I have always found myself aligned with feminism vis-à-vis my background in queer theory. There are many similarities in which both groups work to achieve equality in an oppressive system, and with language being the power structure that facilitates this oppression, I have always looked at poetry as a way to explore these dynamics. My poetry has a tendency to revolve around the suffering of bodies, particularly those of queers and women because we are the most vulnerable to violence within the hetero-patriarchal structure of American politics. One in four women are sexually assaulted in their lifetime and countless queer youths commit suicide based on their sexual difference. Nadia is one of the many characters I use to exemplify this violence and oppression these bodies face in our post-millennium society, a society that, seemingly, and only on the surface, prides itself on acceptance.
Letto di Inferno was inspired by a drag queen I saw in the North Park neighborhood of San Diego; North Park has been typically a lower to middle-class queer neighborhood and as it has gentrified over the past few years, it has become less gay-oriented and less gay-friendly. One night, a drag queen stood on the corner of University and 30th, the main intersection of the neighborhood. Although the street was full of people, it was impossible to miss her; she carried herself with a distinct power, camp, and sass that grasped all those that passed her, their faces flashing in reverence to her immaculate beauty, including three men who were as enraptured as I was, who thought that she was a woman until they noticed the Adam’s apple and the voice a few notes too low. It was then that they began to hurl drunken pejoratives I haven’t heard strung together in a sentence before. Ever. The words they used were no different than the rhetoric of terrorists, and it was with these hate-filled words that the violence of language shattered her right there on a street corner, before a crowd of people. And none of us did anything but console her as she was harassed for being exquisite.
This is one of many examples of hate crimes focused on the gay community, and San Diego is tolerant. We have a large gay population here, yet in the past few months a man was stabbed in the head at a taco shop for being gay; there is also a serial paintball gunman who has shot groups of people in front of gay establishments and community centers. For now, those paintballs aren’t bullets, but when will they be? As much as we wish it were true, this nation is not wholly free. Not until a woman can walk at night, unguarded; not until an effeminate gay man or a butch lesbian can walk down the street without fear of hearing the word “faggot” or “dyke;” not until queers can openly express affection in public; not until body dysmorphia no longer affects young girls; until these issues, compounded with a host of other issues, are resolved, sexual and gender oppression will remain a part of our culture. As writers, and especially poets, it is our duty to explore these inequalities through language, to begin journals such as this one that investigates these problems, and to seek ways to find equality and safety within an oppressive system. Until identity politics has become a thing of the past because equality has finally been achieved, then we know we have done our work as feminists and queer activists.