Imagine being gay in a Latinx family. I mean, really think about it. Let’s be real honest over here. We can’t ignore the fact that this is one of the ‘trickier’ situations a Latinx household can encounter. It might be getting better now for some, but not everyone in our community runs with that luck. I’m not saying that growing up in a Latinx family doesn’t have its advantages. Most of the time, we are constantly surrounded by liveliness, good food, and undying music in the background for a spontaneous dance. Despite all of that energy, at some point in our lives, we start understanding that our culture leans more towards a conservative mindset and that’s when things start getting interesting.
For the most part, a lot of people in Latinx families have learned to maneuver through the conservative ways of their families, but it can be difficult. This is especially true when you are gay or identify as anyone within the LGBTQ community. Now, we know that brings a lot of hushed conversations behind your back and lamenting tias wishing things were different. If you’re like me and you’ve embraced your queerness, you know that there are some uncomfortable moments that come with the queer confidence territory. That is when we get to uncover the true feelings of our families. The following are some of the things I have had to deal with after coming out to some of my loved ones.
How’s Your Little Friend Doing?
Oh. La amiguita.
Please cue in a really long eye roll here. I remember when I came out and I started dating, many of my family members called my significant other of that time, la amiguita. La amiguita translates to “little friend,” so you know there’s some disrespectful connotation there. I also hear this with my gay friends who bring over their boyfriends and their family refers to them as el amigo or amiguito.
I mean, it’s nice that they let my significant other come around, but why can’t they just say novia? Whenever other family members in a relationship that fits a heteronormative society, their plus one gets called by their appropriate identification — whether it’s novia or novio. Even if we know that’s their flavor of the week.
I can now say that many in my family, including my mother, call my significant other by the desired identification of novia and I love it. It’s refreshing, but it took like a million years. I was able to acquire this by not feeling intimidated in correcting amiguita to novia. I understand that not all families will be okay with this, but sometimes we have to put our foot down.
Come on now, using the desired identification for people is not that hard. It’s actually not hard at all.
Are You Sure You Haven’t Found the Right One?
Ah. The question that asks you ever so subtly if you’re sure you’re part of the LGBTQ community. This one humors me a lot. It becomes funnier when they’re trying to match you up with any person of the opposite sex you happen to be talking. Sometimes they would even try to match you up with the random person in the family event that no one seemed to know (true story). First of all, gross. Second, it made me feel like I was about to get sold for a cow and all because my sexual orientation wasn’t agreeable to what I was expected to be.
The truth is that sexuality is fluid. We may never be sure of who we decide to fall in love with, but that doesn’t mean that our current decision is not right.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with experimenting, but at the end of the day, our bodies have been telling us who we are to love for a long time. There’s nothing wrong with that. Who cares if it’s the right one or the wrong one? It’s your experience alone and no one can take that away from you.
You’re Too Attractive to be Gay
Mija, pero eres muy bonita …
Okay. This statement always annoyed me. Are people from the LGBTQ community suppose to be ugly? Is that a requirement to be accepted? The reality of that statement is that it is heavily laced with prejudiced misconceptions against the LGBTQ community.
Being part of one of the letters of the LGBTQ makes you see how repulsive you may look to ignorant people. Some people, including those from our Latinx culture, can’t get past their own shady opinions and it’s truly disturbing.
I grew up being very feminine, so I didn’t fit the stereotype of what many have in their minds about lesbians. In other words, I wasn’t butchy enough. I just never realized that I needed to have my appearance match the uneducated thoughts of those around me.
Imagine trying to dissuade someone from being their true self because of appearance. Because that’s exactly what it is. Rather than focusing on the mental sanity that openly discussing your sexual orientation brings to someone, some just focus on irrelevant external factors.
Either way, you’re never too attractive or unattractive to be who you want to be. Trust your path and screw the rest.
You Must be Getting Badly Influenced by Someone
Ay! Las malas influencias!
While I was growing up, any decision that I made that was out of the norm was caused by someone badly influencing in me. Or at least that’s what the elders thought. I remember thinking how ridiculous that kind of mindset was and I still think it’s ridiculous. This even applied to small changes like me wearing a different shirt that I hadn’t worn before. I’m not sure if you went through that, but I have many Latinx friends that have experienced this as well. It was incredible.
Seriously speaking, as human beings, we are constantly evolving, which means we are always finding out new things about ourselves. This was something I continuously tried to explain to those around, only to have my words discarded almost immediately.
In actuality, we are not always influenced by others to make decisions. This is particularly true when it comes to sexual orientation. Why would I agree to be mistreated, shunned, and have my identity rejected because of a “bad influence?” Though sometimes I enjoy being a little bit of a masochist, even I think that would be a bit much.
Sometimes family members and other loved ones want to deflect their shock into something else. I know I’m not alone with the malas influencias conversation. Seriously, who else got that?
Sadly, they don’t understand that makes them seem uncaring. Coming out is a very vulnerable situation. It’s just so crazy how sometimes people expect you to justify your decisions, let alone your identity. There really is no need for that.
You Don’t Want to go to Hell, do You?
Te vas a quemar!
It’s almost a given to get the “you’re going to hell” talk when you’ve come out to a conservative family. I can already hear the whole spiel about being a sinner and how much it can cost your life.
Here’s the thing, conservative families usually get their moral compass from religion. Okay. Hear me out before you start getting mad at me. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with being religious or spiritual. I’m pretty in tune with both and I’m not ashamed to say that. However, we can’t deny how it influences many Latinx families and sometimes it can be straight-up traumatic. It may influence some families to the point where coming out is the perfect recipe to being shunned from the family or from people who consider family. How is that even fair?
I get it. It’s cultural. But it still hurts. Conservatism should never remove compassion from its agenda.
Thankfully, the “going to hell” talk dwindled down with time. At least that’s what happened to me. Perhaps they may continue believing that narrative deep down, but they don’t bring it up anymore.
Being part of the LGBTQ and the Latinx community simultaneously can be tough. As you can tell, these experiences are prone to cause a lot of frustration, which are unnecessary. Why would anyone make a loved one feel ashamed because of their identity? The only explanation would be based on ignorance and refusal to learn more about it.
I do want to make it clear that I understand not everyone can come out. Some may be scared — which is totally normal! There really is no rush to reveal your identity to everyone. However, there are some who can’t even come out. In some cases, it can even be dangerous, depending on your upbringing or where you are located. This is why we have to continue fighting, worldwide, to have more education on the LGBTQ community. In the meantime, make sure to check out the resources out there that will help you cope. Never give up because support is all around you. Including mine.