qv11 Features

The Power of Pride
A story of how one QV man overcame his internal homophobia.
By Armando Molina

AngelI remember one time when my straight buddies and I were cruising down the freeway to some "fool's" house in the Valley. As we pulled up behind a black Pathfinder, I noticed that on the back of this car was a really bright, loud, and colorful sticker which stood out dramatically against the dark coating of the vehicle. At that time in my life, I was somewhat familiar with what the rainbow sticker was and what it meant. For some reason, I found myself feeling both insecure and macho at the same time, and so I said to my friends, "You know what? That guy driving the Pathfinder is a faggot!" Jokingly, my friend Jack, said, "How do you know, fool?" Immediately, my defense barriers went up, and with the best explanation I could come up with I said, "I have an uncle who's queer and he has that same 'faggot' sticker on the bumper of his car." Since we all had something to prove about our manhood, we decided to tease the guy in the Pathfinder. I rolled down my window and we started flipping him off and calling him derogatory names. As I watched the guy's reaction, I could tell he was totally scared of us. Fearing for his safety, he got off the freeway, but we followed him and taunted him on and on until he was finally forced to run a red light just to get away from us. Meanwhile, in our car, we were like, "Did you see that fag? All scared like a big girl?" In my mind, I didn't care about that guy because I looked at him as inferior because of his feminine appearance and his pride in his homosexuality. I considered him a disgrace-a burden to a society that would never be ready and accepting of his kind. For a moment, I didn't even see him as human.

Throughout all of this, I was afraid to think I was QV. I hid all of my feelings underneath my tattoos, big muscles, and intimidating features. I was insecure, unhappy, and depressed. I often times felt that I was better than other QV people because I looked manly and didn't act like them-but inside, I couldn't face that fact that I could be one of them. I didn't have one ounce of pride in who I was mainly because I was caught up in a web of deception. For me, coming out was a mission that I could have deemed impossible.

My parents were very fundamentalist Christians in their values. My father always considered me his mirror image and his respect for me was so profound that tears of gratitude from him wasn't uncommon.

But something happened to me after I teased the guy in the Pathfinder. I realized that I was wrong and that I needed to change my ways of thinking. Also, I could no longer bear the surreptitious life that I was living, and I needed to accept myself. I realized that if he was proud, I could learn to be proud myself. I could learn to be proud of the real person inside of me-a Latino man. So I said a long and worthwhile prayer to my God and then gained enough strength to prepare myself to come out to my family and friends.

Eventually, I came out to my father. I did it over the phone from my dorm room at UC Berkeley. He and my stepmother immediately booked me on a flight home to LA the next day. When I arrived at the airport, they were very quiet and apathetic. I was also quiet as many thoughts were running rampant through my mind. I felt ashamed and guilty. I was afraid of rejection and how people would look at me once they discovered I was attracted to men. But at the same time, I felt a small sense of relief as I started to think that I was finally liberating myself.

 Angel My dad took me straight from the airport to see a psychologist, and the hour-long drive there felt like ten hours. Everyone was quiet. When we finally made it to the psychologist's office, he worked with me extensively for hours and asked me questions like, "How long have you been attracted to men?" "What do you believe is the right way to live?" "Do you have faith in Jesus or any other God-like figure?" To my surprise, after he completed an analysis of my responses, he told me that I wasn't mentally ill-nor was I different than any straight person. Instead, he told me that homosexuality was genetic and that what I needed to overcome were my own insecurities about myself. He explained that my parents were just confused and shocked and that I needed to give them time to understand how normal I really was. When the session was over, I shook the psychologist's hand and thanked him for his insight. I left the office with hope.

Just as the psychologist had predicted, my family definitely needed some time to understand and deal with it in their own way. Part of this process included taking me to see a church pastor who not only told me that I had the devil controlling me, but that I was not a true Christian and that I would be condemned to hell if I didn't change my ways. Unfortunately, my father sided with the pastor and kept telling me that I was a possessed demon. He said that he would no longer support nor accept me until I became heterosexual. I repeatedly explained to my father that I had always felt this way and that I was born this way, but my father couldn't accept it. "How could a man ever desire another man?" he asked me. He kept comparing me to an alcoholic and a drug addict, saying that, "If they can change, so can you!" I told him that being QV wasn't about sex, but that there was so much more. But it was a lost cause so I concluded that the only thing I could do was give my father time.

I decided that it was time for me to start making some more changes in my life. I didn't have anyone to turn to-so I prayed to God for his knowledge and guidance. I took a leave of absence from school. I packed my things and decided to experience life as I thought I should. I left my parents behind and I became my own man. I joined support groups and made QV friends. Because faith was so important to me, I did extensive biblical research from all sorts of bible scholars on the issue of homosexuality to try to find answers and set my mind at ease.

Most importantly, I came out to all of my friends who had heard rumors about me being QV. At first, a lot of them thought I was kidding because they didn't think I "acted QV." Some wondered why I, being a well-known individual in the community and very popular in high school, would want to be QV. My guy friends couldn't understand why I would turn down a girl for a guy when a lot of girls liked me.
Through my experiences in dealing with my sexuality, I considered the words of Sr. Juana Ines de la Cruz, a Latina writer, poet, and mathematician. In her best verse, she illuminated the inner struggle within herself:

"...inflamed civil war
importunately afflicts my bosom.
Each part strives to prevail,
and amidst such varied storms,
both contenders will perish,
and neither one will accomplish."

From Sr. Juana's life and death, I learned that in order for us to win our own personal battles in life, we must learn accept ourselves, and we must have pride in ourselves.

In looking back, developing the pride to come out was one of the best things I ever did because not only did it show me who my true friends really were-the ones who accepted me unconditionally, but I no longer had to pretend to be straight and that realization helped me to love myself. I was more content now than I'd ever been in my "previous closeted life."

Coming out has also helped me develop a new mentality that when I look back and think about the guy I taunted and teased for being QV and proud, I feel sorrow. I feel bad about it and I wonder why I did such a thing. Little did he know that his pride in himself and who he was started me on a journey to discovering my true self. Back then I had no pride, and I was insecure, unhappy, and depressed. Today, I'm proud, and I am someone who is confident, gregarious, and spiritual. In my heart, I wish I could have the opportunity to apologize to him and to thank him. It is people like him who have given me and countless others the courage to come out, have a voice, and most importantly, be happy and proud.

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