Text by Danielle Franco
Translation by Danielle Franco & Karen Moe
Engaging in the arts has never been an easy job. Within a hegemonic system where eurocentric aesthetics, whiteness, patriarchal and colonial discourses continue to be the protagonists in obtaining resources, working as an artist is even more difficult for people who approach it critically and from a peripheral perspective.
It is true that the current crisis of COVID-19 has not respected borders in terms of biological vulnerability; however, equalizing its impact is a product of bourgeois illusions. In the pandemic context, where positions in the hierarchy of privilege have a crucial effect on how communities can negotiate the challenges of this new-normal, self-reflexivity as to our levels of privilege and experiences of exploitation are more important than ever.
For women, trans people, non-binary people, indigenous people, afro-descendants and other individuals intersected by systemic vulnerablity who also depend on income from creative, artisanal, and entertainment jobs, the situation has been dire.
Since it became live in the world in 1991, the Internet has, to a significant extent, provided voice for the marginalized. However, because of our gender identity, skin color, and income level, our basic human rights have been even more compromised at this time of COVID-19. As an example, take the writer's experience: I am a transgender citizen and my main social distancing measures have been, ironically, to have been forced to move more than once because of emotionally violent living situations that were based on my gender. As was written in the article, "The Covid Revolution," having the ability to quarantine is a privilege and one that I and other disenfranchised people in Mexico have not been able to access. Of course, such personal instability also increases the risk of developing symptoms and spreading the virus to the community at large—which is exactly what has been happening in Mexico since the pandemic hit mid-March. (1)
When it comes to looking for a job—at a time when it is already challenging for anyone to find employment—discrimination is even more against us. (2) This, together with the fact that the pandemic is being used for political gain and the authorities in Mexico are neglecting the true well-being of the people, has resulted in sexual diverse communities organizing participatory ways to support themselves as creators and activists. As the pandemic worsens in Mexico, Vigilance: Fierce Feminisms has provided this opportunity for us to share these independent initiatives that strive to overcome some of our challenges. We invite readers to join in and contribute in solidarity with the following initiatives:
DIVAS NOS QUEREMOS
s+s Project, in collaboration with Baby Ratta (Anobis Garcia), has created 'Divas nos Queremos,' a series of micro-grants that support Mexican queer artists and activists whose work and income have been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. This initiative by Sofía Moreno and Ale Pichardo consists of distributing grants every 3 weeks to a number of Mexican queer artists/activists. These grants provide participants the opportunity to collaborate creatively, spread their work and give testimony in a digital takeover format of the s+s Project platform and achieve a greater reach on social networks.
CASA DE LAS MUÑECAS TIRESIAS A.C. & CASA HOGAR PAOLA BUENROSTRO
Since 2017, this non-profit organization, founded by trans activist Kenya Cuevas, has focused on working with people in vulnerable situations, particulary, the homeless, LGBTTTI population, prostituted people (3) and users of uncontrolled substances. After a year since its founding, the Casa Hogar Paola Buenrosto has dedicated itself to supporting the social, economic and labor reintegration of the trans population. Because the hotels where many vulnerable people lived were shut down because of the pandemic, this non-profit distributes approximately 200 meals every week. The meal production and distribution complies with all sanitary measures to prevent the spread of the virus. Also, variety shows, food donations and a YouTube channel have been added to the initiative.
For donations via Paypal please contact : email@example.com
REFUGIO: CASA FRIDA
Casa Frida is a temporary refuge developed by the organizations Red Mexicana de Jóvenes y Adolescentes Positivos, Diversidad 360, Centro de Investigación: Diversidad e Incidencia, and the non-partisan deputy Lucía Rojas. It opened its doors on May 11th in the San Pedro de los Pinos neighborhood. Casa Frida became a housing alternative for LGBT+ people who are suffering violence or discrimination during the COVID-19 pandemic. The temporary shelter will be open until July 15th and can accomodate 16 people. Casa Frida requests support, such as food, clothing, underwear, cleaning supplies or money transfers.
For donations please contact Raúl Caporal: firstname.lastname@example.org
THE DRAG SCENE: DIGITAL FESTIVALS
The workers of the night scene are not far behind in terms of the extreme challenges they have been experiencing during the pandemic. Almost 4 months after the closure of clubs, bars and entertainment centres — on which their main income depends — a series of digital festivals were created by the same community to compensate for loss of income. Jonathan Ortega Alvarado aka Kanvas Lion began the digital festival KuirBit, a self-management initiative that periodically offers an open-call for talent. Participants will perform virtually from across Mexico. Other festivals have emerged with the main objective being to provide an alternative gender-diverse performance forum from the hegemony of the “drag race format.” However, most importantly, this project is to help raise money for each of the artists to assist with their living expenses. Other festivals to mention are Una Noche en la Mansión Monster by Oscar Illescas aka Titiana Monster and Corona Dragital by Edo Peltier aka Margaret y Ya.
You could catch up, watch the shows and donate to these initiatives through their respective YouTube channels that are linked in the above paragraph.
Roberto Cabral, drag queen, artivist and cabaret creator of the festival Dragatitlán, has organized a collective that represents night-scene workers in order to persuade the government to provide assistance for peoples who don't qualify for the limited support that is being offered. Although these initiatives do not manage to sustain the total income of these workers, it helps a large majority.
Today, more than ever, the access and expansion of the Internet has opened up the possibility of resisting our marginalization together. We started our journey looking into the deepest corners of the Internet — a space that is both public and intimate — looking for bodies like ours, to transform 'the other' into 'the our.'
Despite of the fact that international strategies of social distancing and quarantine are preventive measures for the treatment of this pandemic, they are also the perfect catalyst for a much older pandemic: violence, which not only continues at an alarming rate, is increasing. Having the ability to quarantine is a privilege for those who don’t have the need to live on ‘a dollar a day’, to leave their houses and risk not only possible infection, but also a doubly dangerous risk of gender violence. The ability to quarantine in order to protect oneself and one's community during a pandemic connects to having the privilege of having both a safe public life and a secure private one. If you believe otherwise, let's reflect on the recent death of our sister, Dr. María Elizabeth Montaño, a transgender citizen, medical administrative staff of the IMSS Siglo XXI National Medical Center and advocate for for people in the LGBT + community who was reported missing on June 10, 2020 after leaving her workplace. After a 10-day search, she was found dead on the side of the Mexico-Cuernavaca highway in Tres Marías Huitzilac, Morelos. (4)
This year, the international celebration of sexual diversity has been to prance into a DIGITAL PRIDE; however, it has become clear to us queer folk that the virtual space is not the only place where we belong. Even though, since the quarantine, the majority of cultural events have been taking place on-line, DIGITAL PRIDE can be seen as a symbolic extension of the fact that queer folk have existed cloistered by the Internet with or without a pandemic. As much of the world has taken this time of an inescapable slowdown as an opportunity to reflect upon the destructive nature of cultural behaviour in a neo-liberal world, the pandemic has also been a time for the sexual diverse community to act upon the realization that our confinment and invisibilizitation won't keep bringing comfort for those who continue to view difference as a threat. The current situation, where the marginalized of the world have become increasingly vulnerable, is an invitation to get involved in weaving a new social fabric where remaining anonymous in the world of the Internet will not be part of our new normal.
Donate to the author: paypal.me/francamentedanielle
As the curve flattens in Canada, it is soaring in Mexico. As of July 1st, 2020, there are 226, 089 confirmed cases and there have been 27, 769 recorded deaths. I say ‘recorded’ because, due to the endemic corruption and insufficient testing, it is very controversial as to not only how many cases there are, but also how many deaths can be attributed to the virus. It is believed that these numbers are underestimated by at least a factor of 5. To make matters worse, due to an inadequate public health care system, there are insufficient ventilators and patients who test positive are often sent home after being told that there is nothing that can be done for them at the hospital. Doctors have also been suffering a high rate of infection primarily because they do not have enough protective gear. In short, as with all things in Mexico, the country’s pre-existing structural problems have made coping with Covid19 virtually impossible. Naturally, the pandemic been hitting the marginalized peoples the hardest.
"A survey conducted by national statistics agency INEGI revealed 12.5 million formal and informal jobs were lost in April alone." It goes without saying that Mexico does not have such privilges as the Canada Emergency Fesponse Fund (CERB) that can keep Canadian's fed and able to pay their rent when they have lost their jobs, not to mention making literal quarantining possible. In an article written on June 12th (and this situation has undoubtedly worsened) "57-year-old Isidoro Camilo lost his job laying down tiles and says after two weeks of looking for work he has yet to get lucky. “It’s affected all of us... I’ve been at it for 15 days but you have to keep fighting, looking. I haven’t found anything,” he said.“We don’t even have enough to eat.” I cannot help but comment that this distressing testimony is from a male in a machismo culture. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-mexico-jobs/mexico-lost-a-million-tax-paying-jobs-over-last-three-months-idUSKBN23J2RJ
Vigilance Magazine uses the term ‘prostituted person’ as opposed to the politically correct ‘sex-worker.’ This is in no way in disrespect for people who need to sell their bodies and sexuality for the use of others (predominantly men) in order to survive. It is the opposite. The term 'sex-worker,' even though it has its origins in promoting safety for people who sell sex to survive, equalizes the ‘job’ as any other. The parameters that constitute choosing a job vary dramatically within the hierarchy of privilege. They are gendered, racial and economic circumstances that give the majority of prostituted people very little to no choice in terms of selling sex. As journalist Victor Malarek comments “there is no other occupation — other than war — in which so many women are routinely beaten, raped, maimed and killed each and every year.” In one of many studies, researcher Melissa Farley reported that “in 9 countries on 5 continents, 89% of more than 850 women in prostitution told us that they wanted to get out.” See: Lydia Cacho Slavery Inc: The Untold Story of International Sex Trafficking; Julie Bindel The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth; Kat Banyard Pimp State: Sex, Money and the Future of Equality; Melissa Farley Prostitution and Trafficking in Nevada: Making the Connections; Victor Malarek The Johns: Sex for Sale and the Men who Buy It and Simon Häggström Shadow’s Law: The True Story of a Swedish Detective Inspector Fighting Prostitution as some of many critics of ‘sex-work’ as a term that serves to normalize exploitation.
"[D]espite ... recent strides towards LGBT+ equality, violence against queer people, particularly trans women, is on the rise. At least 117 LGBT+ people were brutally murdered in Mexico ... [in 2019], in what activists called the deadliest year on record in half a decade." https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2020/06/20/trans-doctor-maria-elizabeth-montano-killed-motorway-mexico-city-claudia-sheinbaum/; https://www.eluniversal.com.mx/english/missing-trans-activist-and-doctor-maria-elizabeth-montano-found-dead-mexico