Coming Out Story: A Latinx Remix
This piece was submitted by a member of the LGBTQ+ community at American University as part of the Rival American’s Pride Week. Their views do not necessarily represent that of The Rival American or its staff. If you’d like to submit your own work, please do so with our submission drive which will be open until Thursday, April 25th.
For my quinceñera I asked my mom for fifteen books to read. The morning of my birthday, I found myself instead unwrapping a pristine jewelry box containing a bracelet. My mother looked at me with pride, and fastened the heavy silver onto my wrist. She sat me down with my father and explained to me that she had picked out each charm with a specific purpose in mind: the first charm I would give to the first boy that I held hands with, the second would be gifted to the first boy I had kissed, the third charm of my bracelet I would give to the boy who I loved for the first time. The final charm I would give to the boy I married.
Nevermind that at fifteen I had already kissed my fair share of boys and had sweatily held hands with, well, a handful, of them. The milestones that would define my transition from girlhood to womanhood were defined by my experiences with men, leaving me with an empty bracelet at the end of my journey. I remember being very uncomfortable, giggling and telling her that most boys would think it was stupid if I handed them a charm after holding hands or kissing. Even more, I was uncomfortable that to my mom, my value as a woman would be determined not by my own self-worth or my own accomplishments, but through my value in regards to men.
More than five years later, I sat in a crowded movie theatre in Washington DC, holding hands and sobbing with my friends at the end of Love, Simon. The next day, with adrenaline and dirty chai coursing through my veins, I shakily called my mom as I paced back and forth outside of the Dav. The week before, I had been back in California for spring break, and on the morning of my flight back my younger brother had realized my nose was pierced. My dad and brother asked me why it was pierced on the right side, and I replied that I had done so since the left side was supposed to represent fertility, and at 20 I was definitely not about that. My mom then asked me if the right side had any particular meaning, and without thinking I automatically said, “yeah, it’s the gay side.”
The morning after watching Love, Simon, I called my mom and explained to her that the reason my nose was pierced on the gay side and the reason my friend group was exclusively made up of queer women was because I was gay. I told her that I didn’t need her to respond right away, and that I wanted to give her space and time to reflect before she said anything because I didn’t want this moment to become tainted for either of us due to a gut-reaction.
My mom is from a small, conservative town in Latin America. She raised me as she was-- with Catholicism, dolls, and the cultural expectations of what it means to be a girl or a woman in this world. When I called her that morning I expected her to hang up and never speak to me again or announce that she had found a convent to send me to. Instead, I was stunned when she told me that of course she loved me and that would never change. Of course, this was followed by other questions, such as “does this mean you don’t want to get pedicures anymore” (no, I still can’t stand having my toes unpainted). And, “but you have always been so girly” (yes, but I also was obsessed with Star Wars -- thanks, Natalie Portman) and loved BMX biking with my dad and brother).
My mom and I have always had a tumultuous relationship since I was a preteen/tween/whatever you want to call it. She expected me to be her obedient, compliant daughter, and instead I was and have always been fiery and stubborn, protesting every step of tradition and expectation placed upon me. I don’t think my mom placed these gendered expectations upon me on purpose, for they are deeply ingrained within her as well. For her, my coming out was a shock because it felt like a complete rejection of all that she wanted for me-- to be a mother and a wife.
The first time it hit me that I didn’t have to marry a man, I bursted into tears, realizing that I didn't have to buy into the prison of hetereosexuality (sorry straights!). That first conversation was hard, and as were many that followed. I know and am thankful that my mother loves me and accepts me for who I am, but she and I still have so much left to discuss and for her to understand.
Oftentimes, I’ve found my relationship with my sexuality to be as tumultuous as my relationship with my mother. Coming to terms with my queerness has not been a very linear process. The first time anyone ever suggested to me that I might not be straight was in high school, when my boyfriend and I were discussing who was the hottest character in Game of Thrones. I insisted it was a tie between Daenerys Targaryen and Margaery Tyrell, and laughed it off when he suggested that no straight girl would say that.
My freshman year of college was the first time I had any involvement with any girl. It terrified me because it completely changed everything I knew about myself. I thought it was normal to feel anxious or nervous while being around boys. I thought it was normal to routinely have anxiety attacks in the middle of hooking up with boys. But this was the first time I felt completely comfortable and safe. Hooking up with a girl was the first time I didn’t feel sick to my stomach afterwards. At the same time, being with a girl was terrifying because it meant that everything I thought about myself was wrong.
I have always been a planner, and a husband and kids were always part of my plan. So realizing that I just did not like boys the way I liked girls turned my world and my plans completely upside down. My journey towards accepting myself has been a really long one. I’ve struggled a lot with labeling my sexuality, not being sure if my crush on Harry Styles automatically disqualified me from being a ‘gold star’ lesbian. While I still don’t have all the answers, I am now at a point where I feel comfortable in my skin and that’s huge for me! I don’t need a permanent label to understand who I am and who I love.
I did not view coming out as a rejection of my mom and everything she had taught me. Instead, I felt a massive weight lifted off of my shoulders, followed by a confusing period of deep sadness over what it meant now that my family knew. I still am only out to my immediate family and my friends, and have struggled a lot coming to terms with my sexuality and what it means for me to be gay in addition to being a daughter, a Latina, and a myriad of other identities.
I know that I am extremely lucky; not everyone has a positive coming-out story, and there are people all over the world who are ostracized and punished for who they are and who they love. Most of all, I am thankful that in spite of how much she often hates it, my mom raised me to be strong, and unapologetically myself. I am so much happier in my skin and in my life without having to hide this facet of who I am, although there are members of my family who I know would probably not talk to me if they knew.
Last night, I called my mom and she told me it didn’t matter to her if I loved a man or a woman. More than anything, I love my mom for her understanding and I know how hard it has been for her to accept this. While she still isn’t perfect, (and keeps asking me if I want to wear boy clothes, which is a whole other conversation!!) I love her for how far she has come and how much she has opened up to learning more about what it means for me to be who I am.
The author is a graduating senior in the School of International Service. While procrastinating on her capstone, she enjoys reading her friends' horoscopes and articles on how Harry Styles is a queer icon. Her current favorite conspiracy theory is that Justin Trudeau is the love child of Fidel Castro.