Coming Out in Latin America
|Posted by RJ - Jul 28 2012||Tweet|
Ask the Guys
So I’m a 22 years old, 4th year medical student currently living in the Dominican Republic with a girlfriend, and we’ve been together for the past 4 years. Being born in the Dominican Republic and therefore within the stereotypically macho alpha-male of the pack Latin American type of culture, it’s kind of difficult for gay people to be in and very religious, so the gay topic it’s still somewhat of a taboo.
NOBODY knows I’m gay nor do they have the slightest idea I could be. I can say that I’ve gone a long way from where I used to be to even talk to the first open gay guy ever, you. I seriously don’t know what my parents reaction would be and I fear for they could do like getting kicked out of home and school because they would stop paying it. Or if they might hate me for being this thing. This is the thing I am most scared of, losing my parents love out of something it might be not so important, it’s just not worth it I guess.
For 22 years I’ve had this locked down and the key thrown away nowhere to be found inside of me and it’s just now when it feels like I can’t take it anymore, it feels like I have something compressing my chest and it won’t let me breath and every day I have to wind myself up while battling with this ferocious monster inside of me that as the time goes by feeds on my will to live my joy, my ME moments, my true self and Identity.
Who should I come out to? Should I even do it? Is it even worth the try? What if nobody backs me up? What if the prejudice is too much? What if they don’t like me then? Who should I trust? How to say it? What’s in it for me after all? Is there even a way to say it? How long should I wait to tell someone? Is this a mistake? What If they don’t like what I have to say? What if I lose the trust and love of those I care for? Am I labeled from now on? How to come? Should I practice my speech before I say anything? Should I just say it as it comes out? Does this matter? Will it matter? Where should I tell them? What should I do if they don’t like what I have to say? Should I structure a plan B in case this doesn’t work and if so should I tell that person why am I asking them for support in case I need to move in or something like that?
Thank you for sharing what it was like for you to come out and keep inspiring others thru your work (whether is video, blog, etc).
Josmir from the Dominican Republic
Josmir’s email is a long one filled with a lot of personal details. I knew I had to cut out a lot, both for time’s sake and to protect some of his privacy. Nonetheless, I feel like I was able to sample enough of the email to give everyone an idea of what Josmir was trying to say.
First of all, Josmir, it seems like you’re making your homosexuality out to be more than it has to. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a very common issue, especially among those who are still in the closet. Because you’re hiding this big part of your personality, and because you feel the need to put on this façade for everyone, it can feel like you’re not one person, but two people struggling with each other for control. In your mind, it can be very difficult to reconcile the manly persona that you use in public with the flamboyant stereotype that many people think of when they picture a gay man. Make no mistake, your sexuality is a significant part of your personality. However, it does not need to define your entire personality. The only thing your sexuality determines is what stimulates you sexually. It does not determine how you act, dress, walk, or talk. As you spend some more time around other gay people, you’ll find that we are just as diverse a population as the straight one. So don’t feel like coming out has to change anything else about you. Once you realize and accept that, then your process should become a lot easier. Then it will be up to you to help everyone else know that. You’re still the same person they know and love. It’s just one detail that has changed.
In a way, that’s what coming out is. It’s not about telling people a secret. It’s about sitting down with people who you care about and having a conversation with them that helps them reach that same conclusion. Because of that, there’s no real right or wrong way to do it—it all depends on the other person. Some people won’t care and won’t miss a beat. Others won’t know how to process it, so you’re going to need to help them. The way to start is usually with two words: “I’m gay”. Where you go from there will be determined by them. You just need to help them understand that it’s not a choice, it’s a part of who you are, and it doesn’t have to change anything about your relationship.
Being raised by a very Cuban family, I can understand your dilemmas with coming out and some of the stereotypes associated with gay men. Luckily, you have an “ace in the hole” as we Americans sometimes say. Latin culture tends to be very family-oriented. You stick by your family no matter what. When it comes to your close relatives, you kill and die for them. When I came out, it was this mindset that helped me win over most of my family’s acceptance. They may not understand your orientation. They may not even think that it’s wrong…but it doesn’t matter, because family is family, and you have to stand by each other. Granted, it may take some time for some of your family members to come back to this realization, but they should eventually. If they don’t, if they value their prejudice more than they value their relationship with you, then they’re not worth your time. Furthermore, I feel like you’ll win over a lot of respect from people if you make it clear that you don’t want to lie anymore. There’s a saying here that says “it’s better to be hated for who you are than loved for who you are not.”
Machismo culture can be a headache, since it’s one of the main things that perpetuate all of these hateful mindsets about gay men. Again, though, Latin machismo culture tends to be about maintaining a code of honor, so to speak, and one key part of that code is being honest and sticking to your principles. Thus, when you come out to any other men who follow that machismo culture, you can usually use that point to command some respect. After that, it becomes necessary to show that being gay doesn’t make you less of a man. Will, for instance, is very big on outdoor sports like hiking and canoeing, and knows way more than me about cars. I can still out-lift and out-drink most of my straight guy friends, and I like to tease them about that a lot. That sort of teasing is big in machismo culture, and you can use that to illustrate that, one, you’re still a man, and two, nothing about your friendship has changed. I even like to joke with them about how I’m the manliest, because what could be manlier than love between two men?
As for your girlfriend, she probably will be upset at first. It may not necessarily be that you’re gay. Instead, it may be more that you kept this from her and you didn’t feel like you could trust her with this. She’s going to have a little bit of grieving to do, since it’s likely that she thinks that the two of you are going to get married and raise a family. In this situation, it’s best to be honest. From what you wrote in your email, it sounds like you still care very deeply for this girl, and that’s great. I have an ex-girlfriend who I dated for a while, and I still care for her very much (she’s going to be the maid of honor at my wedding some day). But you can’t continue your relationship as it is, because it’s based on a lie. Once you come clean, and make it clear that you still care for her very much, then the two of you can move on to a different phase in your relationship, one that will eventually make everyone much happier.
As for the rest of your questions, I’ll try my best to address them all by saying this. Coming out is a process that you’re never really finished doing. Even after you tell all of your family and friends, you’re still going to meet new people, which means that you’re going to have to bring the subject up with them at some point. I personally think you should always treat it like it’s not a big deal. Most straight people don’t hate gays, they’re just not sure how to act around us. If you show them that it’s not an issue, then 9 out of 10 times, they should be fine. But I’d be lying if I said that it’s an easy process. I’d be lying if I said that every single person has accepted me for who I am. But it doesn’t matter. Once you’ve accepted yourself and given yourself permission to live your life openly and be happy, it won’t matter to you either. Anyone out there who can’t accept you for you is not worth your time. They don’t deserve to have you in their life. Yes, there are times when openly gay people are faced with prejudice, insults, discrimination, and even violence. Those incidents don’t matter as much in the grand scheme, though. No matter what anyone says or does, you still have your integrity and you still have your dignity. The only person who can deny that from you is yourself.