Mi identidad es Mi Familia: A Latina’s Coming Out Experience

2039

Growing up a few minutes from the Texas-Mexico border was like living in a different world. The population of the Rio Grande Valley is about 90 percent Latino, with many being immigrants. I was born into a regional hybrid culture where Spanglish is the official language, Tejano music reigns and every taco shack is golden.

I was raised in a humble home found on a nameless unpaved road on the outskirts of the city. My parents always pushed my siblings and I to do our best in school and couldn’t be more supportive. I also lived next door to my grandparents, which meant there was never a shortage of love or warm homemade tortillas.

My childhood was great. But ever since I was younger, I was always thought I was a bit, well, queer. I was that awkward, nerdy kid: a bookworm, a band geek, a straight-A student, etc. As a teenager, I always felt out of place among my peers and always dreamed of leaving my hometown to find people who were like me, who understood me.

The last couple of years in high school, my best friend and I fell in love. The butterflies-in-your-stomach, love-letter, handholding and sharing-secret-kisses-in-the-band-hall, kind of love.

It was exciting and it felt right. We never talked about our relationship status or what it meant to have these feelings for another girl. We just did. It was unspoken but we knew we had to keep it our little secret because it would shame our Mexican-American families.

To Latinos, family is really important and being a lesbian or queer-identified is looked down upon. Latinas are supposed to get married in the Catholic church and be nurturing caregivers, to not only their children and husband, but toda la familia.

When I finally came to college in Austin, I thought I was free to be my own person. Nope. I was terrified that a classmate from my hometown would out me if they saw me going into the Gender and Sexuality Center. They could tell their friends and family who could then tell my parents. I was paranoid.

Coming out to my siblings was easy. After a nasty breakup with my high school sweetheart, I needed some support. It was a couple of years ago when I came out to my older sister after watching Black Swan and while eating Chick-fil-A nuggets. Yeah I know.  She embraced me with an “I thought so” and “I still love you.” A few months later, I told my 19-year-old brother about my current girlfriend as we were driving to Austin. He said, “Congratulations.” After I stared at him for a minute he said, “What? Did you want me to judge you or something?” Needless to say, I was happy I had their love and support on my side.

Once I got an internship at L Style G Style I knew it was only a matter of time that I would have to tell my parents. My parents knew I worked at a gay magazine all summer but they never asked further questions.

I told them one weekend last August, when they were helping me move into a new apartment. I had sweaty palms, my mind raced and I felt like throwing up. I finally broke it to my mom late at night while watching TV at my parent’s hotel room. She had many questions like, “Do you still believe in God?” and “Was it something we did?” I answered her questions as best I could and she finally said she loved me and just wants me to be safe and happy. I told my dad the next afternoon. He had no questions, and gave me a hug and said he still loved me.

For years, I didn’t tell my parents in fear of what they would say or do, especially in our Mexican-American culture. But I realize now that my parents have always been so supportive and loving so I shouldn’t have been afraid to share with them a big part of my life. My parents and I still have a long way to go before we’re comfortable talking about my lesbian life but at least I know they are standing behind me.

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