I sat on mami’s childhood bed and clicked on the RuPaul’s Drag Race Season 8 title on Netflix—It was only available in Spanish, but it was the most queer, “American,” show available in Mexico. I had started season 9 with an ex-partner last year, but after we broke up I never finished the series. I had recently heard that RuPaul’s Drag Race was problematic, transphobic. I never researched any further information on the matter, since I wasn’t really into it anyways. But here I was, day four of being in Mexico and desperately needing something queer to maintain my breath of life. I indulged in a problematic show that in one way or another, in this moment, gave me something more. I fluffed the pillows, sat back against the wall, opened a bag of Mexican cheddar Ruffles (the best!), and began indulging the series, which would become a revelatory experience for me in more than one way.
The Mexican night crowded around the walls of this room after six uninterrupted episodes. The noises of Mexico snuck their way into my consciousness, like the sound of spirits trying to communicate with you, while the drag queens lip synced “for their lives!” The volume on Abuelita’s snoring flooded my attention. The tree leaves rustled violently outside with the help of the desert’s hot breath—the tumbling leaves sounded like the waves back home in California. The incessant howling and barking of stray, hungry dogs reminded me I was hungry. A haunting brought me brought back to the present moment, my body, and not the iPad screen I was escaping into. Six episodes in and I had lost sense of where, who, and what I was. I paused the show, closed my eyes for a few seconds without doing anything aside from breathing and listening.
While I cowered in the dark AC ventilated room, blue-faced against my iPad’s glow, I Iooked up and thanked mother god. I desperately started mentally listing what I was grateful for: my hands, my shoulders, my calves, my heart, my family, this body, Mexico, Inglewood. There had been no internal dialogue with myself, ancestors, and mother god since I crossed the border. So I slowed down and finally articulated prayers of gratitude: Abuelita’s condition is worsening, but she’s alive, give her strength. Abuelito is calm and meditative, a great example of walking peace, I’m privileged for this, give him strength. I am in my motherland after years of not being allowed here, what an honor, give me the power to be grateful. I sat with my totality. My heartbeat regulated and was finally back. I need to be more mindful, I thought, but quickly cut the meditation short, because aside from being spiritual and accountable for my mindfulness I was also super hype and ratchet to know who wins season 8! So I clicked play and continued watching the series. The mystic voice of Mexico receded and the sounds of runway pop music filled the room. And there I was in front of a screen, mindfully hypnotized.
I reached the last three episodes of the show, dreading how quickly I had watched the series, because then what?! I had 5 days left in Mexico and what else was there to do under a blistering sun? At the end of episode 9 RuPaul held the contestant’s baby picture, and asked them to respond to their younger self. This was an unexpected challenge, especially after episodes of petty bickering, drama, and hard competition. My attention grew sharp. The contestants in their best drag took turns responding to their younger selves. When it was Kimchi’s, the anime enthusiast who incorporates Korean and Japanese culture into their drag, turn and she began talking I froze. It was as if someone held an existential mirror to my face and all my truths were dispelled from storage. Heavy tears streamed down my face as Kimchi said, “at times, you’re gonna feel like you’re trapped in the wrong body. And you’re trapped in a place where you feel like you can’t get out.” I knew those words, because I had once used them myself when I came out a second time, as Trans (non-binary). For the first time in television I felt validated, seen, honored. But the words, uttered from a mouth not my own, highlighted a deeper displacement I felt within my being, not just my body.
I decided to visit my grandparents (on my mother’s side of the family) for a week and a half in Chihuahua, Mexico the summer of 2018. My grandparent’s don’t have the luxury of transmigrating the way they did all through my upbringing. Their bones are fickle and all they need instead of family drama in the United States is the warm laughter of their friends. I was strategic choosing this specific week of summer because, from online sources, found out my cowboy of a father was in Colorado visiting my eldest half sister who had just immigrated to the United States. This would be my first time returning to my motherland without my father tainting the whole geography for me.
My father crossed the border with my mother and I soon after I was born. He left in a red truck with half of our things after my first birthday, left us in a foreign country, alone, so that he may return to the family he hid from mami when their relationship unraveled. I didn’t meet him until I had my residency twenty years later.
To my surprise, the land still didn't feel like home without him here. I had romanticized belonging to the earth that gave birth to me: Mexico Lindo! without my father’s shadow being cast across all of my beautiful tierra. “Don’t I deserve to exist in Mexico without family trauma embracing me too?” I would often think. I imagined the pillage: voyaging through the desert the same way mami did to leave Mexico. I longed to return because I couldn't without self-deporting. I was undocumented for twenty years of my life. I have never been a citizen of the United States, and I have never lived in Mexico as a rightful citizen, because my home is not there.
My gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia create a border between me, my internal spirit, and the body I was born in. But ironically, this body, this conflict of gender, sexuality, spirit, and body, has also been displaced at large with where I “belong” or can legally exist in the world. Through the polemic shrounding our freedom: borders, legal citizenship, body, gender and sexuality, I float in liminality, in a mystical realm of galaxies, shooting stars, spirits, ancestors, and ephemerality. I held the existential mirror Kimchi granted for me in this mystical moment and wept for all the ways I’ve been told or have felt I do not belong.
As the greyhound pushed through traffic to arrive to Downtown Los Angeles I looked down at my new shimmering acrylic nails. I couldn’t wait to sprawl myself across my living room rug, shower after approximately 23 hours of traveling, and get dolled up. I wouldn’t, couldn’t let myself compromise my being for the sake of making others comfortable, not anymore. If I walked with ferocity before, then now I’d be fire itself. Ever since my return from Mexico (and watching RuPaul’s drag race), I have been my most authentic and bold self. I let my dark metallic lip gloss dazzle my onlookers. I wear bright yellow crop tops and let the air enter me from underneath. I wear chola earrings and walk like Selena Quintanilla. My highlight is always on point. I made it home, for the first time, I am home.
When I arrived to Inglewood and walked into my apartment on Maple Street I fell in love. I was seeing the city that raised me for so long and for the first time called it by its name. I had never allowed myself the privilege of owning the trees, being in love with the broken sidewalks, gentrifiers, and all of the beautiful Black and Brown faces. How could I have let myself be displaced? I hadn’t given myself the luxury of sinking into the comfort of my city because the United States constantly denounced me both as a queer and undocumented immigrant. But does a political system define my worth, who I can be, and dictate where my home is? Can the homophobic and transphobic remarks from my own community pull me from the city I love? Legally and considering my safety and need to flee for the betterment of my person, yes. My safety and well being is defined by the legal confines of my identities. No doubt about it. But my spirit, soul, personhood, power, and will can never never be detained, be kept in a cage, or be deported from itself. I will exist unapologetically.
The body and nation are one and the same. We don’t choose which one we are born into. We sometimes have the choice to move into another through our own volition, and sometimes not. But the one thing that cannot been evicted, is heart and spirit. even when I’m told, looked at, or spoken to in ways that tell me otherwise, I know I exist where I want to or can. I am the only person capable of deciding for myself where I belong. How I belong. I will stop handing my all inclusive power to threats, corrupt political systems, and exist unapologetically. Home is Inglewood, Mexico my platonic lover who made me in its name: a magic voice that brings me to the truest nature of my being wherever I go. I am one of the mystic voices from my Mexican, Mestizo ancestry that will help others to stop escaping from themselves and return home. Donde esté tu corazón y espíritu. Everywhere and nowhere.