Background on this essay: It was written while experiencing intense violence & disassociation. I was looking at the literary community talk about diversity while I was fearing death. I felt like the literary community forgot about me because I wasn’t producing work. I was angry about all the talks of diversity & inclusion because they felt so middle class to me. I consider myself part of the literary community & was wondering why none of the literary-activists were outreaching hands of support to help me get better, to help me survive & continuing producing. Helping a transfemme latin@ poet that you know survive & continue to produce work feels like activism & community to me. I felt so alone, disappointed, & disinterested in those conversations about diversity.
While co-curating the reading series for Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color //
people said shit like, “The event needs more women, the event doesn’t have any Latinos.” And people NEVER said shit to me like, “Why aren’t their more youth represented? Why aren’t disabled queer people of color more represented? How do you center incarcerated QPOC? There aren’t enough trans/gender nonconforming poets in the reading.”
… Thus, I am wondering, who is worthy of being represented and who is not?
… I am worrying that we look at race and cisgender folx // then forgot about all the other nuances of our identities.
… I am worrying that we profit on the disenfranchisement of the most underrepresented members of our communities, while asking for our inclusion. We ask to be published in the name of literary diversity, to represent the trans community, but then we forget about the trans girls who don’t have access to the MFA or know any contemporary poets or have money to afford submission fees for journals.
I am not interested in retroactively adding another woman to the reading line-up. I am not interested in adding another Latino. Just cuz folks want more representation of _______________.
That feels HELLA TOKENIZING to me, to ask someone to join a lineup because of their identity markers & not cuz I’m down for them/their work… I’m not down for that retroactive bullshit, but I am down for conscious organizers who strive for “inclusion.” I am down for attempts at diversity, while acknowledging its limitations and working to undo various systems of oppression simultaneously.
DIVERSITY IS NOT LIBERATION FOR INCARCERATED QUEERS!
In curating events & publications I try to have a diverse array of folx represented // but I’m not particularly interested in [attempting to] have an exact representation of race and gender in my journal.
Cuz that’s not possible. We don’t have enough pages to represent everyone. We are too complex as people. &&&&
REPRESENTATION IS NOT LIBERATION.
Representation is meant to fail us. Representation is barely a starting point.
WHAT ARE WE REALLY ASKING FOR WHEN WE ASK FOR REPRESENTATION??
Is it about your individual inclusion? Or about an obliteration of the power structures which create various exclusions? Or….
REPRESENTATION DOESN’T MEAN SHIT IF WE DON’T HAVE AN ANALYSIS OF STRUCTURAL OPPRESSIONS. (I.E. THE POLICE ARE INHERENTLY RACIST, NO MATTER HOW MANY BROWN / BLACK COPS YOU HIRE).
THE JOURNAL I CURATE CAN STILL BE CLASSIST, ELITIST, EXCLUSIONARY, OPPRESSIVE (even if I only publish brown faggots)… Especially if I don’t consider ___________________________.
working class poets.
Aside from race and gender representation, what inclusion do I want?
What does representation actually mean?
Christopher Soto (aka Loma) is a queer latin@ punk poet & prison abolitionist. Their first chapbook, Sad Girl Poems, is forthcoming from Sibling Rivalry Press. They cofounded The Undocupoets Campaign with Javier Zamora & Marcelo Hernandez Castillo in 2015. They’ve interned at the Poetry Society of America & received an MFA in poetry from NYU. They edit Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color with the Lambda Literary Foundation. Originally from the Los Angeles area, they now live in Oakland.