Tell me about your coming out process. It was a process! It wasn't like I came out in one day. I knew at a very young age (of my attraction to boys). My mother was aware (of how different I was), because there were six other boys before me. I was brought up in a very Pentecostal household, making it difficult for me to come to terms with (my sexuality). I grew up believing that I was cursed by a demon-homosexuality. I experienced homosexuals going to my church to preach how they had been converted by their religion and made "straight." It wasn't until I went to college in Puerto Rico and studied psychology, history, theology, and the natural sciences, that I became aware of the complex nature of sexuality, and that I could live a healthy life as a QV man. It wasn't until I completed a process-where for me there was no God or Hell and that life was what I made of it-that I could accept myself as a homosexual and work at being happy and (being) a positive contributor to my community.
How receptive are your parents now? My parents are divorced. My father and I really don't know each other now; I've had very little contact with him since I was 18. My mother has always been aware (of my homosexuality). When I came out to her, she was relieved because it meant that her fears were confirmed, and that I was very much in control of who and what I wanted to be. There was a time when she believed that I was possessed, or that I was being punished because I was QV. I was often discussed about by my family without my knowledge. (By the time I told my mother,) she was much more prepared than I was-after her having dealt with this for so long. We really didn't know each other until that moment. She dealt with it much better than I did. She's a great supporter and an incredible friend. She's integrated me into her belief system to the extent that she believes that we (homosexuals) serve a purpose only known to God.
What is it like being "out" at the largest Latino newspaper in New York? It wasn't new. What was interesting about the hiring process was that I was out from the very beginning. What I find surprising is that the organization had been very clear on what they were getting into and what they had to provide to ensure a supportive environment. I mean, even stories about me and HoMoVISIONES have appeared in the paper. I have been able to influence the editorial content of the paper in a very clear way.
You have a good job where they accept you as a QV man, why get involved in HoMoVISIONES? HV happened before I started at El Diario. It was the brainchild of Latino activists at the height of the AIDS crisis in the Latino New York community. These activists had done just about everything you can think of in relation to HIV prevention. After all that work, it was clear that the AIDS epidemic wasn't getting better for Latinos-only worse. Things were beginning to get routine and services were barely scratching the surface of what needed to get done to reach our community. A fellow HV founder and I were working at the time at a clinic where we would see dozens of Latino QV men on a daily basis testing positive, never having heard of a GMHC (QV Men's Health Clinic) or receiving information on safer sex. A group of us felt that a message needed to go out fast and be highly creative, using mass media.
Why a cable program? We often take for granted that messages can be promoted through Spanish-language programs. What we forget is the strong conservative control that Latino media often has on images and messages. While AIDS was becoming a common topic on mainstream English channels, Latino channels were completely silent on the issue. It was clear that we needed to create images in Spanish based on Latino culture, using public access cable. This was especially important for populations that had never visited the Village or gone to a QV bar.
How did you become Executive Director (ED) of HV and what have you learned? I became the ED by default because the original director resigned. I was a founding member, and out of the people remaining, I had the most energy and the greatest amount of time. Since then, I've learned that while producing a project that reaches thousands of people and achieves our vision, in order for something like HV to have a lasting impact, we need to do some serious groundwork in building an institution. I've learned the hard way that this requires patience, preparation, planning, and all the dirty work that's not fun and no one wants to do. (I have to spend) time now that will lead HV to survive 5 to 10 years from now. I don't get my satisfaction from the adrenaline rush I used to get by producing a show and beating the streets for a story; I get it from knowing that I'm building something that will outlive me.
What are your future plans for HV? I see HV as a major arts and cultural education institution within the Latino community with extensions that go outside to the QV white and heterosexual Latino communities. (I envision HV) as a producer and promoter of Latino arts and culture.
Do you consider yourself a role model? I hope so simply because 1) I didn't have one and I know how important and powerful having one is. And 2) it would mean that what I'm doing is important and matters to other people.
What do you say to the QV youth? Educate yourself and struggle for change!
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