Being able to explore queer themes in her art was a long-time dream for Monica Garrido. Hailing from Monterrey, Mexico, she relocated to Toronto three years ago to study at the Toronto Film School, intent on taking her work to the next level. After participating in 2013’s Pride Cab (Buddies’ other long running youth engagement program) she took the plunge and apply for the Emerging Creators Unit.
Her show, The Cunning Linguist, is an autobiographical look at her own process of awakening since landing in the Big Smoke. Touching on themes of family, religion, migration, and (of course) sexuality, the piece will be Garrido’s first full-fledged performance project to date.
Daily Xtra caught up with Garrido to chat about growing up queer in Mexico, why she wants to share this story with local audiences, and how Degrassi convinced her to make Toronto her home.
Daily Xtra: How was it to grow up queer in Monterrey? Is it a dangerous place to be queer?
Monica Garrido: I wouldn’t say it’s dangerous, but my hometown is a really conservative place. We’re one of the most homophobic cities in Mexico, so it’s not something people are able to embrace or accept yet. There’s also not a lot of dialogue about the trans community, but I think my generation’s way of thinking is paving the way towards the future as we strive [to] reach common ground. Growing up queer in Monterrey was at times hard because I didn’t understand some of my feelings at first. Also because of the lying and hiding from my family, some of my friends, and my church as I encountered homophobic comments or behaviour that made me afraid of being out. On the other hand, I was part of this little queer community where I met most of my best friends and people I could share my secret with. In a way it felt like being part of a secret society. My sister is also queer, so we didn’t feel so alone because we could support each other through breakups and cover for each other in different situations.
What’s the best thing about being queer in Toronto?
The freedom of being able to be who I am and to be able to be part of projects like this has been great. Finding support groups for queers where you can get information about what you are going through has been helpful. Also my first pride when I was able to march in the parade with a rainbow flag. For some people this might be nothing. But for me it felt like for the first time I was out and proud and I wasn’t afraid. I was just happy. The friends I’ve made are my Toronto family that support me exactly the way I am. There are lot of things I enjoy about being queer in Toronto and also I’ve learned so much not only about my own identity but also about the queer community in general and I’m glad to be part of place that is striving to be even better.
Why do you want to share your story with a Toronto audience?
Toronto is a multicultural city so people might find my story in a way familiar. It’s also the place where I created this piece and the place where I’ve come to evolve as an artist and as [a] person, so it made sense to share it first here.
Did you have any queer mentors growing up in Monterrey?
I had a theatre producer-director, that was out, successful and happy and he always tried to provide a safe space for the group of queers at our theatre school. For me, it was important to have a queer grown-up when I was seeking advice or just to find comfort from someone who already went through what I was experiencing. But a big part of what helped me understand my identity was actually cable TV, especially Degrassi: The Next Generation. It was actually a big part of the reason why I decided to come to Toronto because it showed that there was a queer community here.