aspect of me it’s like, am I really making a difference, you know? And I think that’s a little bit behind everyone’s mind regardless, like if they do it or not. They should do it because I do believe in principle, you know, you do make a difference, but in principle is that enough to enact action for me? It’s another thing. But yeah, I would say that’s that is the case. Yes, that is very much the case. Otherwise like for instance, what would you say, how can you integrate what I study, what I do, what my ambitions or what I said I want to do – with social action? Like besides like informing or advising like government or lawmakers. From my perspective like that’s what I would think. But what would you say, how one would integrate that?
D: I’m going to answer that with the story. So, when I lived in North Carolina, the last job I had was working for student action with farm workers, where we basically worked around organising farm workers in North and South Carolina, and amongst any potential issue they would have. So we worked labour rights organisations, immigration organisations, child welfare organisations and so on and so forth, like there’s so many issues. And one of the things that was impressed upon me is that when you’re dealing with vulnerable communities, there is not one skill that you have that would go untapped. Yeah, like literally I can cook. We need that. Like I know how to take care of kids. We need that, you know. I’m a doctor. We need that. So there’s the typical things, and then the atypical things that you would need. You’re dealing with people that are in a marginalised community, you’re dealing with super high rates of trauma and traumatising events, so of course you know it’s.
M: But like what it sounds like you described before was more from a volunteering perspective because like any volunteer…
D: Or from an organisational perspective, you know or in a formal perspective in terms of your offering.
M: Yeah, right. But in the in the more professional perspective I would say. Not that cooking is not professional or anything like that, but from a…
D: I do cook professionally.
M: Right. You babysit professionally, I guess, right you’re a mother.
D: I don’t get paid for it.
M: Yeah, well, of course I can do all those things. Anyone can do all this, not anyone, but people. Like, that’s the general consensus. If you can work with your hands, you can offer anything of service. But specifically, like if I am entering an environment where, for instance, like you said, it creates, it does create psychological, psychological anguish. I don’t do well with violence at all. I like freeze and not that I’m saying most people do. It’s just, like I would rather just not deal with those douchebags at all if it were up to me, you know? And because I dealt with them my whole life, if I’m being honest, family wise, everyone around me, the whole culture around me actually, you know, and it’s just. The whole like, yelling at a wall for me is exhausting, you know. If I am actually going to create change it’s going to happen like I said, where I know I can, like where I know, like I want to sit on you one-on-one. Am I going to go to a like an immigration shelter, and do these people need someone to talk to professionally? Let’s do that. Let’s talk you know. Besides that for me, like creating service in servitude. From the perspective of interpersonal or communal therapeutic aspects. Does this, does this make sense?
D: It does make sense. It does make sense. I mean, this is some, this is a conversation I have with my son all the time you know. Talking about like, my years of protesting on the street or all the kinds of activism I do, there’s just intense amounts of cynicism, and sense that, you know, that is too small potatoes for it to make a difference. It’s not. I mean, we just had this massive protest that happened on April 16th when the right wing was trying to shut us down because we have the Drag Story Time for Children. And so people came to support us, and they outnumbered the right wing folks. And the thing that they continue to talk about was the feeling, that they felt. How sustaining and uplifting it was for them, that they never like, they were able to look around and say, OK, as a queer community, this is how we show up to protect each other. How important that is to see in real time, not online. I mean like and that has its purpose. And I love that, and I’m a digital native. And yeah, I’m chronically online. I get it, right. But there’s something about that visceral feeling of that direct, energetic connection of being with people that have your back. And are willing to put their bodies in service of having your back. That’s huge and I don’t really think that we found another medium that would substitute for that. And on the other hand, that does make an impression on the powers that be. Yeah, right. A massive impression. Who’s showing up? Who’s hitting the streets? What protests are we looking at right now?
M: Right. So, but what’s the difference? Because it sounds like what you described before, the emotional aspect, is something you’re describing that’s creating a space of community, reassurance and loyalty, commitment to that. So, what would, what would be the difference in like a protest of that same energy, and then like hosting community events here and having that same energy. What is the nuance? What is the difference in that nuance of protest versus…
D: I think it’s about the scale. Like we’ve had super powerful events of course, but there’s something about the scale of you on the street with 1000 people. Right? Like-minded people. I’ve been to some very historic protests. One that comes to mind for me right now was the WTO present in Seattle, the Battle of Seattle, right. Where I didn’t go to work that day and took my kid. And she didn’t go to school and we went and protested the, you know, World Trade Organisation. And it became this epic thing. I did not know, right, when I chose to do that, that it would become this epic thing. You know, I was doing that as part of Dyke Action, at the time, was a group that I went with and we were all sitting together. And then you know, not that I thought it would be small. But to look around and we’re next to this migrant group, we’re next to people that drove up from California for 20 hours to be there. We’re next to people that were provisional workers, that were like I’m not going to have you know a day’s worth of pay and that may make or break me, but this is so important and I’m going to be here right now. And there’s something about that that words cannot express. The willingness to, and especially for people with everything to lose, to say I will sacrifice because this is so important to me.
M: Right. Right. Yeah. So do you feel like from my perspective, do you think I would be coming from a place of privilege, whereas I don’t feel like this dire sense to take part into some, a demonstration such as?
D: I don’t know where it’s coming from. I mean like it, it could be coming from privilege, but it’s, from what you’re telling me, it’s also coming from a very real place of self-preservation. There’s some people that just do not have the capacity, right, to do that. And you have the training and also, I feel like you’ve done like a lot of self-work to know, kind of like what your boundaries are, what your limitations are, and what your skills are, and how you want to affect change in the world. So that’s who you are like, I’m not like one of those activists that are like, if you stay home, fuck you, spit on your grave. We can’t talk. We can’t be friends. Podcast is cancelled, everybody.
M: I also do think that that’s like a phenomenon of my generation where you have like a sense of guilt and doubt because of, because you have the sharing of information on a wide scale and the Internet and it’s just like, there’s like this, I think there’s this push to do more or…
D: Bute on the flip side of that, I absolutely, and this is just a personal ick, my ick is virtue signalling. My ick is oh, yeah. You know, here’s like the back, back in the day, there was that Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial, right. Like, that’s where I see. Like a lot of people’s activism, quote, air quotes.
M: Right. You’re talking about like, when all the campaigns come out in, like, June and like, they’re quiet the rest of the year.
D: The rest of the year, exactly. I’m not really interested in the virtue signalling. I don’t think that helps anybody. But protesting, I believe, is part of the real work of social change and political change. I think it is necessary for the powers that be, as well as the larger society to see that we refuse to bend on certain things and that we will take up space. That’s huge, but it’s also not a requirement of everybody to do that, because I do understand that it’s not something that everybody can do. People are coming into this world with all manner of situations, right?
M: Yeah, definitely. Yeah, in my case, I would like to explore more of that in the future. I guess I’m just figuring that out right now in my life. I think like the last years and what I’ve really prioritised is really like, like you said, my own self development, my own like, you know, prioritising my own well-being, in the day. For me, that never really like reflected back into the environment around me, I guess not really. Maybe I’ve been in a safe bubble, but.
D: So you said that you might not. Return to Florida. Where you going?
M: No, no. I’m thinking of going to Portugal.
D: OK. You speak Portuguese?
M: No. But I will learn. I will learn. Like German, but I will learn. Well, I’m going to the Philippines for a couple of months first.
M: Just my own little like retreat. Just gonna get away little. Quiet the mind, quiet the body, spirit so. And yeah, and then I’ll figure it out then. I can start applying for some jobs in Portugal, maybe Spain. Just try a little something different. It’s going to be hard to say, to leave Vienna. Vienna feels like home to me now. But yeah, calling some, just calling out me. You call it calling out my name like.
D: Portugal’s calling your name you, but you’ve been there before, right?
D: Oh my gosh, I love this. Love that level of wanderlust. Like I’ve never been there. I’m gonna move. Gonna move tomorrow. I love it.
M: Never. I never came to Vienna before coming here. I knew nothing about the culture actually, I just came here for the programme.
D: I just get a sense you need that sun. Miami boy in Vienna, it’s not gonna workout long term. Not long term. You did two winters. That’s like two tours.
M: It’s true, though, it’s true. No, it’s true. Like I do tours. It’s true. Like, my mood shifts completely in the summer. And then I’m like, I can live here. I could totally live here. I love it here. And then, like fall starts coming. And I’m like, why would I? Why am I here? Why? For the next like three months. I’m like, this ain’t it, this ain’t it. And then you forget about winter when the sun comes out. Because Vienna in the summer is magical. Honestly, it’s insane how beautiful and like lively everything is here in the summer. It’s really nice.
D: It is magical. Yeah, I found this dress on the street. Like on Sunday.
M: Oh, that’s so beautiful. Wow.
D: That’s, that’s how magical it is. Like people are like you want designer clothing? I’ve left it on the street.
M: What? Yeah, there’s like an event in every corner. Music, arts, everything. You know, I don’t know. I’ll see. Like, it’s just a matter of job opportunity because money is important in that sense. I have to just see, like, where I can be situated. And whatever opportunity comes about, you know that can support me, funding.
D: Well, I have to say that you are an asset to any place, in any community that you choose to be a part of. It has been our absolute pleasure and honour that you chose to kind of be of service here at Villa Vida.
M: Yeah. Thank you so much. It was honestly, my pleasure, my honour as well to be of service, definitely to the queer community too, you know. I feel like I, that is something that is very personal in my life, and I say it’s private my sexuality, but it is something that’s foundational of me, you know, and it is something, it is how I, like my gaze is tuned to a queer lens at the end of the day. And no matter what, you know my spiritual abstractness, would mine to say. But, but so it felt like I actually really gave back to the community, you know, and that’s really at the end of the day, like I really wanted to get into counselling, to work with, like LGBTQ community or very marginalised communities. Teens and addiction populations and whatnot. And so I actually felt like it was very meaningful, you know, existentially, it was very purposeful. It was like, I wish there were more of it throughout the week. It was just like that one time, but I like. It was. It was fun. And also it was just, it was also a way for me to grow and even in my own sense. It’s like, it allowed me to create like a more, like stark compass of what I want in life and who I want to be. No, because even the art therapy and on this, on the drama that this, this was all the first time I did that you know I just did like research, of course, throughout the week a little bit of research on it. And of course, integrated my personality with that, but they actually went well, like, you know, even if there’s just two people at that session, it was like they actually you can tell we got something out of it. There was something cathartic out of it. Thank you again for having me. Thanks again for like giving me the platform also for the book as well like. For giving me that platform.
D: Your poetry is amazing and I want to. There’s this quote in one of the messaging things that you put in your book. “Love should not be considered something to send and perceive. Is it not more of a state for oneself?” and this question, it was a stated as a question. This question I think is really just something that I see you embodying in not only sort of who you are and how you express, but your affect. Just kind of understanding that to love others is really about self upliftment, because when we allow ourselves to love others then we, I mean whether or not they perceive us loving them, or feel us loving them, or even believe that we love them. It’s really doing more for us to kind of transform us on the inside, so that is something that really stuck with me as well.
M: Thank you so much. That’s beautiful. Yeah. I like sometimes touch strangers, you know, at the club, a long night, and I’m like, I love you. And then it goes to this. I’ve had this happen a couple of times. They’re like, you don’t know me, how can you love me? And I’m like, but I do love you. You’re going to tell me I don’t love you? And then it goes into this whole debate like, yeah. OK. OK. They’re like obviously like, I don’t love you like I love my mama. But. Love is I can you can, you can have love for anyone. You could even have love for the bigots, you don’t have to respect them, you don’t have to, but you can have love. Love is a state of being. It’s more than idea. It’s an existence. And you know, yeah, like you said, that’s a reflection of how you orient yourself in this world and what you want to be reflected back at you. You know, if you can love like your haters, then or the bigots, or the people who, you know, try and step on you. I don’t know. Like then. The love you have, the capacity for it is infinite, essentially. You know what I mean? And thank you so much. Appreciate that.
D: What is your queer truth? Final question.
M: What is my queer truth? What is queerness now? My queer truth. My queer truth. You know, I know it sounds. I don’t want it to sound reductive, but my queer truth is love. Like it all comes from a place of love at the end of day. And that’s what, like for me, queer culture, queer identity. The queer like social, psychological, whatever it is, profile of queerness, for me, it’s coming from a place of love, like love, love for yourself, love for others, love for whoever, whatever, your lifestyles, whatever your journey, whatever your progress is, it’s like we’re all the same shit. We’re all coming from the same shit. Like we all get there differently, we all look a little differently, but at the end of day, there’s always foundational, and root, central things that bind us all together. Which is love at the end of the day. So for me that is queer. That that to me is my queer truth. I orient myself in this world with love. In a matter you know. And I think that why I relate that to queerness, because I think my queerness, my journey of queerness, has shed a lot of light on that because of the suffering that I went through. Because of the suppressions, because of the doubts and self-loathing and a bunch of other things that a lot of people, queer people go through. Like you have to really like you, you should. One should flip the script right and realise that that’s all bullshit. And you know love is the, is the stabilising force instead. Is the motivating force of all that. So like for truth is love, love, love, love.
D: Awesome. Thank you so much for coming. I really, really love talking to you. I could talk to you forever.