Pulse & 4 Ways to Practice Love from my Motherland Ecuador
by Alba Isabel Lamar, MICCA member & LGBTQ ally
I do not wish to express grief today.
About a year ago, the world learned about a special place, named so after the heartbeat of a beloved brother. The world learned about Pulse Nightclub due to a horrendous attack on a mostly Black/Latinx, some undocumented, LGBTQI community. During celebratory dancing, 49 lives ended abruptly and 53 others were injured last year.
Still, I do not want to express grief, anger and or hatred.
Instead, I want to deconstruct hate. Or, in other words, I aim to express and construct love. I will do so by sharing one very valuable, though cliché, lesson I´ve learned by traveling in various cities throughout my home country of Ecuador this summer: true love comes from action.
¡No me gustaba bailar!
Pulse was a place I once visited entirely unwillingly. One of my puertorriqueña friends who loves dancing dragged me there to celebrate our birthdays, which are just two days apart, on ¨Latin Night.¨ I´d always disliked clubs - mostly because all of my prior experiences involved rude, drunk men trying to grind and grab at me and my friends. Even when my friends insisted that this club would be different and that there would be some fabulous show, I gave an emphatic, ¨no.¨
But I was bribed! I was promised I wouldn´t spend one cent on a hella awesome night, and taken to this Pulse. Today, I´m so very grateful that my grinchy attitude was way off. Once inside, though I was probably pouty at first, it didn´t feel like any other club. Pulse immediately felt like a warm and loving community. It probably helped that the bartenders gave us free shots for our birthdays! Dancers inside treated me as though I was a regular and, my friends were right, I did not spend a single penny that night; random men and women bought me drinks with no come-ons or cheesy lines, just out of sheer kindness.
By the time last calls happened, not only was I enjoying myself dancing as if I knew how to merengue and reggaetón, I´d completely abandoned my own friends and made new ones. I even remember giving away a nice pair of once-worn, maid-of-honor stilettos to some random, pukey lady in the bathroom who´d lost hers.
¿Qué hacemos ahora?
Hearing about the attack on Pulse Nightclub sent chills down my spine. This fatal mass shooting happened to LGBTQI and people of color, folks who are continuously marginalized in our society; a fact often omitted (deliberately?) by news reports and retellings.
There were many different reactions to this shooting: crying, adding a rainbow solidarity flag on social media profiles, praying, holding vigils and raising money for victims.
People believe that those are all displays of love.
I agree and am ready to do more.
How about we couple those responses with deeper questions about our actions? What if we push for substantial change in each of our communities? What if we pushed for policies with more teeth?
In the United States, same-sex marriage is legal in all states since 26 June 2015. Still, the Right have introduced hundreds of anti-LGBTQI bills, especially in recent times with the rising hatred promoted by #45. Some states are pushing for more equitable laws - for example, in New York, my birth state, there is strong anti-bullying legislation. Though, in sharp contrast, Michigan law, where I currently have residency, has banned surrogacy and has little protection for LGBT people. (Read more about ¨The 5 Worst States for LGBT People¨)
Now, I´m not saying heteronormativity isn´t the norm and there isn’t shitton of problems arising from homophobia/ anti-LGBTQI sentiments that need addressing in Ecuador I simply wish to construct love by sharing some lessons from the motherland.
By looking at our people’s histories, we can learn how to replace harmful narratives about our people with counter-narratives that elevate our valuable knowledges and lives. Maybe from madre Ecuador we can learn ways that help us prioritize a praxis (1) of love, admiration and continued solidaridad with our LGBTQ Latinx community.
In 2008 the New Constitution of the Republic of Ecuador was approved, wherein guarantees equality before the law without discrimination on the basis of gender identity
The "Enchaquirados de Engabao" created a trans ethnic organization (recognized by the state) that vindicates a local form of transgenderism that exists in the provinces of Guayas and Manabi where inhabitants descend from the manteño-huancavilca pre-hispanic culture, in which gender was quite fluid
Articles 68 and 69 of our Constitution recognizes “family diversity,” which recognizes alternative forms of family such as families formed by transgender sex workers who act as a single economic and social unit”; and same sex civil unions –that “in practice benefit transgender people on the ground that their unions will usually fall under technical same sex unions under the law”
In 2015, a labor reform bill made it illegal for employers to discriminate against people due to their sexual orientation
About the writer:
Alba Isabel Lamar is a bilingual Latina, cis-hetero mujer and educator with dual citizenship in US & Ecuador. She has been teaching for eleven years and is currently in a third year Ph.D. student of Curriculum, Instruction and Teacher Education at Michigan State University. In addition to practicing martial arts and Alba also identifies as 3D artist, musician, and writer. She is passionate about cooking, travel education, environmental and social justice activism.
1. Paulo Freire defines praxis in Pedagogy of the Oppressed as "reflection and action directed at the structures to be transformed." Through praxis, oppressed people can acquire a critical awareness of their own condition, and, with their allies, struggle for liberation.