Next up in our Queer+ Voices series, we'll be featuring musician and songwriter Alisandra Del Nero who proudly identifies as a gay woman.
LBP: Tell us a little bit about your coming out experience(s). How has life changed for you since being “out”?
ADN: I came out when I was 16. It was an existential crisis for me because of my religion; I thought I would go to hell. My mother took it badly, and it became a family crisis. I ran away once and eventually moved out while still in high school.
LBP: How do other aspects of your identity intersect (or perhaps clash) with your sexuality?
ADN: I ended up redefining spirituality to be more personal to me. I sifted down to the essence of what I thought god was: love. I felt that if I could come from a place of love, then I had nothing to be ashamed about. I still work on my acquired shame passed down to me through the generations.
Adopting kind of a dyke persona gave me permission to pursue my love of woodworking, and I made a 25 year career out of it. It also made me stand out in a field of mostly men. I always felt I could anything they could do, but coming up against bias was hard. I had one job where I was hired as the foreman for a million dollar company, and it wasn't until about a year later that I found out the owner had asked the men if they could work for a woman. I was livid! I marched into the owner's office and asked if it was true. He said yes. I said, “you know, in all my career, I have never been asked if I would be ok working for a man." He nodded in understanding. It was then I knew that no matter my level of expertise, I was always going to be judged by my gender and other people's expectations around that.
Image description: Square graphic with yellow background and large white quotation mark at the top. At bottom of square, large black text reads: "queer+ voices." In the middle, in black text, is a quote from Alisandr'a interview. (The 8th-10th sentences of her response to question 3). Under the quote, in bold black text reads: "~Alisandra Del Nero. Pronouns: She/Her/Hers"
LBP: Pride is a celebration of liberation but also an acknowledgement of struggle, resistance, and revolution. Where do you see yourself in that celebration? Where do you see yourself in that struggle?
ADN: : When I first came out in '81, everything had to be a secret. You risked losing everything or being the target of violence. I created a family of queer friends, and we all grew up together. We would party and celebrate our sexuality wherever we could . At each other's houses, beach parties, and under 21 clubs. But you were always careful. We were just heading into the AIDS crisis, and I began to experience the cruelty of the Christian fundamentalism. Mr. Rev. Jerry Falwell was not going be satisfied until homosexuals were erased from the earth, and he was tied into the Republican Party agenda (sound familiar?). I got a crash course in politics as my male friends acquired AIDS and began to die. Mr. Reagan wasn't concerned that a bunch of fags were dying. One friend of mine died with no family around him; as he called out for his mom, his gay friends comforted him. Although we called his mom, she disowned him in his time of need for being gay.
Going to a Pride parade was courageous then. There was a fear someone you weren't out to would see you or a newspaper would take your picture. The Fundys would picket 6th Avenue and tell you you were going to hell. But we went, we marched, we found each other. Just having the freedom then to march was paid for by countless others who endured arrests, loss of families and careers. The AIDS crisis created a powerful movement in the LGBT+ community, they pushed back, they organized, they spoke out, they petitioned. The freedom I see today blows me away. It also was bought and paid for by so many people before me. My heroes were artists they helped to change public opinions and perceptions. Kind of like the pre-Ellen era and post-Ellen era. The artists of the 80s and 90s led the way in gender expression, social activism. They saved my sanity.
Today I'm not tied to the fear of people finding out. I just assume it's obvious I'm gay. I was honored to attend my niece's graduation where she and her female partner held a long embrace and kissed on the field after she received her diploma. My father and family members were all there and no one even flinched. It was then I felt that what I went through was all worth it, for the freedom they had to love each other publicly, without question. I was so proud in that moment, for them, for me, for all of us.
LBP: As an artist, how does your “queerness" or sexual orientation show up in your creative work?
ADN: Over the last few years I've been performing traditional love song duets with two women singing them. I try to change the gender norms of the songs. Music is how I process all of my thoughts and feelings from my experience a gay person.
LBP: What queer-centered artists, shows, films, podcasts, authors, etc. are you into right now?
ADN: Comedian and political satirist Randy Rainbow, Indigo Girls, Brandi Carlile
LBP: What are some of your favorite LGBTQ+ organizations or businesses you'd recommend our readers look into, buy from, donate to, volunteer for, etc.?
ADN: San Diego Pride, The Center, Mama's Kitchen
To connect with Alisandra Del Nero, subscribe to her YouTube channel! Stay tuned throughout the month of July for more Queer+ Voices interviews!
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