Page Turner: Christy C. Road
The queer punk rock author presents unique challenges in a Cuban family.
Raised in Miami, FL by a house full of Latinas, artist, writer, and musician Cristy C. Road understands the distinct pain that comes from loving–and being loved by–family members whose “traditional” values not only make you afraid, but ashamed of your sexuality. The 30-year-old Homewreckers front woman has been publishing her own artwork since 1997, much of it touching on her love of punk rock and her intersecting queer and Cuban identities. After three illustrated publications, all biographical in nature, Road is back with Spit and Passion, which details her pained adolescence as a secretly queer girl obsessed with Green Day. Road’s latest is stunning and sure to touch a chord for anybody who grew up with a heart that beat for punk rock. Road, who toured with the all queer literary show Sister Spit in the spring, recently took the time to talk about her artwork and the lack of visibility for people of color in queer communities:
Why do you think punk and Green Day struck such a chord with you?
A friend at school told me about Green Day and other punk bands, but Green Day was the poppy, upbeat fix that I needed. I was into random theatrical music, like Aerosmith, Queen, Broadway musicals, and some hip hop and dance music, but upon discovering my sexuality and feeling isolated, Green Day was refreshing because they had a really gay-positive political agenda I could relate to. I also fell madly in love with their choruses, harmonies, and lyrics.
What’s not really discussed in Spit and Passion is your drawing and whether or not art was a saving grace. When and how did you realize your talent for drawing?
I started drawing when I was little. I remember being four years old and drawing a lot of my favorite female Latin pop stars, like Veronica Castro. Then I would draw whatever my fixation was: The Muppets, Star Trek, Ren and Stimpy. As I discovered punk and my own alienation, I started making art about my beliefs, as opposed to just portraits of my favorite cartoon characters. There were a lot of pig-head figures in the White House and a lot of punks fighting cops. This flourished into what I do now, clearly.
When writing Spit and Passion or any of your other illustrated books, was it difficult to revisit the past and examine how it shaped the person you are now?
I think I waited long enough for it to not be too painful. Coming in my early 20s out really broke down the wall between my queer community and my Cuban community, which enabled me to articulate the alienation I felt with hope and fervor. Of course it was hard. I hashed out years of hurtful language and anger, so tapering it down to a package that was accessible was emotionally draining. Existing as queer in my cultural community can still be intense, but the sad moments ended up being empowering.
It was refreshing to read about the challenges of being queer in a traditional Latino family. Do you feel that people of color are equally represented in queer communities?
No, I think we have to fend for our story to be heard and I think our stories aren’t as present in communities we overlap with. I’ve felt honored to be able to tell my story, but at the same time I have spent a billion years publishing my own work and putting it out into the world whether or not people wanted to see it. Still, this has totally lent to being shut down by predominantly white communities who didn’t want race to put a damper on their “radical punk” or “radical queer” circles. Don’t get me wrong; there is love and support out there. I just think that the experience of being out and proud and the experience of shooting a middle finger to the culture that attacked your gay identity is very sought after, but I don’t relate to that. I am Latina and I don’t want to give a middle finger to the culture that attacked my identity. I want to fix that fracture and that is difficult and takes a lot of work and it’s a less romantic route to queer acceptance.
You started out by publishing your Green Day fanzine Green zine, but when did you begin to consider building a career out of your artwork and stories?
I was 17 when I realized I wanted to dedicate my whole life to making art and music in the punk rock community and that vision hasn’t really changed. I’ve always wanted to communicate anger or frustration or triumph through art or music. My projects were received well, so that always urged me to continue making them. All I ever really needed was one good response because 90 percent of my motivation came from wanting to get a message across.
Have you ever questioned your career path or focus as an artist?
When I was younger I had periods where I would feel lost about sustaining my art, but some weird turn of events would always push me in the right direction. In 2007 I was having a weird time about the direction my art was going in, and then I was asked to go on the Sister Spit Tour by Michelle Tea. This experience totally changed my life and urged me to do what I love, as opposed to what is 100 percent marketable or sustainable. The veteran Sister Spit artists on that tour–Eileen Myles, Michelle Tea, Annie Oakley, and Ali Liebegott–really showed me that you can grow and still be true to your punk upbringing at the same time.
If you could go back in time, what would you say to the young, closeted Cristy we meet in Spit and Passion?
I would tell her to keep questioning the government and the morality of everyone at school. I’d tell her to keep loving her new punk universe like there’s no tomorrow because the likeminded people will come around sophomore year–and if you have to sneak the punk clothes in your backpack, that’s just what you need to do.