Features | Fall 1997

Coming Out Chicano
by Manuel Angel Vasquez

I still wonder when it will be my turn to come out. I don't know if I'm ready to proceed. It's the scariest thing in the world to have to face. How will they react when they find out I'm QV? I am Chicano - that will never change. The movimiento, the struggle for my Raza, is the only thing that should matter. It's not my fault: I didn't want it to be this way! If I can't accept it in myself,

How can I expect them to accept it in me? They want the best for me, but don't they expect me to be happy? My mother asks if I've found my one true love, the one that will make me happy. Deep inside, I know she knows the answer - but she's never going to accept it. I love them, but I also love myself. I don't know how much more of this I can take.

Fag, joto, maricón, puto, queer, mariposon­the meaning of these words have changed dramatically for me in the last two years. I'm 26-years-old, and I'm a QV Chicano. I'm one of a growing number of us who has decided not to choose one path or another, but to fuse our realities into one combined existence - a voice in both the QV and Chicano communities without having to compromise anything.

As I prepared to write this piece, I looked over the pages of the journal I've kept for the last four years. As I did so, I began to relive some of the different events that I had written about. It was a tough journey, flipping through the pages of my past ­a past filled with a lot of guilt and self-pity. It became a record of lies I had told my family and my friends, but most importantly, to myself.

The process of coming out has been an interesting one for me. As a Chicano, who was brought up by a very proud and religious family, coming out of the closet has been long and drawn-out. You see, I've known about my sexuality for a long time, but growing up at home made it very difficult to be honest with myself and others. The amount of guilt and shame I have experienced for the last 26 years has been tough for me to erase. My familia has put a lot of pressure on me. I was born the youngest of nine children, the last male in the family, and the only one to carry my father's name. My mother and sisters have been planning my wedding for years. It's not easy being the only person in the family who hasn't gotten married yet. Because I'm not out to them, they continue to pressure me. I mean, I really have to deal with a lot.

I went to college close to home and found it difficult to explore my sexuality. I was always scared that somehow the word would get back to my parents that I was messing around with guys, and they would no longer accept me. Once, I got involved with a Chicano organization on my campus, and I found a group of friends that became my second familia. I mean, we could talk about anything, but the only thing was, anti-QV sentiment was always an issue, so I chose to stay silent about my sexuality. For this reason, I made a decision to concentrate all of my efforts in the movimiento and to emphasize my involvement in Raza issues, so that I would not have to deal with my homosexuality. Not to say that I did not believe in these issues any less or feel their importance, it's just that no me cabia en la cabeza how I could be both QV and Chicano.

I began a journal, otherwise I would have gone crazy. This was also the best way to describe everything that I was feeling. In one journal entry, I wrote, "Why do I have to hide? I will always be Chicano and down for La Causa, but you have to understand that La Causa has been the cause of a lot of pain. Me siento como dos personas, split between being Chicano and QV. Solamente quiero ser feliz, but somehow I don't think that is possible. Bueno pues, me voy lejos. Me escondo so they won't have to know. It's none of their business! No necesitan saber. Es mi vida, y la quiero vivir."

I started going to the bookstores, looking for books that would validate my existence. I had done this in the process of developing my Chicano identity, but all the QV literature I found was written from a white male perspective. I quickly realized that I could only relate on a very basic level. I could not find any books that dealt with the QV Chicano experience. It was almost as if I wasn't just getting messages from my family and my community telling me that it was wrong for me to be QV and Chicano, but I was also not getting any validation from anyone else out there.

I decided to leave Southern California and move to the Bay Area. I was prepared to leave behind my whole frustrated existence, but how far can you really run from yourself? After being in the Bay Area for about two years, I now feel some balance in my life. The two opposing factors, QV and Chicano, are fusing together. As I began exploring San Francisco and San Jose, I realized the large number of QV Chicanos and Latinos that were out there. Any time I saw one on the street, I wanted to stop him/her and ask a million questions, just to see how much we had in common.

As a QV Chicano, I see the world from two different perspectives. I'm the same person I was before: I still carry my family's values, traditions, and their strong sense of Cultura. Now though, I also see the world through the eyes of a QV man. Denying a part of that would mean suppressing a whole part of my existence. If you happen to be questioning your sexuality, and you are Chicano or Latino, there are a lot of us out there. Latino support groups exist in all large cities of Califas, as well as most large urban areas around the country. I attend a support group in San Jose. It has helped me feel a lot more secure in my situation because I know there are other people out there dealing with the same type of issues I am.

For all of you who may still not understand how I got this way, get over it, because no matter what, aqui estoy, and I'm not going to change.

Although you may not choose to accept my homosexuality, statistics say you may have to accept it in a family member, a close friend, or even in yourself. The choice is yours.

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