Jose Reyes Canseco talks about his experience as a gay migrant to England, and why working on Moonlight Strangers is important to him.
“Moonlight Strangers” is playing from Thur 21 – Sat 23 November 2019 at 9pm as part of CPT’s Autumn 2019 Season. Click here for more information.
Me as a Migrant
There are some elements about your life that do not come afloat and into your consciousness unless life throws you in a specific context. I came to this country when I was only 20 years old, I had travel before but this time it was going to be different. Obviously so many things changed, I mean, I was living in a different country and speaking a different language but, ultimately, if I want to thrive I need to adapt.
I do not remember exactly when, but at some point I became aware of the peculiar treatment that people were giving to me. It was, I would describe it, slightly, condescending and patronizing. Is my accent difficult to understand? Am I not explaining myself well in English? Is what I’m doing considered to be rude here in old England? Why am I not becoming good friends with an English person? I know my experience was that of a Mexican boy and even though English and Mexicans can relate to some things our cultures are vastly different. It is easier for them to relate to someone who is from their own culture, rather than put a bit of effort into understanding someone from abroad. I wanted to feel accepted and to belong in this society as well.
Something I was certainly not used to was to identify my ethnic background. Forms in England are endless and you have to fill one at least once a week. But my issue does not lie only in “Mexican”, or “Latino”, or even “Hispanic” not being in any of these forms, but they made me aware of my “race”. I am a brown-skinned person from Latin America. I feel as if as soon as you get categorized, that is it, you start falling under a limiting box and people start having expectations. As a believer of privilege, this became a bearer of simply upsetting news for me. Am I going to be unfairly treated because of my “race”? What about my gay experience?
Before coming to the UK I remember researching what was “gay life” like in both London and at university. I was open about my sexuality to an extent but this time I was going to be able to explore it with more liberty. There was a big city and being gay was not really something controversial anymore, it was like my time to shine. After a week of settling in I travelled to London and experienced, what I consider to be, the first time I was in a big room full of gay people, I went to Heaven! It was October and I have a photo to prove it. Eventually I discovered Tinder and Grindr (yes, I did not know what they were until I moved to England!) and this only resulted in me starting to get romantic with other gay people in town. My first “relationship”, if you may call it that way, was with a white English guy from Middleborough. Oddly enough, and even after spending around 6 months together, he did not want to be in a relationship with me. I travel to Mexico for a couple of months to visit my family and renew visas and to my surprise, in those two months I was away, he had found someone else to be in a relationship with. I found out on Facebook when he changed his status. The real reason why he did not want to be my boyfriend are still unclear, which is why my mind steered towards my “race” and my status as international, a migrant. Was I just an exotic experience to this person? Why was I not taken seriously? Was I being invalidated as a prospect partner? Many more uncomfortable and upsetting experiences similar to that one followed, too many to fit in here.
Not only I had to put up with this different treatment that comes with being a migrant in a time when closed borders are becoming a trend, it also interconnected with my life as a gay man. There are few stories that portray the lives of those who do not align to the mainstream, that clearly also affects the LGBTQ+ community. Producing Moonlight Strangers is an important first step in my career towards allowing misrepresented and unheard voices to hit people through theatre. I really hope the work that Sebastian, the actors, and I are putting into the development and research of this project truly seeps into someone’s life and inspires them to break out of this limiting category-box people usually put us in and work for the recognition of our experiences.
Photo credit Row Duran