when you are 27 years old, you will be sitting in the bookshop you sometimes work at (tho business is floundering at best most days, and despite everyone’s best efforts) and she will not look at you while laughing and say that her partner thinks she was Mexican in another life because shecan cook it so good as if that were any proof, as if your family’s whole muddle of cultures and experiences can be boiled down to posole and refried beans, spanish rice, and you’d bet ten dollars she’s never even tasted a fried plantain.
you will keep quiet, you will not say anything, not even huh even though it feels like you have been hit in the gut by her feckless white privilege, not even knowing how such carelessness can chuck you even months later. you still think about it, sitting on the same stool, next to the same person who still does not know she did anything wrong at all. may never know, because who are you to tell her, you are so tired all the time of being angry, anyways—and how would you explain the vivisection of the border, the division of family lines with more and less privilege.
we can not even divide ourselves neatly into before immigration and after, or colonizer and colonized, or those resisting assimilation and those already assimilated, or those who pass and those who can’t. who would choose, who would be the judge, anyways? some academic in some ivory tower who teaches feminist “thought” some place say?
there are words for the way you have and haven’t assimilated, you learn this a few months later in your “culturally relevant” lifespan psychology course at community college, where all the white students take up so much space and bring with them their constant cultural baggage of that us and them culture, the same culture that writes news headlines about dark-skinned terrorists and those other countries to bomb, filling in for readers provocation and cause with religion and race as if difference were a kind of violence itself.
you are resistant but your father and mother were not given the choice, for them it was to assimilate or die trying, and so you speak only a few words of your abuela’s tongue, and you are learning how to cook dishes she never fed you before cancer ate her body. you are painfully conscious of life on la frontera. you feel hungry every time you catch wind of another queer latin@ person, sometimes you want to reach out and grab them by the wrist so you won’t feel so washed ashore, so left behind, because all you have is your father’s macho masculinity and colonization of your body (the nightmares that has wrought on you, still) and your mother’s admonishments to wear sunscreen, stop lisping, casual identity policing that you still hear in the back of your head. she just wanted the best for you, and she thought it best that you should pass.
you look in the mirror every day and wonder if you do pass. some days you do, forced to swallow your peers’ casual racism that you try to diminish with clumsy callouts that probably reveal the anger of your internal workings anyways; some days you don’t pass, loaded conversations at the bus stop about where your family is really from, or your partner’s mother’s comments about your hair and skin that will never wash away. it’s not that you’re looking for passing, it’s that you’re looking for your self amidst all the adjectives: queer-as-fuck anti-capitalist hyphen mixed race survivor transgender latin@/-o/-a boi bipolar slash switch anarchist-who-can’t-stand-most-other-anarchists brother-AND-sister. you are your mother’s son and your father’s daughter, your own worst enemy, the bad brain critical voice in the back of your head, and your best ally, the voluminous rapture that rings between your ears in manic frenzy as your hands write, write, write, floundering for some understanding.