Here I work from memory to tell you a story…
In this story we will refer to the young Chicano as “Julian” for purposes of anonymity, but know that this is a real person, and his memory is still in the hearts of those who remember him.
Setting the scene: My Nina’s backyard in La Jolla. It’s 2003 and I am 17 years old. I just came out-literally. I came outto a cousin in the house and moved to the backyard to have a cigarette. A prima of mine and I were talking and I decided to tell her as well that I was gay. We talked for a long time about many different things specifically about youth in general, and her experience about being a young Chicana living in Atwood. In our conversations she remembers she had a cousin who she thinks was gay. “He was killed and nobody ever knew who did it.” At the time I remembered hate crimes such as Matthew Shepard, today I think of cases like Fred Martinez. I thought about him every once in a while until I was doing my Queer Chol@ research did I think about this specific incident again, and in a different light.
So let’s fast forward to today: The other night I called my cousin to make contact with her and to engage in a dialogue as we usually do. In my mind, I had pre-designed one question which was designated towards a young cousin of hers named “Julian” who grew up in an Anaheim Barrio. I told her about my researching Queer Chol@s in the OC Barrios. She responded to my inquiries with “no, I don’t remember anything like that?” I was like whaaat??? What do you mean, you don’t remember? I thought maybe “Queer” and “Cholo” might have thrown her off. I remember what we talked about, and realized as an Interviewer that,
Stories are evoked through conversation. They are conjured up during the exchange of sacred palabra. They spring out of the deepest recesses of our mind.
In other words we needed to talk it out. There was a man who lived on the corner, “who everyone said he was gay. I don’t know if it was because he was never married or what? This was the 70’s, and people didn’t really talk about being gay.” She proceeded to tell me about another Chicano she had met growing up growing up in Atwood. “He was the first gay person I ever knew, and you could tell he was gay. I didn’t know if it was an act or if it was natural for him?” I interjected, “That must have been hard for him growing up in the Barrio?” she replied, “Oh, the guys used to give him a hard time, but he just didn’t care”. She continued to name off names finally saying, “Julian…” immediately I stopped her, and said that’s him. In this story he was just a cousin of hers who had died. He was killed in Anaheim. I proceeded to ask her more questions but it was very unclear. I asked was he gay? She said “I don’t know?” I asked “Do you think his death had anything to do with his sexual orientation?” She replied “I don’t know, I guess I haven’t really thought about it?” I asked, then why did we bring it up that one day? I was kind of pushing; I said did anyone ever say that? She said “I don’t know maybe?” I asked “Who?” She said “I don’t know. A cousin had said maybe that’s what happened.” After the conversation was so intense from pulling memories we naturally started to end the conversation.
I thought about how LGBTQ individuals have lived in our communities, and how they are/are not accepted. Painful manifestations of colonization causing Raza to attack Raza. It was unclear in our conversations whether “Julian” was one of these LGBTQ people living in the Barrios of OC back in the 70’s. Whether he was or not, violence in its many forms continues to be an issue that both Barrio and LGBTQ communities deal with on a day to day basis. The bridging of these two communities can be a road path to healing and creating a space where Queer children of the Barrio can exist in peace.