A Shame That I Own

“I look pretty white on the outside, but my intestines are indigenous.”

-Joaquin Golez

Joaquin and I met in October 2021, as first-year students in PSU’s Contemporary Art Practice program. Ever since then, we’ve been talking about sex and anuses and poop and our daily existential crises. Whenever I talk to Joaquin, I write things down; it’s as if I’m pulling a cassette tape of poetry out of his mouth. Who else describes their hair as a “persian cat in a rainstorm?” Or their visage as an “anthropomorphic catsuit?” Joaquin is a professional illustrator; he has a weekly comic about the previous week’s events called “GAYMO.” I also consider him to be an unprofessional expert in contemporary queerness. He is the only person who has ever sent me a picture of their poop, and I’ve asked a lot of people. When he isn’t fulfilling his ontological imperative to draw, Joaquin is having diarrhea. 

GAYMO WK5, 2023, Illustration by Joaquin Golez

Ashley Yang-Thompson: Why do you think you have so much diarrhea?

Joaquin Golez: Good question. I think there’s a few answers. I think it’s a combination of things. We contain multitudes. I’ve been violently lactose intolerant since I was a baby. I was allergic to my mother’s breast milk. When I would breastfeed I had explosive diarrhea. 

Ash: Really?

Joaquin: Yeah, I have mommy issues. She let me know right away– as early as I can remember being able to hear stories. My dad’s parents are indigenous people from other countries, so they did not encounter lactose in their countries. They’re both from fishing villages, so no cows. I look pretty white on the outside, but my intestines are very indigenous. And so they react to pretty much everything in this climate. Furthermore, as a Virgo rising, all of my stress manifests physically in the form of rashes or intestinal distress.

Another reason why I have diarrhea is because I’m a bottom. 

Ash: Do you get diarrhea from being violently pegged?

Joaquin: Yeah. I feel like I’m a power bottom.

Ash: How do you become a power bottom?

Joaquin: I think it’s confidence. It’s a combination of selfishness and selflessness, where I’m really meeting my own needs, but I’m also empathically aware of the needs of another person. The right kind of selfishness empowers me to be a very aggressive bottom.

Ash: Have you ever pooped during sex?

Joaquin: Almost, but not quite. I’ve definitely farted quite a few times and I’ve peed.

Ash: Intentionally?

Joaquin: Both intentionally and unintentionally.

(long pause)

My diarrhea is like a family heirloom. My dad is always pooping, too. I inherited his intestines.

Ash: When you were growing up, was your dad primarily in the bathroom?

Joaquin: I would say 30% of the time. We talk about our diarrhea a lot, and it really bothers my white mom. She can’t relate to it because she likes dairy. My dad and I try to take ownership over our poop issues by joking about it and talking about it a lot. And our bathroom habits are really loud compared to my mom, who swears to this day that she doesn’t poop. She says she deposits a single rose scented cube once a month. Which we all know isn’t true. But still I’ve never smelled it or heard it. So there’s a hierarchy there.

Ash: Do you feel ashamed about your diarrhea?

Joaquin: It’s a shame that I own.

A typical conversation with Joaquin, 2022, Screenshot by Ashley Yang-Thompson

Ash: We’ve always talked about diarrhea openly, and I never felt remotely grossed out. I mean, we’re talking about diarrhea and I’m eating my lunch and it doesn’t bother me at all.

Joaquin: I just know that every time I eat, I’ll have so much IBS stuff. It’s always present. It’s definitely normalized. 

Ash: So your diarrhea is tied to both your racial identity and to your queer identity.

Joaquin: Yeah, that’s a good point. I haven’t made that connection. Maybe that’s why I’m so proud of it.

Ash: Ok, now I have a big queer politics question to ask you: Does it bother you that companies like Target and Urban Outfitters have co-opted queerness and pride, and use identity as a promotional tool? 

Joaquin: I don’t think it bothers me in the way it bothers some people because I love the feeling of being a normal person with money. I like having cultural value. I like to imagine my child-self going to Target and being able to comfortably consume like everybody else in America. I want to be included in predominant culture. I want to be a market. It’s normalizing, and I don’t mind being normalized. I would love to comfortably go to the bathroom and date– why is that bad? I think it’s great! No matter how normal being queer might be in a predominant culture, it still has enough stigmas where it’s fun and racy. There’s still queer gay bars, there’s still legislation trying to destroy people’s lives, there’s still places where being queer is very taboo. It’s something I appreciate about sex, too. I want to be comfortable enough to express myself and explore, and because it’s sex, it’s always going to have an edge of tabooness that’s going to make it fun and hot. To me, it can’t be too safe. Everything that I am into has become so basic that it’s codified in some Target end-cap display, and I think that’s hilarious. 

Ash: In a milieu where almost everyone is queer (i.e. Portland, art school), does it bother you that anybody can claim queerness, without having the sort of experiences that you’ve gone through? 

Joaquin: You said something once that I thought was really true, you said that people need rituals and initiations to step into different cultural territories. And I think it would help people to have initiations. I don’t think those initiations have to be oppressive. They could be celebratory. 

I guess that’s when the queer marketability gets in the way, like during Pride, which is supposed to be an initiation, but instead it’s about getting everybody to buy Absolut Vodka. There’s so much alcoholism in queer communities and so much drug abuse, so companies like that taking over Pride is a problem. 

But back to anybody being able to say they’re queer… I feel like if I said it doesn’t bother me, I’d be lying. It bothers me because I have an ego. When it does bother me, I have to check myself because I’ve literally been there. I’ve been super super trans but still not validated as being trans because I wasn’t on hormones. Or because I didn’t grow up wanting to play with trucks. 

It’s not a great narrative for your pain or your oppression to be what makes you who you are. I understand people saying, Oh you’re not x enough because you haven’t suffered the way I have, but if that’s what defines your identity, then that’s an opposition to marginalized people having success.

Ash: Do you think success and suffering are diametrically opposed?

Joaquin: People don’t thrive when they’re suffering. Thriving can come out of suffering but it doesn’t happen when you’re in it. Unless you’re a masochist. 

Ash: I feel like suffering is a fundamental part of any growth. 

Joaquin: I think so too.

Ash: You have to go through a threshold and the threshold is uncomfortable, maybe even unbearable. You’re entering a new form like a plant that has to break the sheath of a seed in order to grow.

Joaquin: I think the friction and discomfort is important, but I don’t think we need to have specific, terrible experiences and all share them as a certain identity. There should be people having shared identity with different experiences.

Ash: Do you believe in universal experience?

Joaquin: Yeah, we all die and suffer and get hungry and have diarrhea. 

Ash: Some more than others. 

Ashley Yang-Thompson (I respectfully opt out of the protocol to include pronouns) is a ninety-nine time Pulitzer Prize winning poet and a certified MacArthur genius. ashleyyangthompson.com @leaky_rat

Joaquin Golez (he/him) is an illustrator, writer, and tattoo artist. He is currently getting his MFA in Contemporary Art Practice at Portland State University. @bruisedfroot

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