By Hailey Murphy
On October 19, students of all identities gathered in Miller Hall 138 to listen to queer femme Xicano Ruben Angel. More commonly known by their blog name, Queer Xicano Chisme, Angel is a writer, blogger and activist who uses social media as their platform.
Queer Xicano Chisme came to be in the wake of the Orlando Pulse shooting. Angel noticed patterns of erasure in the media. Specifically, they saw that the victims were either LGBTQ or Xicanx– never both.
Angel was disappointed in the media’s portrayal, so they started posting on social media. They reached out to intersectional folks to hold healing spaces and post about the media’s lack of acknowledgement.
The posts started gaining traction. Angel started devoting himself to the posts. It’s here that Queer Xicano Chisme came to be.
The blog’s content promotes chisme– gossip– as a positive force of change.
They’re often criticized for his use of chisme in a positive light. Chisme is often used as a means to harm people. However, Angel believes chisme is more complex than that. While they don’t deny it’s harmful nature, they also believe chisme is more about intent. For them, it’s a means to a positive end.
Chisme can also be used as a form of healing. You can find relief in expressing frustration and anger. Additionally, as Angel cited, chisme can be used to spread the word about people or spaces that are unsafe.
“Chisme is a way for us to organize, for to pass down knowledge… Chisme is intangible truth,” Angel said.
In short, Angel doesn’t subscribe to respectability politics. They believe that you cannot enact change by being nice and loving the oppressor. Instead, Angel learned that the way to teach people is “a la mala.”
This means enacting change by frankness, even if it’s cruel. For Angel’s purposes, it means calling people out for their problematic tendencies. It’s a tactic that puts some people off. But Angel sees this as a job that needs to be done.
Angel uses their platform to acknowledge a variety of social issues. They particularly focus on intersectional identities. This cause stems both from the victims of the Pulse shooting and from their time at UC Davis, when they were part of Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan (MEChA).
Having been kicked out of their home after coming out, Angel looked forward to being in a supportive, safe space in which they could perform social justice work.
However, when they started participating, they realized that MEChA wasn’t as inclusive as they hoped. It was still being run mostly by cisgender men. Womxn, queer, and trans folks, despite their hard work, weren’t as acknowledged. Their ideas were shut down, they didn’t receive due credit and they weren’t properly supported.
“I saw that I was still not respectable enough to have my voice be taken seriously,” Angel said.
This is the case historically not just for MEChA but for many organizations. In spaces created for a specific marginalized identity, different identities aren’t always accepted. Folks with intersecting identities, thus, can struggle to find a truly welcoming space.
Angel believes this needs to change. They want social justice work to put intersectional identities at the forefront in a way that doesn’t tokenize them, but instead lets them know that their identity is as valuable as any other identity.
Queer Xicano Chisme also discusses issues that are not affecting the Xicanx community, but within the Xicanx community itself. They believe that, when it comes to systems of oppression, the finger is only ever pointed at white people.
“But what are we doing to also hold our communities accountable? What are we doing as non-black people of color to confront our anti-blackness?” Angel asked. “It’s uncomfortable to think of ourselves as oppressors a lot of the time… [But] we can oppress people, we can be fucked up, even as oppressed people.”
Angel is also a strong supporter of survivor advocacy, saying that survivor advocacy isn’t taken seriously enough in all walks of life. They believe this to be particularly true for queer and trans people of color, who are often put into traumatizing situations due to their identities.
They feel that surviving and healing shouldn’t be thought of as singular events. Healing is a constant process, and trauma cannot be fixed overnight. Sometimes people think of healing as final, as if trauma isn’t residual. Angel believes we must get rid of this notion and provide survivors with more support.
In fact, Angel wants to emphasize community care within social justice movements. They believe the best way to really get work done is to prioritize the care of others and the care of the self within a movement. Otherwise, folks have a tendency to get tired.
As college students, we can all relate to burnout. Between school, work, friendships and activism, there’s a lot going on. We try to do it all, but in the process, we sometimes forget that we need to take of ourselves.
In devoting themselves to social justice work, Angel developed a savior complex. They wanted to help everyone all the time. But that only led to exhaustion and an aversion to social justice spaces.
Upon realizing that they were stretching themselves thin, Angel changed their outlook. They started prioritizing community care, accountability and healing. It was then that Angel started to enjoy and appreciate what good had come from their work.
Elizabeth Perez Garcia, the Womxn’s Identity Resource Center Assistant Coordinator for Events, related to Angel’s experience. Upon listening to them, she realized that she needed to change her priorities, too.
“If you’re not healthy, you’re not going to be able to see the fruits of your work… If you burnout, that’s where you stay,” Garcia said.
This is just one example of the lasting effect Angel had on Western students. They made the audience laugh, they told relatable stories and they talked about the hottest memes. More importantly, however, their message promoted a more inclusive, more personal, healthier way of going about social justice.