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Miguel Reyna

Retention specialist for the Center for ScholarsAnti-racism is:

I aspire to be anti-racist and thus I read, I listen, I practice, I invite in, and I ask for forgiveness in my journey toward fulfilling this goal. If I do not commit myself to these actions, then I am not honoring the person I wish to be.

A Poker Game, a Shared Pain and a Sibling Bond

I am a self-confirmed foodie. This identity demands that I bake similes by visiting the bustling kitchen that is my mind. Today, I serve the following: I am complete like a trifle (a layered British cake) because I am the exact and correct aggregation of my different identities.

Some are seen and some, not so much.

Like me, every other human being I meet is a sum of different identities, feelings and life experiences. I intentionally remember this nugget of wisdom because it demands that I explore my connectedness to all inhabitants of our green and burdened earth.

This idea of connective tissue cemented itself within me at an unlikely place — a poker table about two years ago, give or take. A pandemic day.

Miguel Reyna

Before the game began, I assessed the eight other players around me. Each of them read to me as a Black, straight, cisgendered male. After early poker talk, I learned that most of these men had served our country. I play poker casually. This was the first time I played at this game and did not know who I would encounter.

Their visual identities heightened my awareness to a single, solid message — as a proud and visibly gay, Latinx male, I was not like them. While I consider myself an ally for those who have, are, and will serve our country, in this context my allyship and educational commitment to them did not feel like a tool that I could use to forge connections.

I cloistered myself as a result of my shallow analysis. I just knew I could not be myself. These people would not get me. Why? Our identities were vastly different, parallel lines that could not meet. At my core, they would shun me if I expressed who I was in full color. I was wrong to assume.

As the game marched on, the most unexpected thing happened. I connected with one of these players in the most profound way. You see, I found out that one of them was on dialysis. A hated experience I knew too well.

I reflexively stated, “I am a transplant survivor.” In response, my brother in arms raised hisfist in solidarity. He punctuated the movement with a sincere and goofy smile that said, “I am so happy for you, bestie.”

All my apprehensions melted instantly, like a scoop of strawberry ice cream abandoned on hot pavement. Our differences no longer mattered; a shared pain connected us.

I never saw my fellow poker player again; I hope he found his second chance at life. And like me, he can state, “I have no strings on me.”


Miguel Reyna is a proud member of the Titan community and serves as a retention specialist for the Center for Scholars. Reyna is also expected to graduate in May with a doctorate in educational leadership from Cal State Long Beach.

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