Two years ago, Cristina Calvillo-Rivera decided to come out in front of 600 people at the 9:30 Club.
“I probably have never had such an invigorating experience,” Calvillo-Rivera says, about sharing “all these different layers” to her identity at a Story District event. “I shared a very emotional story about how I express my gender,” she says. “I am a woman, but I am a masculine-of-center woman. Being Latina and being a lesbian, I’m very aware of my identity in a lot of different spaces. When I was up onstage, I was talking about my experience, and everyone was right there with me.”
Calvillo-Rivera has been engaged in storytelling since her college days at the University of Texas at El Paso. Yet it wasn’t until the community trainer and advocate moved to D.C. with her wife that she realized the “confidence-boosting” and “therapeutic” power of storytelling.
“The coaching is wonderful,” Calvillo-Rivera says about Story District. Since its founding as SpeakEasyDC 20 years ago, the organization has become known for its efforts to create a safe space where locals can get to know each other through personal storytelling. And the organization, led by Amy Saidman, has long nurtured and championed LGBTQ storytellers. “Amy is a wonderful person to work with, extremely creative, and Story District has really provided a lot in the past 20 years for the D.C. area,” Calvillo-Rivera says.
In addition to a celebratory event this Saturday, Sept. 23, Story District is working with the Latino GLBT History Project to facilitate the first-ever Queer Cuentos event on National Coming Out day, Wednesday, Oct. 11. “This is a partnership that I’ve been wanting to do for a while,” says Calvillo-Rivera, who this summer became the History Project’s first female president in its 17-year existence. “We know as Latinx queer folks that our historias, our stories, are seldomly told, and left out of major conversations, and are sometimes purposefully erased — especially within our community.
“We will have a diverse cast of Latinx folks speaking in Spanish, speaking in English, speaking in Spanglish,” she says, “telling their stories on the intersections of being LGBTQ and Latinx, on being an immigrant, on having parents who are immigrants as well.”
And it’ll all take place in front of an encouraging audience at Town Danceboutique.
“One thing that I really love about doing these performances is that the audience is right there with you,” Calvillo-Rivera says. “They’re feeling the heartache with you, or they’re laughing with you, or they’re feeling that moment of pride, because they too have gone through those similar experiences and know what type of resilience it takes.”
I Did It For The Story is Saturday, Sept. 23, with doors at 6 p.m., at the Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW. Tickets are $25 to $40. Call 202-888-0050 or visit thelincolndc.com.
Queer Cuentos is Wednesday, Oct. 11, with doors at 6:30 p.m., at Town, 2009 8th St. NW. Cover is $10. Call 202-234-TOWN or visit facebook.com/LatinoGLBTHistory.
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