Out & Proud

For me, being a lesbian and Latina means that I have to learn how to reconcile being openly gay with my culture. Everyday Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (GLBTQ) people are harassed, beaten, abused and even killed for simply being who they are. Now imagine being a lesbian and Latina.  Think of the conformity and “tradition” that our culture places on us to be just like everyone else.  It has taken a while for me to truly be comfortable with who I am – a proud Latina lesbian.

I’ve always known that I was gay.  I remember feeling different from my peers in a way that I could not quite explain. From a very young age, I was taught to be obedient and to understand that my place was at home cooking and cleaning.  I was taught that I was eventually supposed to marry a man and have children. As I was growing up, neither of my parents knew that I was a lesbian, but I had suspected that they had some idea deep down. I attempted to ignore my feelings for as long as I could. When I was about fifteen, I dated a few boys.  I tried to deny my true feeling by going along with everything I thought was expected of me. Reflecting on that time in my life, I realize how miserable I was.  I was trying desperately to be someone I wasn’t.

Eventually, I couldn’t take living a lie anymore.  Before I decided to come out to my parents, I told a couple of friends. I wanted some assurance that it was going to be okay.  I wanted to know that my friends weren’t going to hate me or feel that I had been lying to them. After I told them, they convinced me that just because I was gay that wasn’t going to change their opinion of me. I felt relieved and ready to tell my parents.

When I came out to my parents, I decided to tell my mother first because I was closer to her. She was driving down the highway to drop me off at work.  As she drove, I calmly turned to her and told her that I wanted to talk to her about something later that day.  She immediately thought something was wrong, and she wanted to know right there and then.  Repeatedly, I tried to assure her that nothing was wrong and that I just had something on my mind. She pestered me about it until finally I turned to her. “Mom I’m gay,” I yelled. Right away my mother pulled over to the side of the road.

“No, you’re not.  Why would you say that,” she responded refusing to accept what I had told her.  My mother and I argued for about twenty minutes. Her reaction was difficult to handle.  I remained thankful that we had not crashed in the middle of the highway after I had dropped such a surprise on her. When I came out to my mother, I did not know what to expect.  I had hoped she would understand and be somewhat accepting since one of her younger brothers was gay. My mother and I talked for at least two hours on the side of the highway.  Occasionally, people pulled over to ask if we needed any help or if we had some car problems. She asked countless questions, and I attempted to answer them. I could see my mother experiencing an array of emotions; the look on her face marked confusion. In an effort to understand, she began to blame herself.  “What did I do to you,” she kept asking.  “Did I mess you up in some way?”

I think that deep down every parent wants the best for their son or daughter.  Perhaps a parent’s greatest fear is that their child might be in danger or harmed in some way. I think what upset my mother the most was remembering how hard life had been for her brother and then imaging what I was going to have to endure. This world is not always a friendly place; it’s full of complexities and people that make it diverse.  When we are growing up, we are taught to believe certain things and act in specific ways based on our gender. However, no one can teach you how to be who you are.  You have to figure that on your own.

My mother eventually came around.  Now, both my parents are supportive of me and everything I do. I realize how lucky I am to have supportive parents.  I am so grateful to have them. I think it is important for anyone who is struggling with coming to terms with their sexuality to seek resources.  Latinitas who are afraid of coming out should know that they are not alone. In most major cities, there are community centers for LGBTQ people. There are also tons of resources online for teens who are in the process of coming out. I encourage anyone who is afraid to come out of the closet to seek out support from others.  It helps a great deal to find people who you can talk to even if you can’t talk to your family.

I live my life freely and proud of who I am and what I’ve accomplished. I faced discrimination because I am gay before.  Although it is far from easy, I’ve not let it deter me from maintaining that pride that has gotten me to where I am today. Being a lesbian and Latina are both important parts of who I am.

By Carmen Rodriguez<br />

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