Last Friday night, the College invited comedian Monica Palacios to deliver her impassioned story about coming of age and gaining confidence in her sexual identity. As part of Latin Heritage month, VISTA, the Latina/o and allies student organization at the College, was thrilled to have Palacios’s performance as its keynote event. Palacios intended to utilize humor to address important social issues from her Latina and lesbian perspective. The performance, though certainly engaging and entertaining, was not what I expected. She began with an uncomfortable joke, asking the audience if they planned to “#tweet” that we were in Goodrich with her that night.
Fortunately, she managed to recover when she launched into her inspiring story. Palacios started college as a naïve and confused 18-year-old, much like the rest of us. She quickly found a boyfriend, spending most of her freshmen year with him – until he noticed Palacios’ interest in women. She would make comments about girls passing by, and she often found herself discussing girls and their appearances, and taking pleasure in it. It was at this moment that the performance took on a more intense atmosphere, but only momentarily. Palacios’ voice quivered as she shared her internal struggle. She knew how women made her feel, but she didn’t want to admit it yet. Her conflict was tangible and effectively drew the audience in – I wanted to know how she would come to terms with her new identity. Palacios explained this process, which culminated in her decision to attend a Latina LGBTQ mixer.
At this instant, Palacios returned to her awkward comedy. A disco ball spun and she started dancing, in her attempt to recreate the mixer for us. From then on, her story consisted mostly of her sexual escapades, as this new and thrilling sensation of sexual liberation engulfed her. She had crossed over to “el otro lado,” full of “coochie cots” and naked women. She described her sexual partners in detail, their faces, lips, bodies and how they made her feel. She stood proudly in front of us, declaring, “And it was confirmed. I was a female homosexual.”
Palacios’ story itself was powerful, but it was the manner in which she told it that disappointed me. She isn’t afraid to talk about societally uncomfortable topics, and is clearly a confident and exemplary woman. I think her process of coming out was inspirational to the audience in some ways, but at the same time, I found her humor to be a bit insensitive. She made her story into more of a joke, when she could have instead talked about the strength it took for her to publicly come out and the pride and power she felt when she finally did. I was, however, pleased with how she chose to end her performance. She put up a list of all the states in which gay marriage is legal. Although it regrettably is not all 50 states yet, she stressed how much progress our country has made, and how excited she is to one day witness equality for LGBT citizens. She left us feeling hopeful for the future, and for what we could potentially achieve as an accepting and supportive community.