Serena Gaia

Make love the ecology of your life


“Immigrant”: Sharing Stories and Images of Special Surveillance and Personal Dilemmas

People are sharing their immigration pictures and stories and so here are mine.
Yes, I am an immigrant and one who chose California as a place where I felt I would be more respected as a single mom at the time who wanted to access a professional line of work.

I was raising my daughter in Rome, Italy, and rent was more expensive than anything i could earn in one month. UC Riverside offered me a teaching assistantship and admitted me to their graduate program. I got a student visa that way. My daughter Paola Coda joined me the second year and stayed until the end of my doctorate. At that point I had a big dilemma. Would I go back or stay? The answer came when Vanderbilt University in Nashville offered me a job as Assistant Professor, and processed a green-card for me. The job was discontinued a few years later, but the green-card stayed. That’s when I moved back to California to be an activist in the LGBT community and practice holistic health. I came to Puerto Rico about 20 years ago to resume my academic career. All these decisions were very difficult to make at the time, and involved many inner conflicts and painful choices.


Some of these are narrated in my memoir, Eros: A Journey of Multiple Loves. Where I explain that because my father was an independent senator elected in the PCI, I was always afraid that the FBI would at some point catch up with me. When I finally got my green-card it was a big relief. That’s when I felt I could really be myself. A few years later an anti-immigrant proposition passed in California. Like many others, I woke up and applied for citizenship so I could vote next time around. And I have ever since.

When I hear about the allegations that 3 million undocumented people would have voted, my mind jars. Being a “legal alien” is hard enough. One constantly feels like on a watch list. On special surveillance. One can only imagine what being undocumented can be like. Why would anyone in that situation want to even get near a voting booth? Just to get arrested and deported? It’s like offering one’s wrists for the handcuffs. Who could ever believe these allegations? The fact that they are even made is evidence that so many people are totally unaware of what the immigration system is like. Of how complicated it is to even go from a temporary visa to a permanent one, if you come in as a “legal alien” to begin with. If you cross without papers, it’s even much more difficult to be recognized. And often people who do so are desperate, with no place to return. How could they possibly risk the little niche they found to try and cast a vote that isn’t even likely to have any effect? It’s just baffling that anybody could believe that an en-masse action like that could ever be orchestrated.

There is more that I want to say. In Italy people also talk a lot about the influx of “foreigners.” They call those from poor countries “extracomunitari/e” which alludes to them being from outside the EU. They are afraid of them, and avoid them. There is a difference though. In Italy there really isn’t an immigration system, as in, say, ICE or the former INS. They way people become “documented” is by waiting enough years as undocumented, until an amnesty comes, at which point their years as “clandestini/e” count. So one would think that there the act of voting without the right to do so could be interpreted as an act of civic presence, as in, say, I’m here, see, I want to perform my responsibilities as a citizen.

In the US any act of brushing against the law, even civil disobedience, as in, say, a march or a demonstration, is a risk when you are not a citizen. It’s a risk even when you are documented on a temporary visa or a green-card. Imagine if all those people who live in constant fear, in this pall of special surveillance, would ever dream of committing voter fraud.
I really feel for those people who are in fact deprived of their right to vote, and are now also accused of having had an effect on the election, or at least on public opinion about it, they could not possibly have had. I remember, as the child of an honest political family, that I felt very invisible during the period when I was not in a position to vote. That was hard enough. And I understand how infuriating it can now be to feel accused of a fraud one could not possibly have been part of.
And all this just because a woman won the popular vote!  Hard to believe.
Here I’m sharing some pictures from the years of the big dilemmas.  Lol.  Speaking as if they were ever resolved.
What really brought peace is the practice of #EcosexualLove.  May the partner we all share protect us.
Love and blessings.


aka Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio, PhD

Professor of Humanities and Cinema
Convenor of Practices of Ecosexuality: A Symposium
Fellow at the Humanities Institute, University of Connecticut, Storrs (2012-13)
Project: “Amorous Visions: Ecosexual Perspectives on Italian Cinema”
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The Wisdom of Love at Open Secret – Yesterday in San Rafael, Ca.

The Wisdom of Love at Open Secret was the kick off event of the season and it went really well.  We were in a wonderful room, known as The Gallery.  The decor was exotic and artistic, a whole series of statues and other art pieces from India and other countries from the “Far East,” where the arts of loving are still known and cultivated by common people (unlike the West, where they’ve been coopted under the aegis of “science,” a modality of knowledge that tends to “normalize” things, endlessly search for some kind of normativity).
   Deborah Taj Anapol, our assistant, and me arrived quite early, and in common agreement decided to enhance the “Oriental” flavor of the event by sitting on the floor, our backs to the center piece: An invitation to attendees to share “the floor” with us, to see us as equals, rather than as “those in the know” who stand up on the podium.  
   We noticed diversity in age groups, background, and other as people milled in.  Greeting people we knew, in those expansive, affectionate ways typical of poly people, was beautiful.  Many new people came in too.  The last touches were put on the sound system, the display table, the videos.  We were blessed with two video makers and their equipment shooting footage throughout the reading.
   We intended a synergy, so each speaker introduced the other speaker’s book.  It was good to hear someone whose work I respect so much speak publicly about mine.  Taj definitely did a good job of it.  And I hope I did too.  As the event unfolded, I noticed the presence of my co-speaker, the way she connects with the audience, she relates to them, she is confident they will hear.  Won’t necessarily try to please them.  But make them feel alive, yes, she will.  She tucks in a little bit of irony here and there too.  I feel proud to be in this space.  I tuck in a tid bit of irony too, when I make sure people know I’m from Italy but I don’t make pizza: Instead, I study history, which leads me into commenting on Anapol’s wonderful job of weaving the multiple threads of polyamory’s modern history.
   People keep coming in, finding nooks to tuck themselves in, more chairs brought into the room for those unwilling to imitate our yogic positions.  Everybody seems comfy enough in this heart-opening space.  We go across the room asking people to introduce themselves: “What brings you here? why is polyamory interesting to you?”  This is California and I’m always amazed about how much people are willing to share–even in a room full of strangers–about themselves, their personal experiences.  My mind goes back to the early years of my arrival in this region, when I was so impressed by this behavior, this trust, this willingness, this faith that if you put out what resonates as authentic for you, then your eagerness will attract toward you exactly what you wish.  And I took that one on big time of course when I put out my own slightly disguised life story in my first narrative book, Eros, which managed, as it were, to attract into my life exactly what I wished.  With all this eager way of being into the world that I’ve sucked in, I’m reminded of why I call California my second matria (she/homeland), with the first one being Italy and the third one Puerto Rico.
   Next section is the actual reading.  I go first and read a very short piece.  There is attention, eagerness in the room.  I am careful.  I know what I have to say does not sound pleasant to all people.  That the Earth is not a “mother” who loves us and protects us.  That, according to scientists, Gaia, the live planet, is actually a “tough botch” who will get of us if we continue to abuse her.  There are many attentive minds in the room, I sense the words begin to resonate with people, “unusual words this foreigner speaks, she uses our language, but why does she say such strange, such outrageous things? And why, strangely enough, some of them begin to make sense too?”  We pause for questions, and there are many more than we can answer.  The synergy begins to work there too.  Anapol and I find ourselves answering each other’s questions.  In other words, there is a question and I take it, then she pitches in and the answer becomes more complete.    
  Then her turn comes to read.  She announces a couple of things.  She begins to read from the chapter about why people choose polyamory.  Of course her theory is smart and minimalist: “people choose polyamory for a variety of reasons.”  In other words, “if you, reader, were expecting some pathological explanation for why one would make such an unusual choice, you’re not going to get one here.  I am the expert, and I guarantee you: Reasons are so different that no single, unique cause does exist.  So, get used to it!” 
   Love comes in many shapes, and the more the better.  
   Anapol’s reading time is quite short too. 
   Interesting questions start to come in, and the discussion opens up as we take turns and offer different takes on them.  Many more hands are up with a bunch of interesting ideas, desire to put them on the table, debate them.   We realize time has run out.  It’s almost time for the store to close.  We are quite happy that we’ve created such multifarious interests.  We break up the circle.  Invite everyone to join us again on July 3rd too.  
   There is a little more time to wrap things up.  A few people approach me, they want copies of the books. Others approach Anapol.  Unfortunately, her book, the three-cherry-cover book, has not arrived yet.  Que lastima! my friends would say in Puerto Rico.  I write down a few dedications, signatures.  It’s good to think that these people will read for themselves, will make the effort to stretch their imagination as far as I intend to take them.  Maybe some of them will let me know what they think, they will inspire me for next project.  
   Goodbyes are another golden opportunity to manifest poly expansiveness, to express our willingness to share love and affection.  More hugs, more eye contact and warm thank yous.  We even manage a quick three-way hug with two of the participants.  Time to thank the host and pack our things.  We realize the filming has been going on very smoothly, unobtrusively.  It’s like, there was filming, but this wasn’t about being filmed.  it just happened, naturally, with the process of recording integrated in the real thing.  We haven’t even had the time to thank the video makers, they’ve already disappeared.  We get our things out to the car.  
   It feels like the end of a good evening.  
   We’re off to Harbin Hot Springs tomorrow for the World Polyamory Association meeting. 
   Posted by Serena Anderlini-D’Onofrio
   Oakland, Ca., June 23, 2010
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