"I just think there is so much power in identifying as biracial, especially if you're biracial with white. It's ok to simultaneously work on yourself as a white person or partially white person, while then also understanding your non-dominant race simultaneously.
How would you identify yourself?
OK, So my name is Marissa Ramos. I’m bi racial. Part Chicana, Part White. Ummm, and I'm a lesbian. I'm a dyke. I like the word dyke better. Those are some of my identities.
You mention biracial. What has it been like balancing two racial identities?
Being at the University of Houston, I have been concentrating on what it means to be biracial, and how do I fit into conversations about race. It has been weird and confusing cause sometimes, when there's event for POC and I’m like, am I that? Because parts of me that are, and parts of me that aren't. I really like the term biracial because it shows I recognize that privilege of being half white and having a light skin tone, but I also have my dad's side which is very Mexican, and came from very humble beginnings. I have that story of my grandparents coming here from Mexico and it is a weird balance I’m still trying to figure it out.
Where did you learn to aspire for whiteness?
I think it really started in the church. So I went to Clear Lake Church of Christ, a very conservative church. Very, very white. Just the mentors in my life were all white. The people I was surrounded by were white. While at school it was actually very diverse and I had a lot of friends, but I didn't really associate with them as much as I did with the whiteness going on at my church. A lot of that had to do with purity and Jesus. Those kinds of ideas, you know?
I have been at UH for like two years now. I transferred. Long story short, I went to Abilene Christian University for a couple of years, then came out, then left. ACU is white. I was really trying to aim for whiteness. Not only in my complexion and the way I present myself, but also just in being successful or independent. Those things associated with whiteness.
May I ask about your current standing with the church?
Before coming out, I stopped identifying as a Christian. I took some upper level bible classes at Abilene Christian University and I just learned a lot more about how unreliable Christianity is, and how much I just don't agree with it anymore. Now me and Nico are notorious. We are just like very anti-Christian. We're not gonna tell everyone that, but yeah. I don’t go to church. I don't like engaging with the Christian religion anymore.
I also no longer belong to the Catholic Church and argue with myself over whether or not I should stay to expand their way of thinking. To have a QTPOC be a face for others. Do you agree or disagree, and how do you think we should go about changing the views of the church?
That is a good question. I actually led the first ally training that ACU ever did. It was when I was living here, but I went back because someone asked me to. It was such a beautiful experience. I actually cried after.
ACU actually doesn't allow LGBTQ+ groups to form on campus. You can’t be gay and work for the school. It's against the rules. It's a very conservative university. So there's parts of me that cater to people like that and seek to educate, but then again, I don't go to my church anymore. I don't fuck around anymore.
There was a time when I thought it was my duty to go back and educate people, but that got really painful. Now I don’t know. It's a back and forth. I kinda leave that to straight allies who are Christian and talk to their straight people.
During your introduction I was attracted to how you enjoy claiming the word dyke while others may find the term really offensive. Care to expand on why? Has it always been a positive association for you?
These are my favorite questions! Awesome!
So when I first came out, I was like, I kinda like girls. That was just a couple of years ago, maybe three. That started off with wanting to be called gay, but don't call me lesbian because lesbian’s gross. I don't wanna wear ties and cargo pants, and now I wear ties and cargo pants.
Then it got to I'm a lesbian to I'm a dyke. For me, it was a trajectory of me further identifying with my queer self. Being more non-normative in the ways I identify myself. What I tell people is that no straight man, or not many straight men, is going to google search dyke porn. They will most likely google lesbian porn. The word lesbian is so sexualized, which isn't a bad thing, but it's also so male centric in our culture. That is why I like the word dyke. I'm not here for any man. Haha, you know?
And so yeah, that's why I like the term dyke. And when other straight or queer people call me a dyke, or make jokes about being a dyke, it actually validates me, and makes me feel loved and accepted. If they're doing it out of good nature of course.
I have this internship at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, and the doctor I work for is really nice. I told her that I identify as a dyke and she’ll joke around with me.
“You don’t look so dykey today.”
It makes me feel so validated. She sees my identity, and is so comfortable that she can joke around with it. I know that isn’t the experience for everyone, but that's why I love the word dyke so much. It means I belong in this community. It means I’m not bi-curious or dabbling around with my sexuality. It means I’m here, and these are my people.
Congrats on your internship! What are you doing at MD Anderson right now?
So I am studying speech pathology at The University of Houston, but I’m just a research intern there. I do a lot of boring data entry and stuff, but I also get to shadow Dr. Hucheson and help her with videostroboscopy. It is when they put a camera down their throat and you can see their vocal folds vibrate.
I know. I love it! She let me do a strobe on her once. That’s what we call it.
Yum. Strobes. Ohh, let me strobe you.
Totally sexual, but no. We work with head and neck cancer patients, and make sure they can breathe well and speak fine, and that they’ll swallowing and stuff.
I’m so interested in how people balance their passions and day jobs. You are passionate about activism, and I want to know how you plan to incorporate that into your future life, especially as a speech pathologist.
Yeah! These are great questions. So in the past, I was an intern for the Texas Freedom Network which does a lot of awesome liberal work, and I was also an intern for the Texas Wins Campaign, which is a campaign for nondiscrimination protection. So I dabble in that too. How I'm bringing these things together is, speech pathologist talk about disability in a very wrong way. There are many speech pathologist who work with kids, or particularly autistic kids, and I use identity first language because that's the new wave how people.
This year I want to develop a workshop for speech pathology students on how we talk about non-normative identities in the field. I wouldn't use that language in the workshop, but how we talk about autism, deafness, people of color. How language is really important as we’re treating patients and giving therapy. Like autistic kids need help communicating better, but they don't need to be trained like dogs to look you in the eye. You know, there's a lot of disconnect how speech pathologist treat kids. They try to normalize them instead of accepting their vast differences. I’m kind of anti-assimilationist in that way. That's how I plan to bring my social justice/queer side of me into speech pathology.
OMG! Yas! I totally believe in you.
Going back to your bi-racial identity, I’m wondering what standards are projected onto you from the Mexican side and the white side. What pressures do you feel, and how you do accommodate?
I think my friends joke around about me being spicy, or having hot Latino blood or whatever. In the past I found it funny, but I think more recently I’ve thought about how much people view my identity through my race, and how it’s kinda weird when white people do that. I think a lot of POC experience just like, umm, the thing of anything not white about us is the thing we don't like as much.
I don’t know if this totally relates to just my queer identity, but I was just telling Nico. So I had this beach wrap that had Frida Kahlo on it. I love Frida Kahlo and her work is amazing, and she is known for her eyebrows, and my brother who's my half brother, who is white, was making a joke with me.
“Oh Marissa, do you like Frida Kahlo because she has the same eyebrows as you?”
I was like, yes! For me, it defies this white ideal of hairlessness you know? I realized recently that the things I don’t like about myself are the most Mexican or Latina things about me. Now I'm trying to like change that narrative for myself. So yeah, does that make sense?
Yeah! It totally makes sense.
I think I need to do more research on how my race relates to my queerness. Right now I focus so much on queerness first, and now I’m focusing on race. Really need to connect the two.
It’s a journey I’m still figuring out.
Also, I believe the queer community is bombarded with questions. What is one question you wish people asked you more often?
Well, when it's QTPOC or just queer people, I wish people just asked questions you're asking me. Like ask me to describe my identity instead of asking if I’m Latino, cause I think a lot of times people either assume I’m white or Latina. They don't allow me time to explain how complicated it is. Even when I’m applying for a job or whatever. The sheet will say white, non-Hispanic, then Hispanic? I’m simultaneously both those things so I don’t know. So I like having time to explain why I identify as biracial, and why I identify as a dyke instead of other words people might use to describe themselves. Yeah. I don’t know.
I've been asked a lot of crazy, stupid questions in my life. But that is specific to people who are safe to talk with. I don't just want some white church lady to come up to me and ask that.
Church Ladies. Yes!
And what advice do you have for other queer, biracial people finding themselves?
I think one thing I’m teaching myself is that it’s completely ok to identify as biracial and explain that to people. I think there is so much erasure that happens with that identity. I know a lot of biracial people who identify as Latina, which is perfectly fine. They should identity however they want to identify. I just think there is so much power in identifying as biracial, especially if you're biracial with white. It's ok to simultaneously work on yourself as a white person or partially white person, while then also understanding your non-dominant race simultaneously. I am still trying to figure that out because I can still see my biases because of my white side, while also figuring out how many shitty things people have said to me as a person of color. I think that is a unique combination when we’re talking about race. How can I be both us and them at the same time?
Thank you so much sharing Marissa! You are so fantastic!
I love it! We need to have a podcast. Queers of three Dollar Bills.