by Noé López
The Austin office of allgo, the Texas state-wide organization serving queer people of color, is situated in the east side. It is part of a building located in a street where the trees stand tall and the green color glows in a very Austin manner. You can see the changes of the social landscape of the city. If you come to the office from the 183 Highway, you clearly see the constant construction. The roads have been broadened to deal with Austin’s rapid increases in traffic and people. Your GPS could definitely take you somewhere else because some of the exit roads do not exist anymore or are temporary closed. If you come from East Cesar Chavez St., perhaps by way of Pleasant Valley, you would clearly see how the Tejano and Caribbean food trucks and restaurants that used to be there five years ago are not there anymore and the locales that used to sale Popusas de Chicharron now sell $15 Thai bowls with a mixture of ingredients that seem to be more from Austin than from Thailand.
One rainy day, I was reading in allgo’s office about Lorenzo Herrera y Lozano, the author of a poetry anthology Queer Codex: Chile Love, where I got to know about allgo a bit personally. Lozano’s poetry detailed the affective work of being part of such organization. His poetry also reminded of the work we have to do as subjects whose sentimental experiences are not heard of or felt, and we somehow have this duty to let it out. We have this responsibility to ourselves, and future generations to write who we are. Otherwise, who will know about us? Our demands?
allgo (which does not use capital letters in its title) is an organization that started in Austin in 1985 and since then, has been committed to the LGBTQ community through cultural arts, wellness, and social justice advocacy. I had to learn those three values when I tabled at a Psychology conference with them. I also volunteered with them at a community healing and wellness fair where they united health care advocates from multiple communities. Another time, I participated in a nursing training at UT Austin’s nursing school where many nurses gathered and heard from the allgo’s representative regarding common LGBTQ issues in public health. allgo has always known about the most vulnerable and I learned that we have to prepare for what is to come.
We are not in the Obama era anymore. We are in a more nationalist, if not fascist, turn in the United States where racism is not negated but it has been clear that it has never been over. The assault of daily racism, xenophobia, and anti-immigrant sentiment is bluntly, boldly, persistent against our marginalized communities. Yet the word “fascism” hurts so much to hear. Like a knife. To a white middle class LGBTQ person, that word hurts. It is feared. And I personally think we need to learn to hear it, learn it, and act against its many banal forms.
Oppression can come in the most unexpected ways. We must be conscious that suffering and exclusion have never been unknown for certain people. And we need to listen to them.
It takes shape in the ways communities are formed through the rapid raise on rent and the movement of people—or what it is traditionally framed as gentrification–a form of displacement and settlement. It takes shape in a series of policies restructuring schools and clinics. Resistance entails bearing witness to how the working class lives. We have issues coming to us on various fronts: class, race, identity, and immigrant status. No one will be safe, yet we are all have to stand and be willing to fight.
In fascist times, queer scholars in the academy and activist circles should engage more on the ground—not necessarily identity politics, or using the right pronouns in the rooms, but more how sexual dissidents perform their sexuality in spaces that are not deemed academic. Of course pronouns are necessary, is important to acknowledge the way people perceive their bodies and feelings. But, how do these apply in regular life in Austin, and other cities, for instance? How do queer bodies navigate spaces to find pleasure and love? Why is awareness of non-profit events like allgo’s health and wellness fair significant? Why is this queer-of-color knowledge and experience important for medical institutions to know? What does health and wellness mean in marginalized neighborhoods, or oppressed bodies?
My work at allgo was interrupted by the Covid-19 crisis. I decided to dedicate my time to what I love the most, my writing. I made of the solitude of quarantine, my own writing camp. I am finishing my PhD dissertation in Anthropology. Yet in such solitude I reflect on how things will change for many of us because of this crisis. Aside from an imminent economic crisis, there will be a cultural alteration as well. Our perceptions of gender and sexuality, its possibilities, will change when the future of the social life that constructed them is currently on pause. Work will not be the same, the bars will not be the same, and travels will not be the same. We are called to imagine new forms of life, or perhaps being aware of the most important things we have taken for granted. Yet in such realizations, we, and organizations like allgo, have to think of what will become of the word “queer.” And in doing so, we also need to reflect on race and class. Not as typical identity politic ‘add-on’ but at a forefront. If we fail to do so, fascism will come at us with no chance to even think who we are, let alone think of who will speak for us.
Things will never be back to normal because our bodies have never been “normal.” Not mine, from the perspective of an indigenous immigrant, and not yours from wherever position you are reading this. If I learned anything from allgo, it would be that in uncertain times, in times of pandemic, the most “vulnerable” are those not heard, yet we have a lot to say. I learned that deaths are mourned through poetry and remembered in actions for the living. I learned that health and wellness are embedded in politics and economics, as it is for the bodies of the poor. The work of allgo helps us face that reality.
Noé López (they) is a graduate student in Anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin.