“I wanna make a political statement for nightlife. It’s more than just getting drunk and having fun with your friends,” says Henry Rodriguez of Latin X, an event he and Katalya Bustos are organizing specifically for queer and trans people of color at the Phantom Room this Thursday night, July 30.
According to Bustos and Rodriguez, there is a real need for something like Latin X in San Antonio. Other cities have put on events celebrating queer people of color and trans people of color, but so far San Antonio hasn’t made a similar move.
The pair faced some difficulty in getting a venue to agree to host Latin X, so there is definitely a discomfort with spotlighting things more outside the mainstream. But this is exactly the point of nightlife as Rodriguez sees it, to reflect real world politics and issues.
He credits electronic artist Jam City who has commented before on the transgressive politics inherent in dance music and nightlife for inspiring his sentiment that nightlife should be a political statement. Rodriguez expanded on this idea. “Nightlife is a political statement because it came from the fact that a lot of people weren’t getting what they wanted from society…A lot of us that are going out, we’re just not getting something that we feel we need…A lot of queer and trans people of color, or just queer people generally, don’t necessarily have a home because they felt abandoned growing up, they were harassed by their own family. It gets pretty rough, and it’s unfortunate but that’s why we have friends and family and these events.”
Bustos sees Latin X as a “way of expressing where we think we fit in in nightlife.” While there are gay clubs and queer nights at straight bars, Rodriguez and Bustos both recognize a lack of inclusion or appreciation for queer and trans people of color at these scenes.
“When we go to gay nights at straight clubs, we don’t really feel welcome. We feel they’re more for the kind of gay people that are marching for marriage equality but not fighting for things to be trans inclusive… They cater to more of a mainstream gay crowd,” says Bustos. Typical queer nights tend to make the notion of queerness very “consumable for straight crowds,” but Bustos says Latin X is “for brown people, for trans people, for gender queer people” and will be “very in-your-face.”
Rodriguez wants a space where people won’t “be worried about getting bashed or being called names or having something racially charged happen,” something he has seen too much of in too short a period of time.
“Within this past summer alone, I’ve had friends gay bashed or racially slammed and told pretty awful things…and it’s really unfortunate that it happens but like I said, we’re in a red state and I feel like anytime a group of queer trans people of color are in masses together celebrating that, it’s pretty much like a big middle finger, a “fuck you” to the standard of normalcy that conservatism and hegemony has brought onto us.”
From music that will be played, to the artists being showcased, Bustos and Rodriguez are offering a distinct alternative to the queer nightlife scene that San Antonio offers.
Bustos promises music the exact opposite of the indie rock queer nights tend to revert to, “A lot of what’s gonna be playing at Latin X is gonna be really hardcore. Difficult for people to digest, but still danceable, stuff you can vogue to.” And Rodriguez is more than happy to showcase members of the LGBT POC community. “Witnessing my own trans female friends of color playing at venues and parties and totally killing it go unpaid, while there are whole lineups of male DJ’s, straight male DJ’s at that… I wanted to make an event that celebrated identity in a way that was equal. And I wanted to be able to be as inclusive as possible when it comes to identity with gender, sexuality, pretty much anything you have to offer.”
Rodriguez mentions that what he and Bustos are doing with Latin X is nothing they should be awarded for and indeed, in an ideal world a night spotlighting queer and trans people of color would be common, if not unneeded. But in the real world, progress demands a lot of effort. Bringing the politics back into nightlife is just one method for doing so, and is an effort worth spotlighting in itself.