Pilar Gallego and Dan Bustillo, two queer, trans, Latinx cultural producers, artists and scholars, thinking on the edges of transness, the edges of Latinidad, and the places where these two meet.
What might be said of trans and non-binary resistance to the imperative of being “correctly” gendered when considered in relation to racial, national, and socio-economic assimilations? How do our bodies—doubly queered—do that resistance work by existing? Do we trans the order of assimilation in the U.S. Latinx diaspora, if and when assimilation is possible? How is trans navigated when our genders are considered impossible not only by medical and legal authorities but are additionally managed and constrained through gendered language? Might the limitations of gendered language produce a different relation to the body altogether? How do these experiences tie into our work? These questions guide this casual, curious, and intimate conversation that follows.
TIERS OF ASSIMILATION
Pilar Gallego: What does assimilation have to do with gender in the US Latinx diaspora?
Dan Bustillo: Maybe we can think about how the imperative to be “correctly” gendered or to display a “correct” sexuality, for instance, becomes inseparable from assimilation. In Cuban-American communities in Miami, particularly for folks of a certain racial privilege, of a certain generation, who received support from the US government, assimilation was actually an option. Even the first wave of exiles were aided by the US government, which meant the imperative to assimilate and the pressures that this brought were specific to Cuban-Americans. On the contrary, folks from neighboring islands like Haiti, might have been arriving by the same means yet did not receive any support. At the exclusion of other Latin American communities and to the detriment of any possibility for greater Latin American solidarity, the expectations that some communities will assimilate over others produces a self-policing meant to prove or perform worthiness for procuring extra benefits. One such way might be to not stand out. I think this impacted how, as the first generation born in the US to a Cuban father and British/French mother, I was expected to talk or not talk, to relate to class, to other communities, and to whiteness. And by whiteness, I mean the entire infrastructure of white middle-class Americanness that relies on racial capital. I feel like I use whiteness in the way my dad uses ‘Anglo.’
PG: As a critical term?
DB: Yes, it might be a generational thing. ‘Anglo’ marks a distinction between white Hispanics and white non-Hispanics but some folks also use ‘Anglo’ because whiteness for them is desirable and available to them even though they are not Anglo. This term also shows the difference between whiteness in the US and whiteness in Latin America, and doesn’t eclipse racial privilege within Latinidad but it also acknowledges the way in which a light-skinned Latinx might achieve, to draw from Eduardo Bonilla-Silva’s notion, ‘honorary whiteness’ which is already more available to those with racial privilege. [ii]
PG: In this context is whiteness about race or is it cultural?
DB: In this context whiteness is cultural and it is also about class. Even though white adjacency might be attained through financial stability, when something like race or ethnicity cannot be fully erased, any other marker of difference is expected to be dialed down; this might mark an impasse of assimilation. Growing up as the kind of kid who was identified as queer before I knew what queer was, as an effeminate tomboy, I felt attempts to contain my gender and sexuality. In a sense, seeing my father’s experience of assimilation and the malleability of identity he came to understand and instrumentalize in that process established a parallel for me that also allowed him a certain access to understanding my gender.
PG: I wonder how much of US government intervention and aid in these mass emigrations like the Mariel Boatlift was part of an imperial project, a continuation of that agenda. I mean, you are given these parameters and there is not much freedom to step outside of them, so within the constraints of the government you must submit to those terms and it is through that very process that you are assimilated. There is not much choice in there. Do you have any insight into what the contractual terms of that were?
DB: As far as I know, assistance came in the form of emigration/immigration opportunities, from Operation Peter Pan, to the Special Cuban Migration Lottery, to the Mariel Boatlift. I’ve heard that the government would give folks money upon arrival but no one that I know of received any. I’ve also heard that the government helped with education fees for college but no one that I know received that kind of support either. The most universal benefit has been citizenship, through the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy, which ended in 2017. All you had to do was make it to the US and you’re good, which is huge.
PG: For sure! That is the pinnacle of cultural assimilation! But that process is also absurd because by implementing the ‘wet foot, dry foot’ policy the US government ignores everything else a person must achieve in order to become indistinguishable and undetectable from any other American. And this begs the question: what constitutes citizenship?
DB: And there are so many ways in which assimilation functions as a controlled government project. This is how model minorities are crafted by the government, which really just makes it so that systemic change can’t happen.
PG: Which totally makes sense because of neoliberalism’s aim to regulate otherness through market ideologies of freedom, efficiency, and competitiveness. I came to the US when I was eight years old and remember my early experiences in the states as inhabiting a liminal space. As you know, Miami is deeply Latin American, yet I experienced my Cuban-American classmates as first-generation wannabe white kids who only spoke English and, when required, broken Spanish. There was dissonance in my desire to communicate with them and inability to do so. However, I don’t recall in those moments having had any awareness of the effort I was putting into assimilating, because I was preoccupied with another sense of difference which was my queerness. Knowing and deeply feeling that difference at that age, I realized that there was no way I could ever fit in. I was already an outsider; so this whole idea of assimilating was a failure to begin with. I quickly came to terms with the fact that I would never be on the inside. And in some way, that resignation liberated me. Of course, I didn’t recognize liberation then. Ironically I feel that, finally, as an adult, I’ve arrived at some type of assimilation by way of queerness because my understanding of gender and sexuality has come through living in the US and the knowledge I acquired in the states through the academy, through scholarship, and the predominantly white queer community I’ve been a part of whose members have mostly come from liberal-minded families. And it is through that whiteness that I arrived at self-empowerment and self-entitlement to claim queer pride for myself. The process of cultural assimilation requires an early start in order to guarantee its success and integrity. So the fact that I have in some way achieved this at such a late stage is strange.
DB: I love that, coming to it later… as a queer assimilation.
PG: I have been thinking about micro assimilation, and how it is based on one’s immediate surroundings—say, a neighborhood versus a nation. It is all based on one’s environment. The thing about New York, for instance, is that you don’t have to assimilate, but when you are in a homogenous space you stick out. When you are not secure in your identity, sticking out feels dangerous. We’re talking about being in Miami as an American but as an American, you ought to feel comfortable anywhere in the US—of course that’s not necessarily true and so complicated—and I was thinking about that because being in Miami is not really like being in the states. It feels more truthful to say that Miami is an extension of Latin America or the Caribbean than the US, which makes me wonder: what are you or me assimilating to, growing up in Miami?
DB: I appreciate how you address homogeneity as specific to a place, even in a place like Miami where there is Latin American diversity, though it is still Cuban dominant.
PG: I brought in the idea of the micro because after having grown up in Miami, and then living in New York and now LA, two huge metropolitan areas that are known all over the world as cultural melting pots, I am able to reflect on the kind of assimilation my family and I experienced. As you affirmed, Cuban culture dominates all other cultures in Miami. It affects and influences. Its customs and tastes grow on you because you are with them through time, and it is through time that you absorb them until they become a part of you. All the while, you don’t question what is happening to you, because what is happening is called living—eating, talking to your neighbors, your friend’s parents, listening to the local radio stations, etc. So for me as a Colombian in Miami there was a hybridization process that took place. My dad, for instance, talks to me as if he were Cuban, with a similar cadence, and it is beautiful because he had been so critical of the privileges the US government afforded the Cuban community, that he himself did not receive having fled drug-ridden Colombia in the late 80s. My dad has certainly assimilated, but to what? How do we talk about undergoing a transformation without our own awareness of it?
DB: In thinking of the US government’s aid to Cubans as an imperial project, we might also see how it is not just about controlling Cubans but about controlling other communities as well. Assimilation becomes a tiered project where Cubans in Miami function as the next tier of “whiteness.”
PG: Yeah, it is not a monolithic idea; it is operating on different registers, and it makes me think of that movie we saw, Sorry to Bother You by Boots Riley, about what whiteness means. How for some it means a level of financial comfort, how whiteness is an ideology, and how the one-dimensionality of ideology molds whiteness into a caricature. And is that really what we were supposed to be striving for all along? Because then assimilation becomes about toning down who we are and tuning in to how white Americans are perceived, always processed through the mediation of mass media, and finally emulating this caricature, which will inevitably get lost in translation. It will always be inauthentic, it will always be a performance.
ASSIMILATION AND PASSING
DB: What does assimilation tell a queer kid who is figuring out gender and sexuality? I recently read Tropics of Desire by José Quiroga who talks about Latinidad in relation to positionality.[iii] For Quiroga, as Latinx subjects in the US, we understand our shifting positionality in relation to other communities of color, to whiteness, to Latin America, as we are constantly re-negotiating our position. Thinking of this as a big part of Latinidad, I feel like that is what I’m getting at with my dad’s experience as a Latino man in the US paralleling my own gender and sexuality. How do we each engage assimilation in our different Latin-ed and transed experiences?
PG: Assimilation and passing are kind of synonymous in the context of our subjectivities, but we can also talk about them contextually in different ways. Assimilation speaks to the surface of the skin—American as white, Latinx as brown or black—and exteriority. It is cultural, not corporal. While passing, though also of the skin, is about interiority, about skin that is hidden. Passing in the context of gender and transness is about necessity and survival, whether it is to make life easier in the workplace or to not get harassed or potentially killed walking the street at night. I don’t know if assimilation is a matter of life and death the same way passing is for some folks. I wonder if it has been different for folks coming from different places.
DB: I hear the performance of assimilation as you mentioned. As an effeminate masculine-of-center person, the first time I saw my femininity externalized was at a drag show at Azúcar, an old school queer club in Southwest Miami.
Seeing so many Latina queens was the first time I understood my own femininity to also be some kind of drag.
It was the first time I felt like things could be both performed and honest, hybrid and uncomplicated; like the first time excess worked. Of course, in this context, I embraced everything about performance, including that which is not performed. In relation to transness and passing, I am rarely unaware of my gender and/or my gender presentation, whether I am stopping to use the bathroom at the train station late at night or whether a passerby’s double-take brings the world back to my body, to the ways in which I do or don’t pass. If we are thinking of passing in the context of assimilation, is it possible to assimilate and still maintain a commitment to changing the system within which we’ve assimilated, or is that an impossible project?
PG: The question becomes how are we complicit in the perpetuation of these systems. I want to believe that we can cause change from within dominant systems of power, but I am also reminded of Audre Lorde’s belief that the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.
I experience a world in which “politically-radical” queers who come to obtain some degree of power employ that privilege to neoliberal ends.
I have this image of being in a room made of rubber. You can push on the boundaries and they will stretch but the walls will bounce back. So there’s an illusion of expansion or that things will get better because there’s elasticity, but that elasticity is illusory—it has its limit.
GENDER AND LANGUAGE
DB: What are the relationships between tiered assimilation, gender, and transness? One way of addressing that might be through language—gendered language—and things that might seem more available in one language than another, or the different uses of languages, and how that also makes gender feel more or less possible.
PG: Up until recently, it had been difficult for me to address my queerness with my family in Spanish. All the language I had at my disposal was cold, removed, analytic, academic. Queer theory is such an Anglo and European way of talking about the body, you know? But because—finally!—transness has, representationally-speaking, spread globally, translated language tools have found their way to my mom in Miami. You see, my mom has a favorite talk-therapy radio show she’s been listening to for years. She can now call me to talk about the parents who phone in to the show to process the news that their children or family member is genderqueer or transitioning. Intermediary as it may be, my mom now has language she can use to better access a part of me she had no prior access to. I think it’s interesting to talk about this in conjunction with the way that Spanish is gendered in ways I never quite understood until I began to learn English in elementary school. And then, it was like, oh, we don’t have that here.
DB: You bring up so much. I relate differently to the languages I speak—English, Spanish, and French. Barring my mom, I do not have French-speaking family, so I do not have the same familial context for French. However, translating my gender to Spanish has a different set of stakes. It implies translating my gender from English, where I found a language for it, to a language a part of me might think of as temporally sealed, reserved for childhood, or for traditional family members, which also reveals my own personal and narrow connection to Spanish.
Although English is my dominant language, it is also the only non-gendered language of the three where I first found tools to articulate my gender.
As an adult trying to find words in Spanish for gender, I recently encountered the most amazing video by a child who breaks down gender in the simplest way: there’s las, los, and les.
DB: Yeah, les. This very young person is breaking down how uncomplicated gender is: el, ella, elle. I love this. I could not be more honored than to learn this language as an adult from a very young person because there’s nothing queerer than a backwards-sideways growth!
PG: From an imaginary space, which is so readily accessible to children.
This is where queerness actually lives, in the imaginary, where we can envision new ways of being that otherwise seem impossible.
You and I already have an entry point into understanding and accepting les as a gender-neutral alternative pronoun, because as queer people, we can tap into an archive of queer world-making, language included.
DB: I wonder whether there is also room for relief to be found even when coded into a gender binary in a gendered language. Like mispronouncing a legal name in such a way that it is actually more reflective of a person’s gender. Do you think translation is a queer project? It passes through these different imaginaries making it wonderfully queer, which is also another form of relief when we’re trying to translate names or gender, allowing us to find new ways of hearing names and gender in ways that might otherwise be traumatic or difficult or too heavy to hold.
PG: Sure, we can think of translation as a queer act, but I’m also skeptical of its “queerness” since translation as a discipline has a history that encompasses a foundation and guidelines, however loose those may be.
DB: I am reminded of this book that I started, Sirena Selena Vestida de Pena by Mayra Santos-Febres, about Selena, a singer and drag queen who is gendered differently in really significant ways.[iv] In the Spanish version, whenever her voice is active, she is she’d. Voice becomes the primary vehicle through which her femininity becomes a body. These nuances are harder to make evident in English, because it is not a gendered language. The English version is titled Sirena Selena. I don’t know why they don’t translate the full title.
PG: It’s an uncritical reason to not translate the full title simply because it doesn’t rhyme. It seems like whoever made that choice resigned themself to the fact that English doesn’t do the translation justice. But why not push past the limitations of language? Especially since this is a book about a queer experience. I believe the queer project is to push through those limitations. The more we talk about Spanish the more I feel it is more nuanced than English. Maybe—I don’t really know, actually, since I don’t consider myself to be fluent in either language. I mean, certainly I am totally fluent in English, but somehow, for some reason, English still feels not of me. I don’t necessarily feel like I’ve mastered it. There remains a certain awkwardness, like I only have 85% control of it. I think that being part of the Latin American diaspora, the awareness of my displacement from such a young age, never allowed me to develop complete confidence in my handling of the language. My Spanish feels stunted. Despite this, I’ve been able to find a space of generative potential within this confine, or this in-betweenness, wherein a part of me feels like I am always lacking. But it is that very lack that I am constantly diving into and interrogating through my art practice, as it may be in some ways the most truthful thing about me.
DB: It’s like Gloria Anzaldúa’s notion of “linguistic terrorism,” when one’s English isn’t good enough for the Anglo context and one’s Spanish isn’t good enough for the Latin American context.[v] So the more radical action is to be like, fuck the imperatives on both sides: this is the language I speak. I am also thinking of certain codes that happen in bilingual spaces. Like, if someone for whom English is not a primary language speaks to someone else in English and the person responds in Spanish, it is an insult to their English. These codes seem to happen outside of language or in the space between the two languages.
PG: It’s fascinating that we are aligning queer gender presentation with language. As everything in life, multiple things are meeting at a crossroads and now we are zeroing in on the channels through which you and I operate—Latinidad, queer and trans experience—and how they are operating for other people. They are not just operating for us but for others in all sorts of different ways, and that’s deep. People who have an embodied knowledge of what it’s like to be trans, gay, an immigrant, poor, black, Latino, or what it’s like to be x, y, z, especially in this political climate, know the frustration of trying and failing and trying again and failing again to be understood and seen.
We have tried to communicate in all sorts of ways across divisive lines to little avail, and so the next best thing we can do is practice compassion.
WORKING THROUGH THE BODY
PG: How do you see these things come up in your work as you focus on queer surveillance?
DB: I am interested in the US security apparatus and its impact on the minoritarian subject, particularly in relation to race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality. This work started with a broad interest in surveillance and the deeper I moved into security, the closer I became to my own body. When work comes from the body, no matter how many times it is abstracted in essays, research, metaphor, everything returns to that body. For instance, I can write about TSA body scanners at airports and then go to an airport and pass through a scanner which I might know about in some technical detail, and I might also know beforehand that I will “fail” the “gender safety exam” and that I will be patted down—an experience so devastatingly common to intersexed, trans, and gender-nonconforming people. But that knowledge doesn’t stop my legs from shaking the minute hands hit my inner thighs for a pat-down. I am increasingly interested in how the body guides my work in ways that expose the anxieties that animate systems that are ultimately not designed for us. How does the body relate to your work?
PG: For years, these very lines of inquiry and critique have been central to my practice. I use my body and subjectivity as case studies focusing on the expectations and failings of my categorical identities. I enter my work through absurdity, heightening the incongruence between my lived experience and society’s perception of what—rather than who—I am, adopting and embracing prescribed roles such as The Anomaly, The Grotesque, The Criminal. My work is about the need to speak truth to that difference, and the audacity it takes to revel in it.
The more critical I’ve become, especially of neoliberalism and the ways that queer subjectivity gets usurped by capitalism and the market economy—the very systems that have criminalized and killed us—the more staunchly I resist these forces particularly in my work.
And for me that means speaking to and from a deviant subjectivity, which is why I am currently obsessed with serial killers. I am fascinated with criminality, desires, impulses—the Id, basically—and how they clash with morality, social norms, the law—the Superego. This new path is probably the most daring my work has taken because it is such taboo subject matter. I need to be perfectly clear that I do not condone these crimes. I am focusing less on the innocent victims’ lives lost than on what it means to be deviant. I am interested in unearthing the origins of certain impulses and desires which, for a lot of the killers I’m researching, take shape in childhood. And that resonates with me because it feels human.
DB: How interesting! This is such deeply queer work in the sense that it dares to look at places that border on queer or that are queered in other ways. In taking seriously the potential queerness of the serial killer impulse, you court the charge of re-criminalizing the queer. I am reminded of how Kadji Amin works through Genet and pederasty in his book Disturbing Attachments.[vi] Amin looks at pederastic kinship in Genet’s work and life as a form of queer kinship within which there are power imbalances at play. He asks how we can look at these imbalances without idealizing pederastic kinship, which is uncritical, but that also doesn’t pathologize it, which is equally uncritical. It seems like you’re asking similar questions with serial killer impulses.
PG: Exactly, and I’m looking into the serial killer only in terms of its kinship to the queer, both being socially-designated to deviance. Prior to this recent turn into criminality, I had only been looking into the wardrobe, masculine clothing in particular, as material extension of the body and identity. I’ve been thinking about how I, as a masculine-of-center individual, first came to imagine and manifest my butch gender expression and aesthetic. I began to notice butchness’ orientation towards a uniform that represented a desirable masculine archetype, one that cultivates ideas of eroticized rebellion and American freedom: the white t-shirt and blue jeans. I questioned its ubiquity, its origin. And of course, like most modern archetypes, I recognized this model of contemporary masculinity to stem from media representation, mainly film and advertisement. So now I have the points of origin: James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, Steve McQueen in Bullitt. And I can now study my specimen up close, making incisions into their image, deconstructing their iconography, and taking apart, quite literally, the white t-shirt in an attempt to uncover whatever kernel of truth is buried under all of these connotations. And what I am seeing through these dissections, is the same thing I did to my body when I underwent gender confirmation surgery, when I opened up my own body in order to create something new. It’s through my transformation that I am seeing I can remake these garments in a similarly anomalous form, so that they may visually speak to a body that has had no real point of origin itself. Another way to look at this project is as the destruction of the model by which all masculine subjects have come to be measured. I find tension in the liberating act of dismantling a traditional image of masculinity—one that we have come to realize is problematic in its inherent toxicity—while framing it within a criminal sort of space.
There’s closure when you consume something, become it, or destroy it so it no longer exists. Either way the thing is gone.
DB: Is deconstructing the white t-shirt a twin operation to the opening up of your own body? Would you say that the treatment of the garments is surgical?
PG: In some ways, yes. Initially I imagined entering this project through the surgical lens. While I take similar care in ripping the seams as a surgeon making an incision, I also take the garment apart the way a child might take a doll apart, with the same curiosity to figure out how it is made. To me the surgical lens is more about repair. In that manner, the project begins to veer off from the entry point, because I am not out to mend, but to disfigure in order to create something new. And as I am taking these garments apart, I come to the surprising realization that I feel a sense of depravity within following my impulse to undo something so close to the body. In some ways it feels fetishistic, makes me feel like a criminal, even though I am not at all committing a crime. I wonder why that is. And maybe it’s because I can’t help but think of Buffalo Bill from Silence of the Lambs, a serial killer who murders women and skins them so he can make a “woman suit” for himself, and the transness of the character. But it may also be because I’m listening to podcasts on infamous serial killers and learning about their motives and how they all share a dysfunctional childhood full of trauma and isolation. And I guess because I experienced something akin to that—displacement and certainly isolation as a child—I can empathize.DB: The ways in which criminality is assigned to a body is also linked to the security apparatus. I am moved by how your work compassionately engages the “criminal” in a way that ultimately begs the question of what criminality even is. Perhaps this is a nice place to end as this returns us to larger systemic questions once more: about citizenship and assimilation through queerness—an itinerary you laid out for us earlier in the conversation. In keeping with how you spoke of your experience of assimilation as an assimilation that occurs through an understanding of queerness via a primarily white theoretical lens, when other forms of assimilation are not available, what possibilities are there for queerness and transness to destabilize assimilation? There is something powerful in the embodiment of these experiences and the sociality that is organized around them. Parallel to this, Juana María Rodríguez has a wonderful way of talking about sex in relation to both queer failure and queer sociality. She says, “As a site of intimate, intoxicating, funky, fleshy connections, sex has the potential to tear us apart even and especially when we are brought together.”[vii] Perhaps there is something in the bodyliness of it all that proves useful to think through transness and assimilation. Even though we are not talking about sex, simply having this conversation brings both our bodies into a relation of sorts, and this allows to see which points don’t actually line up, even though in broad terms, they might. The diversity of our experiences of US diasporan latinidad, and our transness and queerness within that, reveal the nuances and complexities of power dynamics, assimilation, and language. These bodies we return to are incredible in this way; not only do our bodies tell us of the conditions of the world that constrain them and that dictate how they should or should not be in relation to other bodies, but our bodies also point out the failures of these limitations, and in doing so, open up possibilities for other forms of bodies.
*This conversation was generously read by Aubree Lynn, Hans Friedrich, and Jennifer Moon.
[i] [ii] Eduardo Bonilla-Silva, Racism without Racists: Color-Blind and the Persistence of Racial Inequality in America, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009.
[iii] José A. Quiroga, Tropics of Desire: Interventions from Queer Latino America (Sexual Cultures), New York and London: New York University Press, 2000.
[iv] Mayra Santos-Febres, Sirena Selena Vestida de Pena, Florida: Stockcero, 2008.
[v] Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza, California: Aunt Lute Books: 4th edition, 2012.
[vi] Kadji Amin, Disturbing Attachments: Genet, Modern Pederasty, and Queer History, Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2017.
[vii] Juana María Rodríguez, Sexual Futures, Queer Gestures, and Other Latina Longings, New York and London: New York University Press, 2014.
Dan Bustillo (b. 1982, Miami, Fl.) is a Los Angeles based writer and artist. They are all kinds of deviant, half Cuban, half French, trans androgynous, and one half of an expertless educational experiment, the Best Friends Learning Gang, along with their collaborator Joey Cannizzaro. Bustillo’s research centers on security, gender, sexuality, and minoritarian visibility. They hold an AA from Miami Dade College, a BA from Hunter College, an MFA from CalArts, and are currently a PhD student in Visual Studies at University of California, Irvine.
Pilar Gallego’s (b. 1981, Barranquilla, Colombia) cross-disciplinary art practice is the point at which cultural codes and gender myths intersect and collide. They look into the body and its construction to unearth unconsidered potential and possibilities. How is one made a body, a subject? By what forces? How can we work within, through, and past existing systems of confinements to find a portal into liberation? Gallego’s art practice departs from their mutant subjectivity, which is a product of their transnational and transgender identities. This embodiment leads to investigations into location, assimilation, gender, and our complicated desire for the Other. Gallego looks to the closet/wardrobe as a repository for potential selves, considering the ways in which design marks and speaks for the body. Their research continues to grow and expand into ideas where queer implications arise — op art, sculpture & installation, the object/subject in space, live movement & performance, and interactivity.
Pilar Gallego has completed residencies at the Skowhegan School of Painting & Sculpture and Yaddo. They received their BFA from the Pratt Institute and is a graduate of the MFA Art Program at the California Institute of the Arts. Gallego lives and works in Los Angeles, CA.