Lenguas del Valle: Growing up queer, checking boxes and visions of the future

October 18, 2019 /

By Joseph Avila / Coachella Unincorporated

Author’s Note: The sun shone bright against a bleach blue sky when I met up with Ruth Garcia (They/Them/Theirs), a close friend and 24 year old queer non-binary resident of Coachella. We sat across from what locals call Hidden Park, an isolated pocket of grass, cement, sand and benches tucked behind the houses of the neighborhood and reachable through pathways that you could drive right past and not think twice about it.

Born in Indio and raised in Coachella, Ruth graduated from Coachella Valley High School and went on to finish college at UCLA in 2016, majoring in Classical Civilizations where they studied Ancient Greek and Roman Literature and minoring in Latin. They currently work for a hospital sterilizing surgical instruments in a sterilization processing department and have worked previously as a scribe in an emergency room. Their biggest ambition is to continue working in the healthcare field as a physician or a surgeon.

Before the interview we briefly talked about how their experience in the Humanities, STEM and healthcare fields made them more appreciative of the empathetic qualities that the Humanities offers, saying, “In healthcare you are working with people, right? So, you do really have to understand people and not just at a physical level but at a mental, emotional and psychological level and I feel like being able to analyze literature helps with that.”

From behind the dark frames of their glasses, Ruth, a Scorpio, took their time soaking in the questions before answering them. What follows is our brief interview about growing up queer, checking boxes and the future.

Joseph: Tell me what it was like to grow up in the ECV being queer and non-binary?

Ruth: Wow (laughs). Looking back at my childhood and upbringing, I knew I was queer, I knew I was non-binary but I didn’t want to accept it because I didn’t know these terms. I just knew that I was different and not being able to name how you’re feeling caused a lot of angst so I was a very angry and moody child growing up. You have that and you add this culture of intolerance [of LGBTQ+ folks in the ECV] and it makes it very difficult so honestly, I can’t really tell you a happy memory of my childhood because all I remember is the bad. I feel like that’s very sad. I feel like I was robbed of a childhood so I don’t really like talking about it because there really isn’t anything nice to say because I attribute my childhood to just bad memories.

Joseph: That’s real and it’s raw and sad how common it is amongst a lot of us where we have a lot of trauma associated with our childhood and we don’t look back on it fondly.

Ruth: Yeah, it really is. Even in high school I didn’t really like the person I was because that’s where I really started looking at women more and was like “Wow, I really like you,” but I was with a man at the time so I was like, “That’s not okay, right?” (Laughs) I guess the only thing I can say to sum it up is: teenage angst, anger and sadness.

Joseph: What are things or places nowadays that fulfill you and make you happy?

Ruth: Being around like minded individuals really helps. It’s very validating — that makes me happy. Obviously, being with my partner, being with my family, even though I haven’t confirmed that this isn’t a phase like they thought it would be, they still know that I’m queer. They don’t know that Diana is my partner but they have a feeling that she is. They’re the type of people that are just like, Lo que se ve no se pregunta, you know, Juna Ga? (Laughs) They don’t really say much. They don’t understand it but they accept it so that helps a lot. It makes hanging with my family much more enjoyable. I’m very much a home body so being around friends, being at home is when I’m my happiest.

Joseph: Tell me what your thoughts are on “Gender.”

Ruth: Gender is exhausting. I don’t know what to say about gender. It’s weird that we can only choose two at a sociological level. Personally, I don’t like either. I wouldn’t identify myself as female or male. I just understand that I’m a soul in a female-presenting vessel. I knew as a child I didn’t really feel like a girl but I never really felt like a boy either. I grew up thinking “I’m weird and I just have to accept that I am a woman.” But then I learned about what non-binary was and this was not too long ago. Maybe I was 23 when I found out what it was. I heard someone talking about their experiences and what they felt it meant to be non-binary and they were describing something that was essentially what I was feeling growing up. I remember thinking, This is… me? Is this what that is called? I really started accepting it myself a couple of months ago and then I came out on Twitter as non-binary and it’s helped me alot. I really feel at peace with myself. Slowly I’m starting to accept who I am and I’m starting to feel happy, finally.

Joseph: What does your ideal vision of the future look like? 

Ruth: My ideal world is one where labels don’t matter and I do understand why they matter, especially for trans people, but speaking on like society’s level I would love for labels not to matter so much. Like, why is it important for me to always check a box that says I am female or that I would prefer not to say or that I’m Latinx or Chicanx or Hispanic. Why is that necessary? When I think about it, I understand why it’s necessary but my ideal situation would be for a world to not constantly have to ask that. And if it didn’t matter then why would you have an option that says “prefer not to answer”, right? Why does it matter? That would be my ideal situation and I guess living in a world where we can all live under they/them pronouns — I’m so tired of being misgendered at work (laughs).

Joseph: How about for the ECV?

Ruth: Ideally, I would want the ECV to have all the resources that it needs and that means access to healthcare, having healthcare professionals that you wouldn’t have to wait 3 months to see, access to clean water, access to just having a livable enjoyable lifestyle. I know that’s very superficial but these are the basic things that people here just don’t have. Also, trying to educate people on LGBTQ issues so that maybe we can start that culture of acceptance that I so heavily desire.

Lenguas del Valle is a series of interviews from Eastern Coachella Valley LGBTQ+ residents that offer a glimpse into their perspectives, passions and the things that move them.