Thu, May 26, 2011
Andrea Askowitz shares her story with the audience. (Photo by David Samayoa / Under the Sun)
Author and Lip Service co-producer Andrea Askowitz read her story Welcome to Miami at a live event she helped produce with Under the Sun at the Actors’ Playhouse at the Miracle Theatre in Coral Gables. The sold-out event featured true stories about life in South Florida. The full show will air on WLRN June 4-5.
By Andrea Askowitz
Early in our relationship, Victoria invited me to a work event. She said I could learn something. I don’t usually like dressing up for lectures at banks, but I agreed to go.
I asked Victoria if she’d introduce me as her partner.
She said, “What do you want me to do, stand up and say, ‘This is my lesbian lover?'”
I said, “You don’t have to stand up.”
“Do you want me to lose all my clients?” she said. “These are Latins, Andrea. Latins are homophobic.”
“But this is Miami,” I said. “It’s so gay here. Haven’t you been to Lincoln Road?”
She said, “You’re so naive.”
I grew up in Miami, but I came out at 23 in Los Angeles. In Los Angeles, gay was the new black.
When I moved back to Miami after being away almost 20 years, I thought being gay would be cool here too.
But Miami lesbians were closeted. On Match.com none of the profiles for women seeking women had pictures. Victoria’s profile didn’t have a picture. In Los Angeles, women posted pictures showing off their butt cracks.
The first time I had dinner with Victoria’s friends, four Latina lesbians, we ate vaca frita at Versailles and talked about being out. “My sexuality is nobody’s business,” a 55-year-old Cuban, said, “They’d have to water board me before I’d tell.”
I said, “But if you don’t tell, how will you ever get a date?”
Esther Martinez, left, and Andrea Askowitz of Lip Service welcome the audience. (Photo by David Samayoa / Under the Sun)
Despite her own fears, Victoria, who’s Venezuelan, told me that if she had children she would no longer hide being a lesbian. She said she wouldn’t want her kids to feel like there was something wrong with their family.
After we’d been together more than a year, we were walking with my four-year-old along Miracle Mile. We ran into a couple Victoria introduced as her favorite clients—Venezuelans who live on Key Biscayne. Victoria turned to Tashi and me, “This is Andrea and her daughter Tashi.” They shook my hand.
When they walked away,I just looked at Victoria.
“I’m sorry,” she said.
I said. “Those people don’t care that you’re a lesbian. They already love you? They’d love you more, if they really knew you.”
She said, “Andrea, I want to come out, but I grew up in Latin America. It’s a different world. It’s like asking a woman in a burkha to wear a bikini. Even if she wanted to, she’d feel naked and vulnerable. I’m trying.”
“I’m trying too,” I said. But I really wasn’t. I was convinced the only homophobia in Miami was inside gay people’s heads. Inside Victoria’s head.
But over the next few years, Victoria came home from work and told me hateful stories again and again.
One client, whose son moved to West Palm, said, “Thank God my son didn’t move to Miami Beach with all those fags.”
Another client’s daughter was caught up in securities-fraud and had to flee Venezuela. When she cried to Victoria, instead of talking about keeping her daughter out of federal prison, she said: “They say my daughter’s a lesbian!”
I said, “She probably will be after jail time.”
A third client told Victoria that because of gay people,God was sending a meteor to scorch the earth.
I said, “I hope it hits her house first.”
I joked, but I was beginning to understand Victoria. I just couldn’t believe a cosmopolitan city was that homophobic. Maybe because no one, had ever said anything homophobic to me.
Then, when Victoria and I decided to have a child together, I called her fertility doctor.
I said, “Hi, I’d like to make an appointment for my partner, Victoria Azpurua.”
The woman on the phone got quiet. I thought she was pulling up Victoria’s medical record. She didn’t ask me to spell her name, which most people do. I figured she knew how to spell it because she was also Latina. I could tell by her accent.
“Excuse me ma’am, what do you mean by partner?”
I said, “I mean life partner.”
She said, “We don’t do fertility treatments for same sex couples.”
“What? Why not?Lesbians can’t get pregnant here? No fucking way.”
“Ma’am, that’s our policy.”
I said, “Do you agree with this policy?”
“Sorry ma’am, I just work here.”
Before I hung up, I said, “That’s what they said at the Nuremberg trials.”
I called Victoria and told her what happened. She said, “Welcome to Miami.”