Joanna Cifredo says being approached to write a blog for the Human Rights Campaign reawakened her passion for writing.
While growing up, she says, writing was an outlet.
“Writing was always a natural escape for me,” the Kissimmee, Fla., native says. “It was a way for me to divulge all the emotions, feelings and sentiments I didn’t have any other way to tell. So over time, it was the only way I learned how to cope. Writing became my friend.”
Over time, she did it less and less but the HRC assignment “unloaded years of emotions,” she says. “Now it’s not just something I like to do but something I have to do.”
Cifredo is about halfway through her first novel, which she began in February. It’s about a transgender Latina who’s murdered in a hate crime. In the book, she tells her story from beyond the grave. Cifredo says it’s her way of “giving a voice” to trans women whom society has let down. She hopes to have it finished by year’s end and published in 2015. On Saturday at noon, Cifredo will be at the OutWrite LGBT Book Festival (2000 14th St., N.W.) moderating a panel discussion on writing trans characters that will feature Everett Marron, Dane Edidi, Alex Myers and Eliott Deline (visit thedccenter.org/outwritedc for more information).
Cifredo has been in Washington for two-and-a-half years. She works by day at the D.C. Rape Crisis Center and blogs at firebreathingtgirl.com. She lives in Columbia Heights and enjoys reading and writing in her free time.
How long have you been out and who was the hardest person to tell?
Since I was 25 and the hardest person to tell was my mother. I wasn’t sure how she would react and I’ve heard so many horror stories from other trans women that I mentally prepared myself for the worst. I picked up the phone to call her knowing that with the dial of the phone I may never hear from her again. Her response, however, was priceless “Gurl, you know that’s expensive!”
Who’s your LGBT hero?
For heroes, Harvey Milk for his leadership in helping mobilize so many people behind specific causes. In terms of sheroes, I would have to say my fellow Puerto Rican fore-mother Sylvia Rivera also for her leadership and tenacity, for her courage to not back down and fight back. Most recently though, I would use the word LGBT inspiration for my sister Janet Mock for her strength and courage to bare all, something I am still working on.
What’s Washington’s best nightspot, past or present?
Bossa in Adams Morgan. On Saturday nights they have a live band that plays salsa, my favorite.
Describe your dream wedding.
I would want to be surrounded by my friends and family in a romantic setting, something traditional and not over the top.
What non-LGBT issue are you most passionate about?
Reproductive rights. If I don’t fight for anyone else’s right to make their own decisions when it comes to their body, why should anyone fight for mine?
What historical outcome would you change?
Besides all of the atrocities, natural disasters, acts of genocide and assassinations of great leaders, the Hobby Lobby decision. It will create a slippery slope that we will see in the coming years.
What’s been the most memorable pop culture moment of your lifetime?
The election of President Obama.
On what do you insist?
To have a seat at the table, to have my voice heard and that of so many other trans women of color who often do not have enough agency to speak up for themselves. I insist on fairness, equity and justice.
What was your last Facebook post or Tweet?
I may be a mess but at least I’m a hot mess.
If your life were a book, what would the title be?
“Contra Viento y Marea.” It essentially means “Swimming Against the Current.”
If science discovered a way to change sexual orientation, what would you do?
I would hope that the next scientific discovery would be something much more meaningful to mankind such as a cure to HIV. I would do nothing and hope that everyone else would also do the same. The problem isn’t people’s sexual orientation, it’s living in a society that makes you feel that you somehow need to be “cured.”
What do you believe in beyond the physical world?
At the risk of sounding like a tree-hugger, I believe in transference of energy, I believe that the earth absorbs your energy and that energy is harvested and recycled to produce plants, waves etc.
What’s your advice for LGBT movement leaders?
Be careful on making the LGBT movement a single-issue movement. I fully support marriage equality, but there are many other more pressing issues that the LGBT community is facing especially those at the intersection of gender identity and expression, poverty and race; issues that are a matter of life and death. Let’s not forget this moment was kickstarted by girls like us.
What would you walk across hot coals for?
My grandmother’s rice with beans. What can I say? I’m a Rican girl.
What LGBT stereotype annoys you most?
That all trans women are hos. Aside from it being completely sexist and misogynistic, what makes anyone think that it is OK to identify a woman this way?
What’s your favorite LGBT movie?
“Another Gay Movie.” Since we are on the topic of stereotypes, I just think it’s super funny.
What’s the most overrated social custom?
Marriage. Don’t get me wrong — it’s something that I would like just because of the many benefits that it offers, but this idea that you can only have these benefits if you are married is primitive at best.
What trophy or prize do you most covet?
A Pulitzer Prize
What do you wish you’d known at 18?
Everything I know now.
Divine navigation. For once I’m in the right place at the right time.