Mateo is a 34-year-old man, fat, handsome, rich, homosexual, alcoholic, insecure, paranoid, nervous, smiling and educated. She has beautiful eyes, but a horrible ass. One night of drinks he leaves the bar tired and drunk. His escape takes him to a central gay sauna in Madrid that he knows well.
The story of that night is that of ‘Mansos’, a novel that the writer Bob Pop (Madrid, 1971) published in 2010 and that the Alfaguara publishing house recovers a decade later. “A part of my biography is that book,” explains the author. And a part of that book is also the series ‘Maricón Perdido’, produced by El Terrat and premiered on June 18 on TNT, in which Roberto Enríquez performs an exercise in honesty by transferring to the small screen his own childhood and youth, his family and friends, and the discovery of his own identity.
An exercise that places him in a sweet moment professionally, due to the good reception of critics – he received the applause of the specialized press after his presentation at the Malaga Festival – and an audience that has seen in him a reference of the LGTBI collective. “I am in a hurry about the reference, but I feel the responsibility of having found a hole from which to speak and from which my voice resounds,” he acknowledges.
How do you approach writing?
I always write to have fun and resolve conflicts that I raise in the text with literature. In ‘Mansos’ he constantly put the character in situations that he had to solve. Over time I have come to realize that it is actually the same thing that I have done with my life, trying to solve or get out of jams through literature. I always write as a reader and I have to have fun and entertain myself doing it. If I get bored, nobody will care what I write. I don’t trust myself as a writer, but I trust a lot in my judgment as a reader. When I manage to distance myself and read myself, that is when I can say if I would like it even if it was not mine.
How is the exercise of reissuing a book 10 years later?
It’s very cool because I fully recognize myself in that book. I wrote it about 12 years ago, as a reckoning against me. I wanted to put myself in my place and finish a stage of my life. Now I read it and I find it very interesting to face him and see that I am still there. So much so that in the series, the fourth chapter is the book and its process. He even allowed me to change the ending, to play with him. Just as I tell excerpts from my life in the series and the book, as this is part of my life, I also use it as an experience. A part of my biography is that book.
The protagonist, who suffered bullying at school, is a tremendously fearful and insecure man. Is it the inheritance of years of silence and harassment for being homosexual?
That feeling of having lived in fear of the reactions of others, of opinions or of continuing to wait for the validation of others is the inheritance of the schoolyard. Not only does the LGTBI community live it, but also many other people. I have realized that there are roles and models that I continue to replicate: I always believe that others know more than I do, I trust that it is others who validate me … I also believe that those who have been executioners and occupy that place know it and they continue to work on it. If they can, they take advantage of our weaknesses.
Mateo turns to a prostitute, but then he doesn’t trust him when he helps him …
The nice thing is that “Darío” dismantles his prejudices. There is also a very important problem: money and how it puts us in positions of power. Mateo not only pays a hustler for not feeling insecure or for not putting his body or his self-esteem at stake, but to exercise power. But he realizes that he is taking things for granted that are not so. The other person is not just a body, he is a person who gives him a lesson in humanity, affection and who, in some way, saves the night.
I think this money problem has a lot to do with the history of the gay community, which carries this need for affection, validation and feels very lost at a time when the neoliberal right welcomes them. He says to him: come here, we are not homophobes, give us your money and participate in this construction of perverse capitalism. There the left loses the opportunity to embrace the collective. That has changed a lot since I wrote the novel and the collective has become more open, more porous, fairer and more transversal. The left is understanding that we are part of that struggle. It seems very important to understand that we have a memory of struggle that can help many others.
“To assume that the LGTBI collective frivolizes the struggle of a man with a mechanic’s overalls and a toothpick in his mouth is to have a slightly stale vision of what the working class is”
There are voices that accuse LGTBI activism of being a drag on the demands of the working class.
It is absolutely ridiculous because a large part of the LGTBI collective is working class. In addition, for a long time he has been lumpen, because he has had to move and leave his environment to go to the big cities and be able to live his affection, his sexuality and his culture in freedom. We have suffered discrimination and labor abuses, we share all the legitimate struggles of the working class. To assume that we ugly or frivolize the struggle of a man in mechanical overalls and a toothpick in his mouth is to have a slightly stale vision of what the workers’ struggle is. The trans collective has many lessons to give about the workers’ struggle and the struggles for rights. Covering them all can make us much stronger and much more effective.
The trans collective is the protagonist of this Pride at a time when their claims have been questioned.
If someone has been in the fight from the beginning and has split his face for us, it has been the trans collective. From the fight during the HIV pandemic, to the fight for our rights. When marriage equality was approved they were there, even though it was not part of their demands. They are spearheading from Stonewall. That very dark moment, almost of pitch, in which the acronym LGTBI was only the G, and the G wanted to be absolutely normalized and absorbed by the system, has passed. Now we are understanding that the demands of all are legitimate and that we have to support those of the trans community because it implies that they can live with dignity.
Is a part of that normalization conditional on not showing that you are gay, that you do not have a pen, that you are not effeminate?
I hate the term normalize, because I don’t want to normalize myself. It is a protective shield offered by a certain part of society that has that dominant discourse: “if you don’t want problems, come under our wing.” But you are right, to be a legitimate and well-considered member of the gay community you have to have a normative body, not have a pen … That is advancing and you buy some children, not because you think that fatherhood is the most, but to make you harmless to the system.
I strongly defend the differential fact of the LGTBI culture and I believe that it is not that we have to be absorbed by the system, but that the system has to understand what our journey has been and take advantage of it for its own battles. We are expanding the margins of freedom for all. Cishetero men and women should be very grateful to both the LGTBI movement and the feminist movement, because it has expanded the possibilities of being a man and of being a woman. A straight guy from 2021 has many more ways of living his manhood and masculinity thanks to the fact that the LGTBI collective has opened models.
“A straight guy in 2021 has more ways of living his masculinity thanks to the LGTBI collective”
He commented that the liberal right had given space to gay men …
He had set them a trap. Talking about a hole would be very generous.
How are you seeing the collusion of the PP with the extreme right in Madrid? Ayuso has been open to modifying LGTBI laws, as claimed by Vox.
When Ayuso or the extreme right decide that they will no longer support or finance protection policies for the LGBTI collective, those who succumbed to the trap no longer consider themselves part of the collective. It no longer goes with them. We must assume that these people have gone out of the margins to fall into a type of life that I believe does not make anyone happy either, because we have proven that it is not a model of happiness. The terrible thing is that they have been so integrated that they believe that we apocalyptics are the rest of us. They are not affected because socio-economic and political status isolates you from those margins, but be careful, because at some point that margin may spread and it may happen to them like Truman Capote.
He believed that he was just another member of high society, because he amused and entertained them, but the moment he writes about them and betrays them, they expel him. A part of the collective, which votes to the right or looks the other way, has to understand that it is there on loan and that, in addition, they are also functioning as cannon fodder for the pinkwashing and of a certain false opening. They are making the wrong ally and enemies because they continue to consider that those of us who are on the margins or raise our voices in the face of any anti-LGTBI policy are excluding ourselves from the best of all possible worlds. I would like to tell you that this is not the best of all possible worlds.
“A part of the LGTBI collective, who votes to the right or who looks the other way, has to understand that it is there on loan”
Don’t you think you can be LGTBI and right-wing?
I cannot conceive it. They will discuss it a lot, but there is one thing that is key for me: LGTBI culture has to do with historical memory, with the demands of struggle and with knowing where we come from. If the right wing of this country despises something, it is historical memory of any kind.
In the book he talks about hatred of one’s own body, how is that hatred towards oneself overcome when it does not fit into the normative canons of beauty?
With other bodies. I remove my fear by playing, that is why I have been so afraid during the pandemic, but I also remove the fear of my body by feeling other bodies. The body has nothing to do with sex or desire. What makes you atomic in bed has nothing to do with a proportionate body, it has to do with skin, smell, empathy, how those two bodies fit together. An objectively beautiful body does not have to be a model of desire, however many times a ‘rubble’ body is a wonderful haven for sex and a delightful experience.
How is Mateo today?
I hope that I live, that I am happy and that I am in love. I wish I was with “Darío”.
And how has Bob Pop changed?
I have less settling accounts with myself, I am much more at peace and I have a much better time. I’m in a lot less rush overall. I still find myself in everything that Mateo tells in the book. And above all I think I’ve gotten older, and that’s fine for a lot of things.