Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

There Are Many Rooms

Academic journal article Pennsylvania Literary Journal

There Are Many Rooms

Article excerpt

"What does the house, the body, know?"1

Pat Mora, House of Houses, 1997

"How long will the bed that we made together hold us there?"2

Timothy Liu, Burnt Offerings, 1995

In my parents' house, there were separate, unnamed rooms.3 My parents and their four children shared the six rooms. Our insatiable hungers, thirsts, and longings increased as we grew older and time sped faster as we zoomed through the rooms. Each room had its norms for masculine and feminine behaviors. The shabby, shot-gun house was not enough as we sought many other rooms. Tomorrow banged on the front and back screen doors of my parents' house. Our lives beckoned us elsewhere: we wanted rooms other than those in which we had lived so constricted and scripted. Admittedly, I wanted out to name who I was, accept myself, and seek affirmation.

As the youngest in a family of four children, my memories are my own and shared in varying degrees with my siblings and parents. In time, the body remembers the rooms we inhabited and shared, albeit not happily at times. Regarding memory, Cherríe Moraga admits, "The fiction of our lives-how we conceive our histories by heart-can sometimes provide a truth far greater than any telling of a tale frozen to the facts."4 Hurdles, silences, and hard living of everyday affairs appeared in our lives and with hardly any guides. My body, yearning, longing, and desires were limited to an enclosed space of the past, and as a result I rejected my queer selfhood and the queer bedroom until the coast was clearer and safer for my coming out to myself and others.

The rooms of my parents' house had random periods of creativity and resistance. While there were restrictions and limits I learned about being queer, my parents' house fostered inclusiveness in other ways, which was due in large part to my parents from apparently similar but ultimately different backgrounds. Whereas my father grew up in a rural area as a Texas Mexican and later abandoned grade school, my mother was born and raised in Tamaulipas, México, and had taught grade school in Ciudad Victoria. My father was a pipefitter, while my mother was a homemaker. My parents' journeys, and later their very own children's, were in opposition to family and social norms that included gender, economic, ethnic, political, and sexual identities and taboos. Difference was suspect, unwelcomed: both in our house and in societies we encountered. Ostracism led to banishment from homes and disappearances of relatives who fled to larger cities or westward for liberation.

Of the many rooms in my parents' house, my siblings and I entered some more freely than others, and we exited the rooms when it was time to lead other lives. In these rooms, sexuality and sex were hidden and never on display. The mind and body were to avoid temptation, yet the brave outdoors tempered our dreams and imagination with competing voices. For instance, female voices were not held in highest esteem, while male voices were authoritative and repressive. There wasn't ample room for all we were and all we wanted to become in the presence of fears and dictated behaviors and norms. Therefore, we walked grandly out the door, seeking more of ourselves by abandoning the aches, struggles, and violence. First to flee were my two older sisters, and I followed one in our pursuit of University Avenue. There had to be other rooms, other ways of life to name ourselves. We sought to find ourselves elsewhere in other rooms, in other voices, in other spaces, in another time: to search for our sense of self and meaning.

Other Rooms

If the rooms in which we have dwelled, imagined our bodies, and lived struggles to survive and become ourselves (who we meant ourselves to become], then we must write our sexual bodies to resist silence and invisibility and to assert our dignity. Unlike the rooms in my parents' house, our histories (oral and written alike] make more room for those who shall follow and lead us toward equality, equity, and access for all. …

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