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Where Poetry Meets LGBTQ Youth Homelessness

Joshua Jennifer Espinoza interviews Christopher Soto

I FIRST MET Loma (a.k.a. Christopher Soto) in the midst of a poetry tour consisting entirely of trans writers traveling and reading their work across the West Coast. We first spoke awkwardly over some burritos in San Francisco and then got lost on the way to the queer collective where Loma was living in Oakland.

We’ve continued to work together since then, and I have been struck time and again by Loma’s generosity and dedication to supporting others, especially other writers of color. They have founded and edited various projects, such as Nepantla: A Journal Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color; they also co-founded The Undocupoets Campaign. Their newest chapbook, Sad Girl Poems, has recently come out from Sibling Rivalry Press. Upon reading the chapbook, I was struck by how these poems embrace the complexities of their author’s queer, trans, latinx subjectivity. They speak to a worldview in which the personal and the political are always intertwined.

Both Loma and I are young, trans, latinx poets from Southern California, and readingSad Girl Poems prompted me to think more about a relatively recent phenomenon that I’ve noticed in contemporary art and literature — the prevalence of the archetypical ‘sad girl’ alluded to in the book’s title. Embodied by singers like Lana Del Rey and theorized in essays by women artists and writers, the ‘sad girl’ is a form of resistance to society’s often misogynistic accounts of women’s emotions. At the same time, the figure of the ‘sad girl’ typically fits within white, heteronormative, cisgender paradigms. She fails, in other words, to account for the experiences of those who fall outside of those boundaries. Loma’s Sad Girl Poems express a sadness that emerges from the institutionally oppressive systems of white supremacy, capitalism, homophobia, and transphobia, and they show how sadness is often collective, rather than singular. Furthermore, instead of simply calling for empathy and understanding, they call upon readers to take meaningful action….”

JOSHUA JENNIFER ESPINOZA: In your preface, you talk about a ‘white girl sadness’ that posits itself as universally relatable and consumable. You specifically bring up Lana Del Rey as an example of this. I’ve definitely noticed her becoming more and more of a figure who stands in for a specific kind of sadness, one that is presented as playful and accessible — however, I’m not sure how accessible it truly is if its main appeal is to primarily middle-class, white women. What is your work’s relationship to this kind of sadness?

LOMA: My work is upset with the simplicity of ‘white girl sadness.’ My work is upset because it is not afforded such simplicity. I want to live simply, on the beach with a Coca-Cola, crying about my ex-boyfriend. I don’t want to be in a state of perpetual sadness, crying about the ways that racism, classism, homophobia are murdering my communities.

The poor are never allowed to hurt in private; we must perform and display our sadness in order to survive. We must let our sadness be seen by broader community so that we can get help. We must beg for jobs and food-stamps and scholarships.

In a sense, my understanding of white girl sadness is that it often positions itself in alignment with second-wave feminist perspectives, which don’t provide space for the multiplicity of oppression faced by other groups affected by patriarchal systems of violence, such as trans immigrants of color. I am interested in understanding the different ways that ‘sad girls’ display and perform their sadness. How is my sadness different from images of ‘sad white girls’ which I have seen again and again in popular culture, such as Lana Del Rey or Adele?”

Read the full interview @ L.A. Review of Books


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