Friday, November 15, 2013
Friday, October 25, 2013
By Cris Izaguirre
I sought out green spaces after ending a three-year relationship, quitting a dead
end job on Wall Street, and moving out of my former partner’s home. After so many
uprooting changes, like most people I believed going to a rural, quieter, slower
paced place would be therapeutic. I envisioned being submerged in the beauty
and oasis of plants. A former co-worker who had WWOOFed (1) got me into
the program. I decided to apply to “ One Island: Sustainable Living Center” an
educational farm which had an extensive application process and an additional
application fee apart from the WWOOF registration. I was accepted and embarked
on a journey to South Kona, Hawaii.
At the time I did not factor into my vision of healing how my race, gender, class and
sexuality would be perceived in a rural predominantly white heterosexist (2) space.
The history of Hawaii is fraught with recent colonization, U.S. military occupation,
the destruction of indigenous Hawaiian land and its’ people. Most native Hawaiians
do not own their own land. Their sacred burial grounds have been forcefully taken
and multinational hotel chains have been erected in their place. The U.S. Navy has
used the island of Kaho’olawe the smallest of the Hawaiian Islands as target practice
since the 1950’s.
I found myself in the WWOOFing community, a mostly young white heterosexual
middle class population ranging from places like Michigan, Utah, Colorado and
Australia looking for a way to travel cheaply. Most of these college-aged students
were not interested in interacting with Native Hawaiians, their history or culture.
My first farm was run by a white woman from California and her cisgender male
partner. On more than one occasion she stated that: "Hawaiians lost their lands because
they were inept at management and needed Europeans to do it for them." This same
WWOOF: World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. A volunteer exchange
woman administered U.S.D.A. grants that she distributed to small farmers including
native Hawaiians farmers. I spoke with neighboring coffee farmers who told me
that there was a high turn over of workers at her farm because she would steal
money from them and exploit their labor. We worked 6 or 7 days a week, because
the owner would add more and more projects to our long list of tasks and we had no
official days off.
After a fellow farm worker contracted scabies and the owner refused to help him get
to necessary medical care, I left One Island. I met an older Native Hawaiian lesbian
couple (“N” & “M”) and asked if they would let me work for them. They agreed and
I went to their remote farm, the nearest town was Miloli’i the last Native Hawaiian
fishing town. The couple I worked for did not talk about their relationship or show
public affection and had no queer friends. However it was the safest place for me to
On a trip across the island a fellow white female WWOOFer told me that Black
women were “bitches” like those in Snoop Dog’s videos because her friend showed
her a “real” video of Snoop Dog and it was evidence that “they” [black men and
women] behaved “that way” [an overly sexual and violent way] in real life. When
I ventured into town, to the only gay bar it was a predominantly white gay men
space. For Cinco de Mayo behind the bar a white man was in Brown face, wearing
a large sombrero, a fake mustache, yelping stereotypically: “Ay Ay Ay.” Another gay
white man from Texas would unabashedly use the N**** word to describe himself
because according to him he worked “too many hours for the man” in a restaurant
chain. I wasn’t safe amongst the white female WWOOFers or the gay white men
those spaces were heterosexist and extremely racist.
On my initial visit to the town clinic a white nurse refused to give me medical
treatment because I had not made an appointment, when I told her that I had
seen they had advertised as being a walk in clinic, she denied it. When I returned
the following week, I explained to another nurse that I did not know where she was
sending my medication to she said: “Aren’t you from around here?” I said, I was
not I was from New York City. She said: “ You could’ve fooled me with your brown
skin.” I realized then, at that moment that not only was I read as queer but I was
read as a “local” or Native Hawaiian and most haoles (3). They treated Native
Hawaiians, Mexicans, or Black people, I was treated as subhuman.
Like “N” & “M”, the private sphere was the safest place for me. On “N & M”s farm my
race, gender expression or sexuality was not at constant public scrutiny. N & M had
a Permaculture farm, but as “N” would later tell me, “they [non-Hawaiians] call it
Permaculture but it is just how my grandma taught me how to farm.” Alluding that
that permaculuture was a trendy word for ancient Hawaiian knowledge passed on
orally for generations. When I told “N” that I felt like I had both genders in me, she
looked at me blankly and said, “All Hawaiians believe we have both genders.”4
“N” took me fishing for my first time off of sharp cliffs in Miloli’i; she was an award
winning fisherwoman and explained that she came from a long lineage of people
who fished. “N” taught me how to farm based on the phases of the moon, certain
days were for sowing, others for clearing. She explained the order of things in
Hawaiian culture: “first the rocks, then the land and ocean, then the animals and
finally humans.” Humans were last in the order of things and it was a great honor
to be farmers / caretakers of the land. At night I would write to my friends in New
York about the farm and my experiences on the island. And I cried. I wrote and
cried every night, letting go of the tight knot my heart had wound itself into.
One night I asked “N” who was a Lomi (Hawaiian massage) master and healer: “N,
can you help me heal my wounds?” she replied: “You heal yourself, you are the
healer, I just help guide you.”
When the moon was full, and going through its’ waning phases I would stare at it
and the immense Hawaiian constellations. I learned lessons from the moon; take
shape, be slender, grow to be full then, release and be gone again. Let all the things
take their time and space in this world.
While initially I thought going into green or rural spaces would be healing, we
can not forget the historical, human and social context. The earth has been hurt,
colonized, and exploited for political and economic gain, so have indigenous,
brown and black bodies. As a queer gender non conforming person of color
my access to space and mobility was limited due to white supremacy and
Until I felt physically and emotionally safe in the company of an older lesbian
couple I could not be present in my body. Because I could not be
present until the very end of my trip I could not access that healing space I had
originally sought. I am extremely humbled and grateful to have met N & M who
shared so much of their traditional ways of farming with me and showed me how
they honor their land in spite of tremendous obstacles.
(1) Program where people can work on small organic farms for room and board.
WWOOF doesn’t have a monitoring arm, and often volunteers have no way to make
formal complaints if a farm owner behaves in an unethical way.
(2) “Heterosexism is the assumption that all people are heterosexual and that
heterosexuality is superior and more desirable than homosexuality or bisexuality.
Heterosexism is also the stigmatization, denial and/or denigration of anything non-
heterosexual. We live in a predominantly heterosexist society and that attitude is
used to justify the mistreatment, discrimination and harassment of gay, lesbian,
bisexual, transgender and questioning individuals.” http://www.jmu.edu/safezone/
Haole- foreigner or white person.
(4) Māhū in traditional Hawaiian or Kanaka Maoli culture are third gender persons.
Post colonization the word is used as a derogatory term and slur for LGBT people.
(5) “By heteropatriarchy, I mean the way our society is fundamentally based on male
dominance—a dominance inherently built on a gender binary system that presumes
heterosexuality as a social norm.” From Andrea Smith’s “Dismantling Hierarchy,
Queering Society” https://www.tikkun.org/nextgen/dismantling-hierarchy-
Posted by kay ulanday barrett at 11:47 AM
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
Monday, July 8, 2013
K: what’s good, goat? Goat: I’m chillin’. // At Jim’s farm run by mindful #crip and #queer people in #Berkeley. Jim's work and goats were recently featured in the documentary, "Queer Farmer's Project," which I recently viewed with my fam, Cris. During this escapade, I felt sick all day, but goat time was the best time. We learned so much about goat’s milk, trusting relationships between farmers & animals, and sustainable #farming. The land had several goats, squash, apples, onions, beans, eggplants grafted with tomatoes, all kinds of greens, and so much more! Secretly, this was all my dreams. #livestock #qpoc #queer #farming #bayarea. I missed you, @criswordsmith! Photo at the top by Mia Mingus.
Posted by kay ulanday barrett at 11:34 AM
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
I’m not saying that I have it down completely, but I’m trying. Lord knows that the little things, like eating healthy (not expensively) is like saying “fuck you” to the homophobes. ---D'Lo.
if you know about any combo of the following: theater, queerness, comedy, and desi identity, then you probably know the dynamic and hilarious work of D'Lo. his work has internationally rocked audiences with chuckles, critical thought, and cunning. i'm sure this is the way of many communities and subcultures--- athletes, professional gamers, construction workers, stamp collectors (none of which i currently belong); participants invested in their thriving communities know who the innovators are. well, in my multiple communities, D'Lo is one of the innovators. as someone kindred to the spoken word and theater movement of the APIA old skool wave, i'm pleased to see D'Lo blasting stages and serving punchlines. i caught the bay area version of D'FunQT earlier this spring and hope y'all in the east coast get to watch his play served NYC style. expect some gut-thrusting laughter and also, some choice tender moments during this production's upcoming run. to tide you over, here's some of D'Lo's very own summer time reflections a la food. he mentions popsicles, brooklyn donuts, and some very necessary NYC standards to check out. ------#RFP
name/preferred name: D’Lo
preferred gender pronoun(s): He/Him
however you identify: Queer/Trans
describe yourself in five words: Queer Tamil Sri-Lankan American Artist
1) any orgs/events you wanna give shout out to?
QWave, Salga, Astraea, Queers for Economic Justice, Audre Lorde Project, Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Brooklyn Boihood, Brown Boi Project and the list goes even longer!
2) any foods you have a crush on right now?
Digging on Cheap Dumplings from Prosperity Dumplings on Eldridge in China Town, Passion Fruit Donuts from Brooklyn’s Dough Donut Place (not as amazing as the ones at Dynamo Donuts in SF, but the next best thing for sure), Kati Roll’s Shrimp Rolls (the one near 34th street, not the one near NYU), HomeMade Salads with Crushed Red Hot n Blue Chips on top, and my morning Stonyfield yogurt that I swallow my vitamins with.
3) favorite summer grubbin' & chillin’ music?
I can say that I am ;ooking forward to hearing the mix of soca, Selena and Baila(Lankan) music I have at pre-show every night my show D’FunQT (defunct) goes up at Dixon Place this July. The sound in the theater is incredible.
4) please name some of your favorite summer foods?
I don’t know if these are foods – but since it’s so damn hot already in NYC, I’d like to pay my due respect to my summer survival digestables: Natural Popsicles, and the not so natural. Cold Teas and Coffee and any one of my drink specials “Thursht Quenchers” which are like my personal take on mojitos and margaritas and rum punches.
5) are there connections to food and your art/work/activities/politics?
In the show that I’m doing, I talk about queer people’s health, both physical and mental. I think that it’s sexy when you know how to take care of your body. It’s even sexier when you know how to take care of someone else’s body – whether by food, or by listening, or by massage or through sex. Looking back at my 20’s, I learned that I had such a hard time even waking up to do the day, so much so, that I wasn’t proactively thinking about the next step – which was food and health. I’m not saying that I have it down completely, but I’m trying. Lord knows that the little things, like eating healthy (not expensively) is like saying “fuck you” to the homophobes. I don’t know if I’ll die by the hands of homophobia/transphobia, but I will do everything I can do while I’m alive to make sure my body is strong, my mind is strong and that my spirit is strong – only to prove to myself from the inside out, that I do indeed belong and my voice is important until all people feel they belong.
for more on D'Lo's work, please check out his show D'FunQT now showing for the next three weekends! thanks D'Lo for being all about the interview during your busy summer time. to note: i too love yogurt, but for a pill/vitamin swallowing aid, i'm more of a chocolate pudding guy myself. what? since we're all disclosing, why not share? whatever. you try it and tell me if it doesn't work for you.
Posted by kay ulanday barrett at 2:30 PM