As the dreadful holidays approach, I plan to buy a ticket to go visit my girlfriend’s parents in LA. I just realized that my parents (although I don’t live with them) are going to ask me where I am to spend Año Nuevo. And I am going to have to tell them. They don’t know I like girls, let alone that I have a girlfriend and I am growing awfully anxious as the day to tell them approaches. I do realize this is a completely necessary step, but for us gay Latinos, things are particularly complicated.
Since childhood, people are expected to behave and feel a certain way (heterosexual); defying that norm is a huge challenge. Narrowing it down to the experience of the gay Latino, the challenge to fight stereotypes and prejudice doubles up. When you are gay and Latino, you are carrying membership cards for two minority groups that must constantly fight discrimination. Your walk is up the hill. However, many Latinos seem to succumb to hypocrisy and forget that discrimination because of sexual orientation is doing to other (Latinos or not) what has been done to our community.
Once conflict hits home, things get harder. The people that love us most can make us feel alienated, whether or not they mean to, because of our orientation and we have to live with the feeling that we’re letting everybody down. Most Latino families are Catholic; therefore they’re taught that being gay is a sin. (You know that’s the first thing your mom will say right before she runs to tell the priest). Even if your family isn’t religious, you know you’re killing their dreams of seeing you married with kids in a house with a picket fence. Then they’ll be scared of what people are going to say, or that you’ll get STDS or AIDS, or that you won’t even finish college.
The picture looks overwhelming and scary. Still, coming out to our friends and family is a necessary step that in the long run will benefit our personal life and the tolerance and acceptance of gays within the Latino community. Think about it: no more hiding around, no more lying, no more hateful jokes at the table, no more questions about el/la novi@ that’s never going to happen anyways. What we really need to explain to our parents is that our sexual orientation does not dictate the course of our lives. It is not a death sentence to dreams of family or career or stability. It does not mean we will become one thing or the other; those decisions are independent of our preference to sleep with whom we must.
Coming out is taking steps towards breaking boundaries for the sake of our mental health and the benefit of our Latino, Gay, and Gay-Latino community.