by Joey Phoenix
Ana Masacote of Lynn, MA is an internationally-renowned Latin dance specialist, passionate community advocate, and one of the voices behind Queer Lynn Scene (QLS). Over the past two weeks, she and her team have been releasing an audio-documentary series called “Out and Proud,” centering coming out stories of ten LGBTQ+ individuals who live or work in the city of Lynn.
“It’s been a really moving process,” Ana said. “I’m hoping that it helps offer perspective for people towards that process of coming out. Being out and open is [more accepted] in mainstream culture nowadays than in the past, but people forget that coming out is still a very hard process for people and some might have more of a problem coming out than others, especially [in regards to] acceptance in their own communities and in their own families.”
For Queer BIPOC advocates like Ana (and white allies who support this), Pride is an intersectional movement that shouldn’t be limited to white queer perspectives. Whitewashing Pride has caused a great deal of harm, making it difficult for Black, Indigenous, and Queer people of color to feel welcomed in their communities.
“There is intersectionality with a lot of the movements that are happening now, between Black Lives Matter and the way the pandemic is affecting Black and Brown communities of color. Having some of these discussions about our experiences as LGBTQ+ individuals within the context of the world we live in is also just really important to highlight and reflect upon,” she said.
The daughter of Mexican Immigrants, Ana moved to Boston from Texas in 2000 to pursue a degree in electrical engineering and computer science. Soon after arriving, however, she felt a pull towards the arts and entertainment, and opened the Afro-Latin dance and music company, Masacote Entertainment with her then husband, Joel Massicot.
She describes her coming out story as “coming out twice,” once in Texas during high school which she describes as “not going so well,” and once publicly which she was already a well known figure in the international dance community, which wasn’t easy either.
The biggest challenge for her initially was finding community, and when she moved to Lynn, that fell into sharp relief. “I hadn’t really spent much time on the North Shore, and didn’t know where to go where to get access for information for anything related to the LGBTQ+ community here, especially any information that wasn’t just about Salem,” she recalled.
Over the past five years, her focus has moved away from the company towards community work, activism, and entrepreneurship. And this past year, eager to see what she could do to build that community herself, she applied for a grant from Downtown Lynn’s Cultural District’s Canvas the City with the hopes of creating a queer-centric placemaking project in downtown Lynn.
“I knew there was a big LGBTQ+ community Lynn but I didn’t know how to find access to information, so that’s where Queer Lynn Scene came in,” she said.
She got the grant, and QLS was born as a project meant to highlight events, networking opportunities, and happenings in the community specifically for the queer, LGBTQ+ community in Lynn.
Unfortunately, the grant came through in March, about the same time that COVID-19 restrictions took hold, meaning that everything she and her team had planned needed to be completely reinvented to a virtual space.
“Originally, the idea was to have queer dance classes at The Land of a Thousand Hills Café, which I was really excited about,” Ana said. There also was going to be a poster exhibit highlighting the history of Lynn, with a focus on queer voices.
The project as it currently stands exists in three parts: The Queer Lynn Scene Facebook page which encourages community connection and supplies resources to the LGBTQ+ community in Lynn, virtual dance classes, and the audio documentary series, which she describes as the “most important and most vibrant part of the project.”
“Right now when we find ourselves in a world of upheaval, and we’re fighting for Black Lives Matter, it’s also important to highlight the brutality that Black and Brown trans women are really facing still. Black Lives Matter is so intertwined with the Pride movement, and if we don’t connect with the cause and with the movement, and we’re not in solidarity with our [LGBTQ+] communities of color, then we’re doing ourselves a disservice towards what Pride actually represents.”
She also explained that this is a movement that needs allies, because without them, many of these individuals don’t even feel safe enough to come out publicly. She was also quick to point out that allyship should just be happening in June, but all year long. It’s also something that involves a lot of listening upfront.
“The issues that we’ve had with the pandemic have disproportionately affected Black and Brown communities, and then with that Black people are being subjugated to police brutality every day of their lives,” she said. “Putting out a statement or saying you’re in solidarity isn’t enough. [It’s about] how you planning to show up in the space moving forward. Because it’s not just about a one time statement. It’s about the actions that you’re doing to be in the community.”
To view the Out and Proud videos and to support what Ana and her team are doing in Lynn and beyond, follow Queer Lynn Scene on Facebook.
Joey Phoenix is the digital content manager for North Shore Pride, the managing editor for Creative Collective MA/Creative North Shore, and a Malden-MA based non-binary white queer ally to the Black and Brown LGBTQ+ community. Email them thoughts and article suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org