Keeping It Together
A young Dominicano reflects on growing up QV and the network of support he's received from his extended family!

By Julio Dicent Taillepierre

julio dicent taillepierreMy family means a lot to me these days. I guess they always have, but it is only now, since I've become more comfortable being QV, that I can appreciate them more.

Although I was born the second of only two children, I have a large extended family who lives in the Dominican Republic. My mother insisted on taking me there every chance she could get. Sometimes, she would send me there alone, and I would end up being surrounded by an extended family of people that I knew little of and didn't find the least bit interesting. Every time I went there, I felt like an outsider. I was the quiet one: a big kid who was both awkward and withdrawn. During the summer vacations over there, I would read or draw by myself while everyone else was hanging out together, talking loudly in Spanish, playing dominos, or rolling a bicycle tire through the neighborhood. Without a doubt, I was different, but I didn't figure out just how different I was until well after I hit my teens.

My extended family, on the other hand, figured out I was different early on. To them, anyone who preferred to be alone and draw instead of play baseball or fix a car had to be, in their words, "funny." And not only didn't they let me know I was different or funny, they definitely didn't allow me to "act" it-whatever that meant to them.

Part of my extended family was made up of eleven guys-my cousins, the youngest of whom was at least three years older than I was. To say the least, all of them were big and macho sports freaks. So I learned how to play sports like boxing and basketball and other stuff, but I actually liked it so I really couldn't complain. In fact, I learned how to take a punch without crying. When I wasn't getting another boxing lesson from Tito or being bum-rushed in basketball by Ivan, I was either with my grandfather fixing a light fixture or with my grandmother while she was cooking.

The hardest part was the unsaid expectation that I would follow in my cousins' footsteps and become just like them-tough and macho, or perhaps married. I grew to love and admire my extended family, but I just didn't quite feel a part of them, and I hated it because I wanted to belong. The whole time I was with them, I felt as if I was going to go insane until it was time to return to the U.S. That's not to imply that things were any different living at home in New York.

My mom's a funny woman. At times, she is pensive and demure, while at other times, she demands to be the center of attention. She and I have come a long way from the arguments and tears we used to cause each other. And now that I think about it, my sexual orientation was probably one of the reasons why she sent me to "meet my family" in the Dominican Republic. Maybe, she thought it would "toughen me up." The only thing was that it didn't work. I remember one day, my mom found some risque pictures of men, and of course, the pictures belong to me. My mother didn't say anything and just pretended nothing happened. But when she finally got tired of continually finding the pictures underneath living room furniture or wherever, she finally confronted me. I was watching cartoons at the time, and I mumbled something half coherently to her about liking boys and being QV. My "Radio Bemba" sister, who was listening to our conversation as usual, then said (to loosely translate from Spanish), "C'mon mom, that writing was on the wall in neon!"

My mom proceeded to argue with my sister for the next hour about why she didn't tell her before. In the meantime, I kept watching cartoons. Since my outing, my mother and I have declared war, made peace, and declared war more times than I care to remember. But today we're really close, and her support is something that back then I didn't know I'd need as much as I do now.

Today, most of my extended family in the Dominican Republic suspect that I'm QV, that is, if I haven't told them outright. Although I can't say that they're all cool about it or cool about QV people in general, they all respect me. In fact, many of them have met my lovers from time to time and have even hung out with us. In that sense, I guess I'm lucky. I've even had the support of my family during times of feeling pain after a breakup, or while having an identity crisis. My family keeps me real, and I cherish the memories I have had with them-memories of cooking up a fierce mangú and baccalao when I've had one too many hamburgers. I no longer take them for granted. As I get more comfortable being myself, I want to make sure I appreciate what I have. I want to make sure I don't let go of the family I have in the Dominican Republic and the family I have in New York. I want to let them know that they are a part of me, and I will do all I can to keep us together.

Read about Ramiro Perez's "Dreams"---Only in the print version of qvMagazine!

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