#RedefiningProfessionalism above all things means being proud. It goes beyond notions of Rainbow Capitalism. It acknowledges that ‘love wins everytime’ means that the mountain to get there can be tough, discouraging and full of expereinces of discrimination. Community reflections and individual experiences cannot be left out of this conversation. Black Freedom Factory is honored to listen.
This Pride Series was created during the month of June in observance, but will exist indefinitely because every month is #PrideMonth for our community. 30 Days is not enough to credit, understand and uplift a plethora of amazing identities.
Meet Anel Flores and Erika Casasola – two bad-ass individuals who make an inspiring couple in San Antonio, and are in their 14th year of union. Anel Flores and Erika Casasola both advocate for LGBTQIA+ resources and healing through the many hats they wear in the community. From being a Realtor by day and a playwriting-author by night, Anel Flores describes her love for Erika in a way that saved her. Erika is a queer femme in service to the community as a Curandera Practitioner, leading pathways to self-healing and Platica. Both share their story and vision of #RedefiningProfessionalism.
What does Pride mean to you?
“Is a month enough? No. It’s nice to have a month to celebrate, I guess. But it’s almost sad that we get a month to be ourselves – to be queer. It is because we are oppressed that this month is even celebrated.”
I just hope that future generations don’t forget how hard we fought, and that they don’t just let our struggle go. I hope that they aren’t under the impression that we don’t have to do the work anymore when we need to. I hope that in the future – when our freedom of speech is threatened – they can stand up for the future generations of theirs.”
“It sucks that Pride Celebrations are sometimes only one day. Then you realize that it’s more than that – it’s visibility, it’s protest, it’s about police brutality, it’s about violence, so many things. Homophobia and Femicides. There are so many tragedies woven into why Pride even started and we know that from Stone Wall and the riots for queer liberation. I feel proud and that’s why I think about Sylvia Rivera and the bad-ass Brown and Black Women doing their thing every day. Fuck yes.
The other complicated aspect is rainbow capitalism, like Wells Fargo who bankrupted half of the country out of their houses because they are Poor, Queer, People of Color, and Wells Fargo ends up at the front of the Pride Parade, so that sucks. Then you have a bunch of companies that don’t give any money to or have alliances within their coorperation for Queer people, but yet they’re at the Pride Parade also. It’s so complicated and deep but – Pride is fun. Regardless, we come to Pride every year.”
“We have been together going on 14 years – we first met at Carmen De La Calle, I first heard Anel’s laugh and I invited her and her friend to sit down, and that night she didn’t take the hint.” – Erika
“I thought she was straight.” – Anel
“Then, we ran into each other again, and I literally jumped in front of her and grabbed her by the wrist thinking ‘you’re not escaping this time.’ I told her we met last week, then I asked her, ‘Are you Gay, Straight?’ and she replied, ‘I’m a Lesbian.’ We were just so present in each other’s space that night. And we’ve been inseparable ever since.” – Erika
“Two days later, I asked her to go to Woodlawn Park and Erika told me ‘my babies come first, before anyone else.’ and I said ‘My writing comes first. That is my activism.’ and we had an understanding. In my mind at the time, it was hard for me to discipline myself and through our family I was able to teach them how being a writer works, and they were able to teach me how a family works.
Before I met her, I was just done. I hated everyone and thought everyone was selfish and wanted to take my work and run. I was in a cycle of activism that was also super abusive – that insinuated that I always had to be suffering. Then to meet her and be able to say – ‘even just being family is activism’. We raised our girls to be fucking fierce.
We are always othered, queer people are always othered. So those things are huge – to foster powerful and spiritual love – was like wow. I actually had a heart again when I met her.” – Anel
What does Queer love mean to you, and is the notion of ‘Queer Love’ radical?
“Just holding her hand everyday is radical. To love is absolutely radical, especially when to be a loving, heartfelt, teary emotional person is seen as a weakness. To love is already radical – then to love in this queer world that hasn’t been supported and has been denied so many different things – is even more radical.
When we were leaning up against the wall for the pictures, and the wind came and I looked at her face, I just thought, ‘where have you been?’ We’ve been spinning and going so fast. The pureness of love is not radical, it’s just there. But when everything has been coming at you, you can’t feel the wind because you’re fighting the outside. That’s when it becomes radical. As queer people, we exist in the world on alert.
Love is radical in a beautiful way, because when we are here in this queer space, the privlege that we have as queer people to create our own models of love – how we kiss, how we hold hands, how we play, how we make love, how we fantisize – we can do anything we want because nothing can restrict us when we are already on the outside of patriarchal, heiracal models.”
“Queer love isn’t just romantic, it’s also chosen family. Not everybody whose queer has that privlege, because family in itself is a privlege. And that is radical in itself. It’s a beautiful thing that people call radical because they don’t let it in, they don’t allow it. The constraints of patriarchal bullshit, if taken out of context, and seeing it for what it is, it wouldn’t be radical. It would be like the wind. You breathe it in and out without thinking about it, but you still appreciate it. To me that is what queer love is. Just being in this world makes it radical.”
Why is #RedefiningProfessionalism proud and not rainbow capitalism?
“If you compare capitalism to being proud, the difference is we are supporting our queer community by investing and supporting each other instead of one single person or coorperation. We are very conscious of who we hire and give business to, and are proud to do so because the domino effect of investing our capital into queerness and our communities goes a long way.”
“When I left education, Rosie Castro and I chatted and I told her I am going to leave education to be a Realtor in order to support my family. I expressed the guilt I was feeling leaving behind education and teaching, and she told me, ‘You can’t feel bad. You’re gonna be a realtor to help your community buy land and get their stuff back and build capital. And help them have capital to support the right politicians, the right votes and put money into the people you need to help support.’ And that’s what I’ve been doing, that’s what we’ve been doing with our businesses. It’s our dream to be able to say, ‘You need that? We can give it to you.’ It’s a form of commerce that doesn’t always involve bills – it’s an equal exchange of making each other stronger. Feeding our families. It’s important. Acts of service.”
What do you want to see from the queer community in San Antonio?
“I would love to see the community heals themselves. In a natural way, without having to go to other extremes, being able to heal each other. That’s what I do as a Curandera because that’s the only way you’re going to be whole for yourself. Then with that you end up healing your ancestors as well, future generations follow but it all begins with you. Learn how to accept love and let it in. You deserve it just for being you. Once you have that – you’re unstoppable.”
“In order to party, we have to be healed. Erika said it. It’s really complicated to be Brown, Queer, Femme, Poor, a Mom, Butch – I am not complaining. I am proud and grateful to be the many things that I am, but in the many years of activism there are so many people that are pitted against each other, but nonetheless we need to keep going to Pride celebrations. I do, and it heals me. Then to heal each other – like the Pride Center SA, and Esperanza Peace and Justice Center and organizations in San Antonio that have grown, that help us come together. I think about the day there used to be one. Ask for help in the community – I want to see more encouraging the LGBTQIA+ community to lean on one another. Learn how to say yes.
We need to heal from our losses, grieving and violence on the street. We need more queer spaces that are healthy to walk into, that are strictly queer. And it’s okay to say that – it’s okay to carve out that boundary.”