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Sonia Quintero

Never Not East London

One day my mother sat beside me on the bed and looked at me intently. She looked through me, into the deepest darkest secret that I had been holding for years. A secret that I had been hiding even from myself.

“You are a lesbian” she said. “And this thing between you and your best friend isn’t a friendship, it’s a relationship, is it not?”

I froze. I had been outed.

Up until this point, my mum was the most compassionate, open minded person I knew. She was the kind of person who would always help the neighbours with a smile. We had a friend who lived nearby. He was gay. And his mum was beside herself when she found out. She came to my mother and I remember her consoling her and advising her to accept. She maintained, “He is still your son!”

You see where I’m from, in Colombia. Being gay is unfounded. Colombia is a very conservative country where the heterosexual society prevails. Traditional footings, to be married, to have two children, preferably boys, is the norm.

Being gay is one thing but being openly gay is dangerous.

My mother and I didn’t speak for a year. It was one of the hardest points in my life, as prior to this we had been very close. It felt like my mother was more compassionate to outside problems but when the problem was me, her stance was different.

I’m the baby of the family, but this experience of being ‘outed’ really helped me grow up. It made me realise I was in fact in love with my best friend deep down. My mother was right.

It was very painful for me not to have my mother in my life that year. I remember thinking, “I love you Mum, but I can’t be what you want. I have to find my own happiness, my own truth.” Thanks to my mum, I went after my truth and consequently my best friend became my partner of 12 years.

My mother finally came to terms with my sexuality. My sister gave her a wake up call, saying, “You have two choices. You either lose your daughter because of this or accept this and gain two daughters. It’s your decision.”

We live in a society obsessed with numbers and boxes. I know how painful it can be to tick the box, and to be outside of it. Personally, I don’t see numbers, I see poets. Everyone is a poet and one of the greatest things about poetry, is that it allows you to define yourself.

I wrote a lot of poetry during this life changing period of my life and have since published two poetry books. I have published six books both in England and in Spanish and run Newham Poetry Group for the local council. To me poetry, builds bridges where others build walls.

The academic structure of poetry has challenged me. The rules are so restricting. If our words are not in verse, or the number of syllables doesn’t add up, then it’s not a poem.
Real poetry breaks all the rules.

Being open about my sexual orientation could quite possibly be the bravest rule I have ever broken.

By Michelle Harris




I see poets

I saw poets where others saw failures
I saw pens and paper where others saw chaos
I saw through the eyes of Cupid himself
I saw you and then I loved you
Because
I see the wings of humming birds whispering sonnets that only you could hear
I see privileged creators where others see losers
I see eternal souls where others see shadows and bodies
I see hands, magic hands transforming paper and ink into art
I see your hands
I see them like birds in the desert
I see them circling baron lands to discover what others cannot imagine.
I see you and I still love you.

By Sonia Quintero