I may or may not have forgotten to do this particular "UTSA at Face Value." I interviewed these two right before finals so when finals actually did hit, I had other things on my mind. The day after I finished my last final (my final final?) I was on a plane to Thailand. This one was planned as the last UTSA at Face Value for a while since I am across the world at the moment, but I meant to get it out a lot sooner. In any case, here it is.
Also, as a side note, I want to comment on the photos themselves in this series. I never meant for these photos to be the most amazing photos. After all, I am more interested in each student's story. However, I really was struggling with these. I would work from 12am until 8am, go to school from 10am to 2pm, and then do the interviews for this series after that. I am not sure about anyone else, but when I am that tired, I really struggle with anything creative. I feel so much better now that I do not have that job.
Enough of my yapping...
Aliyah: "Going to any other college wasn't really ever an option. I just assumed automatically that I would come to UTSA only because it is close to home. I didn't want to go far away from my parents."
Daniel: "I was actually a student at UT Austin for my first year. I decided to come here because- well one, same reason, it's closer to home. My parents are here-
Aliyah: "I'm here."
Daniel:"-and Aliyah's here- and they were kind of nagging me about it, sort of, to come back. Plus it's still part of the UT system and I am getting sort of the same degree here.
The first [difference] I noticed is a drastic difference in size of the campus."
Daniel: "She's my niece, even though she's older than me."
Aliyah: "I'm 22 and he's 19."
Daniel: "I almost forgot how old I was"
Aliyah: "I always think you're 20."
Daniel: "My dad-"
Aliyah: "-is my grandpa."
Daniel: "My dad was married to another lady-"
Aliyah: "My grandma."
Daniel: "Yeah her grandma, her name was Gloria-"
Aliyah: "It's still Gloria."
Daniel: "It is Gloria, you're right. She's not dead. They were married for like 30 years. Something like that, and then they got divorced and he met my mom and her name is Olivia, and they had me. [Aliyah's mom] is- How old is your mom 40....?"
Daniel: "48 and-"
Aliyah: "Your sister."
Daniel: "Yeah, and she's my sister. So there's a huge gap in age."
Aliyah: "I think it's good [to attend UTSA with family]."
Daniel: "Yeah, we were excited to get our schedules together. I wasn't planning on taking "The American Novel" but Aliyah said she was taking it so I decided, 'Well it's in my major so I'm sure it will be fine.'"
Aliyah: "It doesn't feel like he's my uncle."
Daniel: "Yeah whenever she introduces us she's like, 'We're cousins.'"
Aliyah: "It's easier to explain than giving the whole family background.
Oh we're faking [being close] for the interview. After this we're never speaking again.
I guess we have similar interests. Similar hobbies, we both like photography and English."
Q: "Have you guys been close since you were kids?"
Aliyah: "Since last class I'd say."
Daniel: "Yeah. Once we found out we were both going to UTSA we just started talking a lot."
Aliyah: "It was more of a forced relationship at that point..."
Daniel: "Before that I was closer to-"
Aliyah: "-our cousin."
Daniel: "Yeah. Well her cousin, my other nephew. He's younger than me. He's like 17. I would go over to his house and Aliyah would be there but she wouldn't really hang out with us."
Aliyah: "Because I live 4 houses down from our cousin- my cousin."
Daniel: "So we didn't really hang out that much. I've really just gotten close to Aliyah in the past year or so."
Aliyah: "Apparently now my grandma and [Daniel's] mom are best friends. She called his mom recently-"
Daniel: "My mom is a crafty person and my dad and Aliyah's grandmother-
Aliyah: "-they went to Bible school together."
Daniel: "My mom, she asked [Aliyah's] grandma to help her design some center pieces. So now we have this running joke that they're best friends because they are always texting each other-
Aliyah: "-but it's strictly business."
Daniel: "-strictly business. Actually I found out that in the beginning, after the divorce, there was a lot of animosity towards my parents and that was the reason for a big split. For a few years my dad wasn't allowed to go-"
Aliyah: "-let the record show he's using air quotes."
Daniel: "-to go to birthday parties and stuff like that. After a while he just started going again because I was born and he wanted me to get closer to [Aliyah's] mom, well, my sister."
Aliyah: "What's funny is that I feel closer to your mom than I do to your dad who is my actual grandpa.
It's the new modern family! TLC's doing a special on us... tune in next week.
I don't think it's confusing since it's been since childhood."
Daniel: "Yeah it sounds difficult but it's all we've ever known.
Aliyah: "My grandma, his mom, just sit on opposite ends of the table for family functions. The only reason why one has been, I guess, weird, isn't even because of my grandma. I had a birthday party and- remember when your dad didn't come?"
Daniel: "Yeah. It wasn't because of that though..."
Aliyah: "Ok but I feel like the reason why he didn't come was because I recently- wait did I tell him, or who told him?"
Daniel: "Your mom told him."
Aliyah: "-that I have a girlfriend and he's a pastor. So then conveniently my birthday is next week and he doesn't come to my birthday party because she was going to be there."
Daniel: "I think he was actually out of town."
Aliyah: "But he's never missed my birthday ever since I was a kid so it seemed like it was-"
Daniel: "-yeah, and I asked him 'Did you miss because [Aliyah's girlfriend] was going?' and he said 'No.' I thought it was an excuse. He's still uncomfortable about it. He's uncomfortable about her tattoos. He's just really old fashioned."
Q: "How was it growing up with a father who is a pastor?"
Daniel: "I think it was a stereotypical situation where you grow up entirely sheltered. It's not like he was aggressive with me. It's just the fact that there was an overbearing presence in the household where I feel enclosed. It was never an option to be a Christian. I believe in God but that is not my entire life like it is his. Once I got to high school, once I got my car-"
Aliyah: "-all hell broke loose."
Daniel: "-all hell broke loose.
It wasn't a difficult life. I will say that I am blessed because my family never struggled, we've been kind of affluent, so it wasn't a bad life. It's just that the fact that my father does that meant that I wasn't able to do a lot of things. There's a part of my life I didn't get to experience because of it, but I don't feel resentment for it because my life is my life."
Q: "What kind of difficulties have you faced being part of the LGBTQ community?"
Aliyah: "I have a girlfriend... I've had boyfriends in the past."
Daniel: "Aliyah is the kind of person that doesn't like- I think it has something to do with our upbringing- she doesn't want to put a label on it."
Aliyah: "I love the person I am with. A label doesn't matter to me because if I am with this person I am committed to them.
I don't feel like I have faced any adversity actually. I don't think people look at me and can automatically tell. I feel like more guys approach me than girls.
I think one time I had gone through a breakup so I was really upset and I had shaved- remember when I shaved the sides of my head?"
Daniel: "Yeah, that was rough. Your like half Britney Spears phase..."
Aliyah: "-it was really bad. I was devastated.
I was walking in [the mall] and I smiled at this kid who had smiled at me and the dad said 'ugh lesbian.' I was like 'Wow that's the first time anyone's ever said anything like that.
My parents of course had a hard time at first because they grew up in church as well but they came around.
I was 17 [when I told my parents] and I only told because my girlfriend at the time threatened to break up with me. I didn't have to tell them actually I never even said the words, 'I'm gay or I'm bi' or anything. I was just crying on the couch. My mom said 'Why are you crying?' and I said 'I don't want to talk about it.' She said, 'Do you feel different?'
Daniel: *gasp* "Excuse me? I have never heard this story."
Aliyah: "I just kind of nodded. She said 'As in do you feel ways about girls that you should feel about boys?' Then she said 'It's okay.' She was crying but she said, 'I'm not going to love you any differently. It's okay.' I was genuinely shocked I though. I think my mom has come around in recent years she's more liberal but at the time I was fearing the worst.
It was a great relief. I was still worried, though, about the rest of my family- Well I wasn't worried about my dad I felt like my dad would have- my dad doesn't really say anything, he doesn't talk much. So he was okay with it. I just wanted to take a shower but then I came down and it wasn't addressed. But it's funny because that night SNL was on and Kristen Stewart was hosting and she said, 'Oh I'm bi now it's totally cool. It's really in.' My parents were not laughing they were just sitting there in silence.
My dad said he kind of suspected it and my mom did too but she said she didn't want to believe it. I'm more girly now than I was as a kid."
Q: "Give each other defining characteristics."
Aliyah: "I think you're creative, hard working, intellectual, easy going, and funny.
I gave you 5 so I want 10."
Daniel: "I think your one defining characteristic that I have always admired about you is your ability to change. It's always this thing where you pick up one thing and then you put it down but the way you are able to transform yourself every couple of months, every day if you want to, I think it's an amazing kind of thing. If I were to label anyone a chameleon it's you because you are able to do anything. When I bought my camera, you were like, 'Oh I want to start shooting with mine,' and then you were able to pick it up and then just surpass me immediately. She's a Jack of all trades."