Why Buffy the Vampire Slayer is still important 20 years later

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The proudest moment of my career (so far) happened earlier last month when VICE published my piece titled “How Willow from ‘Buffy’ Helped Me Come Out.”

Not only did the piece go up the morning of the 20th anniversary of the television premiere of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it was also featured at the very top of their website for the entire day. Seriously, that’s a HUGE honor for any writer but especially awesome since it was my first piece for them.

The thing that was even more touching to me, however, is that I was able to honor of one of my all-time favorite TV shows in this very special way.

The truth is that BTVS (as we fans frequently call it) has held a special place in my heart for a very long time. Not only did the show legitimately help me come out, but it generally left an impact on me that has lasted through the rest of my life.

When I first heard of BTVS, I wasn’t impressed. I never really watched it when it first started but got into it at age 16 when a couple of my high school friends became pretty obsessed. Soon enough, I was driving around in my car with friends as we all sang along to the musical episode’s soundtrack at the top of our lungs.

I remember endlessly debating the Team Angel vs. Team Spike situation (#TeamAngelForever), and grieving when the show ended just a year before I graduated high school – which was just a year after I discovered it. In a way, it felt as if BTVS entered and left my life far too soon.

What I didn’t know at the time, however, was how much impact Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles, Angel and the rest of the gang would have on my life.

It’s no understatement that BTVS helped to solidify some friendships for me at school (and in the years that followed), but the biggest impact that the show had (besides helping me come out, of course) is what many girls and women saw in Joss Whedon’s work – a kick-ass heroine who could be funny, pretty, awkward, loud and all-around awesome.

Although I always related more to Willow (hello, I even have red hair now!) than Buffy, I could still love and appreciate Buffy for everything that she was. She was a great leader and phenomenal title character. The show was funny and quirky and spoke to my adolescent and teen self in a way that I found freeing.

I don’t know how Joss managed to do it, but I felt more and more like myself the more I watched Buffy stumble through life with a wealth of responsibilities. She didn’t always succeed in picking out the right outfit, but she always saved the world.

When I read the recent issue of Entertainment Weekly featuring Sarah Michelle Gellar and David Boreanaz on the cover, I was thrilled to travel back into the Buffyverse to read how the cast (all except Giles!) reflect on the show 20 years later and what it has meant to them. Joss even calls Buffy and Angel the greatest love story ever told, so take THAT, #TeamSpike!

A lot has happened in the world since the show first premiered on March 10, 1997. But while it may not be the happiest place right now, it’s important to recognize all of the positive changes that have happened too. For me, the biggest (and happiest) is the nationwide legalization of gay marriage.

I remember doing a big report on gay marriage and civil unions during my senior year of high school, in Fall of 2003 just after the show ended, when very few states even wanted to talk about that kind of thing. And now it’s nationwide law! That’s amazing, truly.

For the past year, I’ve actually been re-watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with my boyfriend Adam. It took us almost 11 months to get through the show, but it was sooooo worth it to share something I truly love with the person I love most in the world. Being a big Joss Whedon fan already, he loved it of course.

But more than that, watching the show with him this past year served as a great reminder for me about why I loved it in the first place. Of course, like most devoted fans, I’ve gone through the entire series 4 or 5 times already. Watching it all once more was a joy and, as the 20th anniversary came and went, I’m glad to have spent time with the Scooby Gang once more.

After all, if it wasn’t for them, I might have never come into my own as a proud bisexual woman as early as I did. And that’s something I will forever be grateful for.

To read my piece “How Willow from ‘Buffy’ Helped Me Come Out” on VICE, click here!

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What I learned about Latinos (and myself) when I moved out of Florida

Note: This is 3 of 3 essays that was written for and published on The Flama last year. However, the site has since shut down (mostly) and my essay has disappeared… But the internet gods allowed me to find it in its entirety, so I am re-posting it here since a) it was fun to write & b) I live in Florida again and it’s… well, different. Enjoy!

I was 17 years old when I first made real friends with another person of Hispanic heritage, and in my early 20s when I made friends with another Latina.

That might come as a surprise, but the truth is that it took me a really long time to realize that not all Latinos share everything in common. An embarrassingly long time, actually.

My family moved to Miami, Florida, when I was just eight years old. I didn’t know much about the world, but like all kids what I knew came directly from my parents. Living in Little Havana, and later in Southwest Florida, the only Latinos I got to know were the other Cubans that were friends with my parents.

If you came to my house growing up, you’d probably find me snacking on guayaba y queso crema on crackers, helping my mom clean while Celia Cruz played in the background or yelling at the top of my lungs for my little brother to come over.

“I’m not yelling, I’m just Cuban!” was the motto of the house, and one that I had to gently explain to any friends that came over for dinner. No, really, we can’t talk any quieter. Sorry.

But for all of the things I loved about my family and culture, I never quite connected to other Cubans on a deeper level. Sure, we all enjoyed La Caja China for Christmas and cortaditos are a way of life, but the Cubans I knew were mostly papi’s friends and they, like my dad, were a bit machista. And Republican. And I didn’t understand why.

In my young experience, I was the only Cubanita I knew that was a proud Democrat who didn’t really love coffee (shhhhhhh!) and had a pretty huge aversion to the subtle racism and sexism spouted by some of the people who surrounded me. Somehow, I began to associate those traits with all Latinos.

It wasn’t until I met the whitest Cuban I’ll ever know, and the guy who quickly became by gay BFF, senior year of high school that I started to suspect I wasn’t the only one.

The next year, I moved to New York City for school… and things quickly started to change.

I started to meet other kinds of Latinos. Latinos who spoke Portuguese (thank you, Brazil!) and who didn’t have a Virgen de Cardidad del Cobre statue in their home. Latinos who loved spicy food and introduced me to tacos. Latinos who were second or third generation and those whose Spanish sounds a little different from my own. Seriously, what’s with this órale business?

In New York, I was able to meet Latinos who were fellow feminists, who introduced me to bachata and who argued with me about why tequila is superior to rum (as if!). Slowly but surely, I learned the differences between mangú, fufú and mofongo.

Most of all, I started to meet Latinos who were my age and who shared my open mindedness and values when it came to politics, and life in general.

It’s no surprise to me that the two Cuban presidential candidates for 2016 are Republicans, but it’s a fact that I honestly kind of hate. They remind me of the Latinos I grew up with in Florida, and not the diverse group of pro-gay rights, pro-women’s rights and pro-immigration Latinos who I am proud to call my friends today.

When I go back to Florida now, after almost twelve years of living in New York City, it feels as if I am stepping back into my youth. I’ve found new things to appreciate about the state now, like the occasional fun-filled visit to South Beach or having a truly authentic cubano sandwich that I can’t find anywhere else, but it still doesn’t feel like home. It never did.

Thankfully, some of my parent’s views on politics have changed. But my papi will never stop supporting Rubio and I’ll never stop hating his conservative politics.

Instead, I consider myself pretty darn lucky to live in a city where I can interact with all kinds of different Latinos. Some that grew up religious, and some that didn’t. Some that are a little conservative, but most that are socially liberal. In fact, Latinos tend to lean a little more to the left on issues like abortion and homosexuality – especially when they’re second or third generation. As a bisexual Latina myself, this is a pretty important distinction.

And so, while visiting Florida isn’t as much of a pain as it was when I lived there, I’m glad to have grown up in FL if only because the Latinos I met helped me to realize who I am and who I’m not. And the Latinos I’ve met since have given me a better sense of community and pride than I ever could have hoped for growing up.

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The reality of dating as a bisexual Latina

Note: This is 2 of 3 essays that was written for and published on The Flama last year. However, the site has since shut down (mostly) and my essay has disappeared… But the internet gods allowed me to find it in its entirety, so I am re-posting it here since a) it was fun to write & b) I hate sexism and want to bring it into the light. Enjoy!

My first ever date took me to Johnny Rocket’s for burgers and shakes, and then put his hand over my shoulder at the movies while simultaneously trying to cop a feel. I wasn’t having any of it. It wasn’t a particularly great experience, and dating hasn’t gotten much better since.

Dating as a Latina has always come with some challenges for me, thanks in part to the stereotypes of the over-sexualized curvy girl with her boobs popping out of her too tight dress. When people find out I’m Cubanita before a first date, more often than not I’m expected to show up looking like some fantasy dream woman. These stereotypes are only made harder when I came out as bisexual at 16 years old.

Facing a whole lot of other stereotypes as a bisexual woman (i.e. it’s “just a phase” or I can’t be happy in a monogamous relationship or I’m only doing it to turn on straight guys), dating as a bi Latina often means coming face-to-face with the craziest assumption of all: that I am crazy promiscuous.

One of the worst dates I ever went on was when I thought I was having a great time with a guy—until he told me the truth. Not only did he actually have a girlfriend, but she was around the corner and waiting for him to bring me over for a threesome. Disgusted, I made an excuse about calling it an early night and left.

What I really wish I had done at the time is thrown my drink in his face and ran.

Thankfully, not all of my dating experiences have been like that. Mostly, I am quizzed about my sexual past – especially if I have ever had, or would ever want, a threesome. It wouldn’t be so bad…if it wasn’t for the fact that these questions almost always come up over drinks on a first date. A first date!

It’s not that I want to be dishonest or deceitful, but shouldn’t a guy at least buy me dinner first before suggesting we take the hot waitress home with us?

Dating women isn’t all that much easier.

There was an awkward date with a lesbian who kept asking about my history with men. I was happy to share during the conversation, until I realized that she was really concerned that I just wasn’t that into girls. When I asked her about it later, she told me an ex had left her for a man and she was afraid of it happening again.

Hoping that this wouldn’t happen to me again, I tried going on a date with a bisexual woman. It sounds like it would be easy, but to be honest I had a difficult time getting replies from women who listed themselves as bi on various dating sites. That whole “doing it for straight guys” stereotype started to feel really close to home.

So I started to look to the other half: bisexual men.

Unfortunately, there aren’t as many of them around as I would have liked.

Once, I went for tacos with a bi guy. We had a great time over drinks, food and even a little making out at the end. But all of those things didn’t stop him from not calling me again. I can’t say that didn’t hurt a little bit, but I learned my lesson: you can’t hit it off with someone simply because they check off a particular sexuality box on your (or their) profile, and dating struggles are sometimes the same as if I was straight.

My last long-term boyfriend, who I met at a friend’s party and not through online dating, turned out to be bisexual and Latino himself. It felt like finding a unicorn, because it was a unicorn who understood me on a level that I didn’t even know I needed to be understood on.

He joined me in making my abuelita’s moros y cristianos, and he could joke with me about the ridiculous hotness level of Mario Lopez’s abs.

Although it didn’t ultimately work out in that relationship, now at least I know what I am looking for: a unicorn who can understand exactly where I’m coming from. Someone (guy or girl, I’m not sure yet) who won’t expect me to look like Sofia Vergara all the time, but who can appreciate me appreciating her. Someone who won’t assume I am going to leave simply because I expressed interest in another person. Someone who won’t mind that I need to put on Celia Cruz while cleaning on Saturdays, cook all day on Sundays and am perfectly happy sharing my time just with them.

And, ultimately, someone who will appreciate me just for who I am, bisexual and Latina and proud of both.

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Today I voted because I’m a bisexual Latina immigrant and it’s important

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Today is Election Day!

If you don’t know or understand the importance of the 2016 election, then it’s very possible that you have been lying under a rock for the past year and a half. And that’s totally NOT okay. So this is my very last and final plea with you: GO OUT AND VOTE!

And yes, I am totally biased about who you should vote for. But, you know, I kind of have to be… One candidate is the most qualified person for the office of the presidency of the United States of America and the other person is an orange popsicle filled with hate. As someone who self-identifies as a bisexual Latina immigrant (what else would you call me anyway?), there is only ONE message that I care about and that is a message of hope, tolerance and understanding.

And, hey, look! I even wrote about it. Check out I’m a Bisexual Latina Immigrant. I Can’t Wait to Vote on Dose.com now!

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Dose & OMGFacts: October 2016

How Mindfulness Meditation Went From New Age To Mainstream

The Difficulty Of Accepting Generosity When We Date

This Is What Women Talk About In The Locker Room

I’m A Bisexual Latina Immigrant. I Can’t Wait To Vote.

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