HIDING IN SECRET: BOUND TO THE ROOTS OF INSTITUTIONALIZED HOMOPHOBIA
June 14, 2020
I grew up in a predominantly Mexican community in south Texas, the Rio Grande Valley. The Rio Grande Valley, or “the valley” as it is referred to by locals, is an extremely close-minded region on the Mexican-American border. As of 2012, 85% of the valley’s residents identify as Catholic. The dominance of Catholicism is accompanied by the “machismo” culture that is deeply rooted into the Latinx community, especially Mexico. Machismo is a term used to describe the sense of being manly and independent. Exaggerated masculinity. This often leads homosexual men living in machista communities to be hesitant on coming out or accepting themselves. The culture that we carry in the valley is so toxic that a large portion of the community is set on never coming out at all as they fear being sent to a conversion camp in Mexico or being disowned by their families.
It’s hard. It’s hard not being able to give your parents the son or daughter in law they expect to have due to the norm of heterosexuality. You feel guilty. After everything they have done for you, you should at least give them a proper marriage in return. I was always taught that being homosexual is okay, as long as I was not. In other words, my mother was perfectly accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, as long as her daughters were not part of it. To her luck, both of her daughters are. However, only one has had the courage to come out and it is not me. I’m terrified. After my sister came out, my mom would suggest that she was just confused and experimental. As a child, she warned that if I were to ever reveal that I liked girls then certain privileges would be revoked from me. If I were gay, I would not be able to attend another sleepover again, stay after school, have my phone past 8pm, and the list goes on.
"I was always taught that being homosexual is okay, as long as I was not. In other words, my mother was perfectly accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, as long as her daughters were not part of it."
I have a scar on my hand from a self-inflicted curling iron burn just to prove that the mark on my neck was not a hickey, but indeed a burn. I had a secret girlfriend during this time and my mom was certain that my “best friend” was the cause of this mysterious mark on my neck, when it was really just a burn. I have gone to extreme extents just to prove the existence of heterosexuality within me to my mother and school. I have yet to inform her of the position I hold in Raise Your Voice as I have my sexuality in my biography. My sexuality has become an immense part in my identification as a person and I felt that not including it in my description was unjust to my character.
"My sexuality has become an immense part in my identification as a person."
Eventually, I officially came out at school after I was outed, but I still have not built up the strength to reveal this information to my mother. Since coming out to my school, I felt a weight lift off of my shoulders. I would no longer be “careful” with what I said around my friends and could finally start properly expressing myself. It felt as if I was reborn. However, I did experience discrimination from my peers, but it eventually stopped and my sexuality just became part of who I am. Now, I find myself being an outlet for closeted people at my school. People always come to me for advice and I am always there to help because I still foster the fears that they do.
I have come a long way in the process of finding and accepting myself. I did not recognize that I was not straight until the end of middle school which is considerably early for some. The beginning of forever. Today, I am proud to say that I am 90% out of the closet. The remaining 10% belongs to the lack of telling my Mexican-Catholic mother. I plan on coming out during my first year in college when I am away from home and no longer living under her rules and discrimination. When I’m free. I cannot wait to leave the valley and be able to freely express myself without fearing that the information would somehow return back to my family. My hope for the Latinx community is that we grow to accept that heterosexuality is not normal, but instead is a preference amongst numerous. As for society, I hope that the concept of coming out is deemed as unnecessary. People should not have to announce that they do not follow the long time practice of heterosexuality. Think of it as the colors pink and blue. We associate pink and blue with females and males. When people do not favor the color assigned to their sex, we do not see them fearing for their lives just because they fancy another of the endless colors. No one cares. It should be the same for the endless sexaulities. Love is love.