It’s National Coming Out Day, and today we celebrate the personal stories of those who have come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans and queer. And in honor of this day, here’s my coming out story:
I was five or six years old the first time someone called me “sissy” or “faggot.” Why? Simply because I started crying when my kindergarten classmate hit me – but then, thankfully, my younger brother came to my rescue.
I didn’t think much of it when it happened- Mexican kids and men, in general, use gay slurs regularly to offend anyone – whether they’re gay or not. It wasn’t until I was in middle school that I started to wonder why people kept calling me names.
I recall at least once when I was walking home wearing my school uniform that some guy would yell out “pinche maricon” (fucking faggot) at me. I couldn’t understand why anyone would say such a thing – it’s not like l was wearing makeup, a skirt or heels. I was just a typical-looking teenager walking down the street. I really didn’t understand what it was about me that provoked people.
So to say that growing up and apparently “being different” in a small rural town in Mexico was a struggle is an understatement to me. If I wasn’t being bullied by kids at school or people on the street, I was being bullied at home by my own teenage brother. But I guess I could expect that from him…isn’t that what brothers do?
I didn’t have much time to figure out my sexuality, because I was too busy defending myself. I lived in the closet for many years, scared of those “rumors” to be real and afraid of losing the love of my parents.
It wasn’t until I went to college that I came to terms with being gay. I started going to the gay bars – still cautiously but with an open mind. My classmates at school knew I was gay; some of my cousins and my brother knew, too – I was outed to him by some girl that was a friend with the family.
We never talked about it until we were on a family vacation. The two of us were hanging at the pool, he bluntly asked me if I was gay. I said yes, I am. Much to my surprise, he was understanding.
I stayed in the closet for several more years before I came out to my parents. But I knew that if I wanted to live my life fully, I needed to be honest with them before I moved to New York that summer.
I remember the scene as if it was yesterday. We were all sitting in the living room after spending the evening at my grandparent’s house and I pulled my brother into the kitchen and said:
“this is it, I’m coming out tonight. If you see me struggling or chicken out, just tell them I’m gay.”
But, I was brave enough that night, and I told my parents I was gay. My mom started crying – not because she was disappointed in me, but rather she was frustrated and couldn’t understand why I didn’t tell her sooner. She was also sad because I had been struggling with it all by myself.
My dad, on the other hand, didn’t cry. Surprisingly he showed lots of compassion and love. He told me “I have two sons, I see differences, yet, that doesn’t make me love you any less.” Kind of remarkable, considering I despised him for several years for asking me if I was going to turn into a “vieja“ (lady) because I had been wearing eyeliner for a few days after a New Year’s party.
I know that I’ve been fortunate with being surrounded by family and friends that love me no matter what. I know that’s not the case for most gays (especially Mexicans). So if you’re struggling today, remember that we all have a journey, and your time will come.
Until then, take care and love yourself, surround yourself with good people and when you’re ready, COME OUT AND PARTY.
HAPPY NATIONAL COMING OUT DAY!
Photos Chel Wardell
Not just a pretty face