Ivan: I have been homeless for two years and even then I still don’t identify as homeless. It’s just this label that’s given by society for scholarship purposes and for the “poor boo-hoo dreamer” purposes. I do have a home. Cali is my home. I can go to San Diego, San Francisco, and I can go to San Fernando Valley and I have a place to stay. Not trying to stay there forever but I have somewhere to stay though. I consider Cali my home.
Louie: What memory as a child sticks out the most for you?
Ivan: I remember, I think it was my kindergarten or my first grade teacher shut me up and told me to lie because of my undocumented status and I internalized that. An authority figure gave me permission to lie.
Louie: Were you told to lie about your queer identity?
Ivan: It’s funny, because I personally don’t need people’s validation to identify as queer but unfortunately, I have been in certain queer and gay circles and communities where I am not as “gay as thou” just because I don’t have long list of people who I hooked up with on Grindr, tinder or hang out in WeHo as often as other folks, I am not as “gay” as them. So for me, I don’t need the validation of others to identity as queer. For me queer is being gender fluid, being flexible, being open-minded, being pan-sexual, appreciating people for who they are and not just that they present. I consider myself, not two spirit, but I would like to apply it in a different manner, two spirit animal. That would be the humming bird and the octopus. One of them signifying my surviving side. That meant to camouflage within my surroundings. That means being flexible in any form of way. Changing what I became. So just like water could be three different forms: solid, gas or water, I felt like, myself, had to change what I was. So my identity was a huge factor; Undocumented, Artist, Indigenous, Queer.
Louie: So what is one hope you have?
Ivan: I want to grow as a healer, use art as a tool to cope with lots of trauma. Not just for myself but for others. Art was one of the few ways that I was able to heal. Going back to the spiritual animal thing, the hummingbird, I consider myself to pollenate art. I pollenate love in a way in the sense and idea that everyone is an artist and that itself becomes a coping skill that people use to heal.
Ivan, Los Angeles, California
Interviewed & Photographed by: louie a. ortiz-fonseca