Affidavit of Rheana Parrenas in ACLU, et al v. Reno

March 7, 1996

AFFIDAVIT


IN THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
FOR THE EASTERN DISTRICT OF PENNSYLVANIA

ACLU et al. v. RENO
(No. 96-963) 

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AMERICAN LIBRARY ASSOCIATION et al v. U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
(No. 96-1458)  

 

 

 

 

I, Rheana Parrenas, of San Bernardino, California, do hereby depose and swear: 

1. I am a sixteen year old, Filipina bisexual Junior attending Garey High School, located in Pomona, California. I live at 3784 Canyon Terrace Drive, San Bernardino, California, 92407. I write and perform original poetry and prose under my pseudonym of Juno Salazar Parrenas. My literary career began when I was published in the Spring 1991 edition of Maganda Magazine of University of California, in Berkeley, at the age of eleven. Among my performances include the Annual Philippine Festival of Arts and Culture of both 1994 and 1995 and the 1995 Women's Festival of Highways Performance Space. I am a 1994 California Arts Scholar in the discipline of creative writing. My interests include speech/debate and film. In 1995, I was Speaker of the Year of Cajon High School, before I transferred to Garey High School. Later that year I participated in a video project titled Teens: Loud and Queer, which will screen this month, March 1996, at Women in the Director's Chair, a festival to be held in Chicago. 

2. I immigrated to the United States from the Philippines in 1983 through political asylum. My family, which at the time had eight of the now ten members, lived through poverty despite the educational background of my parents, who both had doctorates. We later relocated to the suburbs of southern California, where my two younger sisters were born. 

Recollecting my childhood, I firmly believe that my attraction to members of the same gender has been constant. I was quite frank about my sexuality with my parents and siblings when I declared my lesbianism at the age of ten, in October of 1990. In the first week of the 1995-1996 school year, possibly on the fourteenth of September, 1995, I "came out of the closet" as a "dyke" in my English class. Over winter vacation, I received a harassing phone call left on my answering service: "You are gay. You are gay..." Another lesbian at my school, an acquaintance, had received a wave of threats. I was unfamiliar with the environment, having transferred there recently, which led to my apprehensive outlook of my future. Naturally, I found the message somewhat disturbing. 

3. My passion for reading ignited my desire to write. As a young child, I remember borrowing books from the Book Mobile incessantly. My preference for poetry grew as I grew older. I began to admire a number of poets, using a variety of poems for oratorical contests and symposiums. Poetry has given me an outlet for my thoughts and has allowed me to purge my emotions. Poetry has given me a voice. a vehicle of expression. I plan to pursue creative writing as a career. 

Beginning in the Autumn of 1996, I shall apply to a number of universities, including Smith College and Spelman College. Tentatively, I will major in Women Studies and English. Before my acceptance into the university of my choice, I hope to publish a volume of literary works. In addition to writing professionally, I intend to have another occupation, possibly in the field of education. 

4. I am constantly looking for places to express myself, since there is minuscule information proliferated by non-heterosexuals, particularly non-heterosexual, underaged women of color. I am always anxious to share my work. I first heard of Wildcat Press from Christine Soto, whom I met at Models of Pride, a lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered youth conference, on the fourteenth of October 1995. She gave me the business card of Patricia Nell Warren. On the twenty-forth of November, 1995, I wrote Ms. Warren a letter, which had a series of pieces, which included: "Bakla Brat", "Baby-Baby Dyke", "To My Lover Whom I Do Not Love", and "LUG: Lesbian Until Graduation". In the letter I told her I was interested in publishing my poems. 

Ms. Warren invited me to participate in YouthArts and I gladly accepted. My section within YouthArts is a series of the aforementioned poems and a short story titled ":::GASP!:::". I corresponded with Ms. Warren and Mr. Waiblinger, mainly through electronic mail. 

5. I am extremely grateful for YouthArts. I had never been involved in the production process as heavily as I was with YouthArts. I have a further understanding of the internet and was able to reach a widespread audience. Unlike conventional books and magazines, YouthArts can be updated and changed, which gives contributors more power to change things if they are not satisfied. A page can grow with its creator, instead of becoming outdated. Conventional publications are costly ventures: postage and paper are problematic, financially speaking. 

6. I have had an account with America OnLine (Kapala@aol.com) since late June of 1995. I have been able to network with a number of people, many who have similar ideas and identities, ridding me of my depressing, yet common, thoughts of isolation. Among those people are a multitude who oppose some of my beliefs, which is positive, whereas conflict is the foundation of great discussions. 

The Teen Conferences and People of Color Conferences of the Gay And Lesbian Community Forum of America OnLine have given me the opportunity to chat with other similar people. Through the Teen Conference, I've formed friendships with other teens. The most valuable friendship I've had was created on America OnLine. 

7. The weekly conferences of teenagers organized by the Gay and Lesbian Community Forum of America OnLine have been helpful for my general welfare. It reinforced the idea that I was not alone. Because I live in a conservative area that is far away from an urban area, most gay and lesbian organizations and other resources are limited. The internet diminishes the distance between users and organizations, capable of bringing the institution to one's home. 

In my poetry, I deal with such issues as sexuality and ethnicity. I write in the vernacular. In a poem dealing with child prostitution, titled "Sister", I use simple vocabulary to intensify its immorality. "6 Minutes", an original poem concerning rape, contains profanities written in the context of a rapist. "Baby-Baby Dyke", a poem dedicated to the typical teenage lesbian (or bisexual female), may be seen as offensive because of my description of kissing as "spit swappin'". Due to the controversy related to the subject matter of my work, I am apprehensive of its "indecency". Although "Baby-Baby Dyke" does not contain any description of sex, nor any profanity, it may be dubbed indecent because it relates to lesbianism, which is frequently held with contempt by mainstream society. 

8. I am afraid that I could be prosecuted under the CDA if some of the work that I publish over the Internet was deemed "indecent". The definition of indecency varies. Safer sex may be seen as obscene, although others see it as vital information. 

9. If my poetry is seen as indecent, violating the Communications Decency Act, it would be harder, economically speaking, to publish my work. As an unemployed adolescent, I have a limited income, solely based on my allowance. I wouldn't be able to afford expenses associated with a traditional book or magazine. Nor would I be able to reach as large an audience as with the internet. 

10. I am filled with the fear that "big brother" is watching. As a fellow teenager reads one of my poems, I fear that hundreds of miles away, a person who has no knowledge of my background, nor of my past, is making the decision that my thoughts and beliefs expressed in my poems are indecent, and thereby illegal. I am reminded of the saying "one's art is another's pornography". No one should be able to impose their beliefs about what is decent and indecent on other people. 

Ironically, the purpose of the Communications Decency Act is to "protect" minors. I see the Communications Decency Act not as a helpful matter, yet one that hinders my art, my thoughts, and my life. With the CDA, my self-expression is a crime. I feel it to be important that my work is available for other teenagers, especially those who can identify with its subject matter. I feel that a quantity of my poems, particularly those published in YouthArts, reinforce the fundamental idea of not being alone, of not being "the only one". It is understandable that my poetry may not be appropriate for young children. In that case, the parent, and not an obscure piece of legislation which could deny vital information to teenagers, should have the discretion of their children reading my works. 

My parents fully support my ventures within art, and have given me their permission to express my thinking about this issue. 

I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. 

 

___________________Rheana Parrenas
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