Crossing the Spectrum Through Laughter

907

“Have you ever been with a Latina?” Marga Gomez said, peeking over her glasses as she purred and winked to the audience, joking about the only stereotype she’s okay with — a Latinas’ sexual confidence, which she says works in her favor when it comes to dating.

Stories of her dating life as a lesbian, her experience of being a Latina who doesn’t speak Spanish and stereotypes she’s faced when visiting states like Texas or Utah had the packed audience laughing in the one-night-only event, which brought comedian, writer and performer Marga Gomez to campus.

Overflowing with over 150 people this past Friday, the Oakes Learning Center was filled with students and community members, some of whom were standing outside the doors.

Gomez tours nationally at universities, nightclubs and political events and appeared on HBO’s “Comic Relief,” Comedy Central’s “Out There” and the PBS series “In the Life.”

In addition to her stand-up, she wrote and performed 10 solo plays. Her work earned her several honors including the GLAAD Media Award for Off-Broadway Theater, The Los Angeles “Ovation Award for Best Featured Actress,” the 2010 Bay Area Critics Circle Award for “Best Performance” and SF Bay Guardian’s “Best Comedian” award three times.

The student-initiated event brought together the six major resource centers — Cantú Queer Center, El Centro, African American Resource and Cultural Center, Asian American/Pacific Islander Resource Center, American Indian Resource Center and Women’s Center — for a night of laughter, collaboration and community building. Fourth-year student and Cantú Queer Center program coordinator Manee Burciaga emphasized the importance of connecting outside of the centers’ separate offices.

“We’re all a community and to come together for an event like this is just amazing,” Burciaga said. “Although [the ethnic resource centers] are all together in the same building, having an event like this is more relaxed. It’s a place where everyone can socialize.”

In addition to the six resource centers, the show was also sponsored by the Oakes College, Theta Pi Sigma, Familia X, Queer People of Color, the Dean of Students Office and CARE Council.

Tam Welch, who works with all six centers as a gender and sexuality specialist — a position created this past year — helped support the event. Gomez performed at UCSC several times before, Welch said.

“What’s unique about this [specific performance] is that it’s a collaborative event from all six resource centers, talking about the intersections around being a women, being a lesbian and a Latina,” Welch said.

Planning began in November in an effort to address the intersectionalities of being queer and being Latina, but third-year and co-coordinator Jessica Loya said this doesn’t mean Gomez’s stories aren’t relatable to a spectrum of identities. “Her stories and her comedy are about everyday life,” Loya said. “They’re about experiences most individuals can say ‘I’ve had that experience with my mother, my brother, my sister or my friend.’ Having it on a college campus is even better because it allows for the flow of communication to happen across different cultures.”

While Gomez’s comedy focuses on her own life, the Cantú Queer Center’s student program coordinator Manee Burciaga said comedy and laughter opens the doors for communication about larger stories affecting the community as well as for allies.

“She talks about issues through comedy that people can identify themselves with,” Burciaga said. “It makes it easier to talk about some of those issues if you’re laughing.”

Gender was a central theme of her show, with Gomez saying eventually the world will be genderless. She spoke about being mistaken as a man while visiting the Midwest and asking for tampons at 7-11 in a deep voice in an attempt to avoid awkwardness with the person who had mistaken her gender.

“It seems everyone’s nervous at what pronouns to use,” Gomez said in a post-show interview. “I do think it would be probable that in the future people will just stop with this because there are so many things making a person who they are.”