Scrub was my contribution to a downtown gay zine scene that I found seductive and sexy, but was also conflicted about. So much of it seemed self-promotional and insular. I wanted my version to tell the stories of an underrepresented New York, whose stories are just as fabulous if one takes the time to listen. Scrub ended up being a one-off response. There was only one issue printed, mostly because I didn’t have a business plan. Printing is costly but I wanted the satisfaction of having a tangible artifact. Now, seven years later, I’m happy The Conversant has resurrected these interviews in an online format. It’s interesting so see how they hold up in a new context.—Justin Yockel
In December 2005, Justin Yockel invited Frances Rodríguez—his Jamaican-born, deaf, transgendered neighbor—to converse in Scrub’s Harlem office (pictured above). Conversation flowed from Frances, through Erick (an interpreter who is also deaf), through Edwin (a hearing interpreter), to Justin, and back.
Frances Rodriguez: What happened to the fish?
Justin Yockel: There was an accident, a mishap, and the whole thing fell on the floor face down. I can rinse it off if you want. I just washed the floor yesterday.
Edwin: That wasn’t me that said that. He’s asking: Do you want me to clean it off? Do you want him to do that?
JY: [returns with the Zabar’s nova pack] OK. It seems fine. I was disgusted with myself for having dropped it. I’ll even have some to prove to everybody that I have no fear. I just rinsed off the top of it. So help yourself. Do you guys want anything?
Paul: Oh, I’m just going to have a muffin.
JY: Now that you have your family photos, Frances, do you want to use them to talk about Jamaica? This is your mother, right?
FR: Yes. She died 14 years ago. She was 52. I’m 60 right now. She was young. She was younger. She had no white hair. Full, full black hair. Black mixed with gray on the top, like blue-ish. All the black people here had all white hair. They were weaker but she was strong. She had strong, black hair. Most people really fell in love with her. She should have been black but her skin tone was more tannish, so they were attracted to her. She had the most light-colored skin, like glittering diamond skin. How is that possible? I guess God had blessed her. Her mother was white. Her father was black. She knew that she had a beautiful body and smooth skin. The people—the white people, Spanish people, black—no matter what they were—they all had deformities on their bodies, wrinkles on their faces. She was beautiful. They were jealous. Continue reading