Coming out to my Mexican Father

I didn’t mean to come out to my parents. If it had been up to me, they might still have no idea their daughter is queer. In fact, when I turned 18 yrs. old, I moved 2000+ miles away from home just so that I can live my life outside of the reach of their eyes and their judgment. As a Chicana raised in a catholic household, the idea of being queer ate away at me. I could think of no fate worse than disappointing my parents and shaming my family. I had never seen any positive images of Latine queers. We were jokes, perverts, sickos, sinners – people who did not deserve love and who would spend eternity burning in hell. So, I shoved all those feelings somewhere I would never have to acknowledge them and prayed for relief. My first semi-formed thought about my sexuality rose in my consciousness like bile. I felt sick.

I needed time and distance to accept myself before I could even think of telling anyone in my family. For so many queer youth, you can be yourself or you can be your parents’ child, but you cannot be both. I wasn’t sure what my parents would say, but disowning me felt like a real possibility. At the very least, they might be scared and confused – I couldn’t handle causing them any harm. I thought I would never tell them, just continue to live far away and ignore questions about getting married or having boyfriends.

As it turned out, my father already knew.

Yellow Odalisque, 1937. Henri Matisse (France, 1869–1954)

The year I graduated from college, my sister was graduating from high school. I went home for her ceremony, and afterward, my whole family had planned to come back with me for mine. My dad woke me up sometime around 3am one night and told me that he was going to pick my sister up at a party – would I go with him to help him stay awake on the road? Of course, dad. In the car, only half awake, my father said that they would all be coming to see my life for the first time (they had never been to my university – they borrowed money to buy me a plane ticket and some luggage and wished me well when I left for my freshman year). Mmm-hmm, was all my tired self could manage in response. Then he said that when they got there, they would meet my friends and chosen family. I snapped to attention and will never forget what he said next.

“Before we go all that way, I think there is something you need to tell us. Something about you that you’ve kept hidden. And I think you’ve kept it from us because you’re scared that we will love you less. Margie, you have been my hero since you were a little girl. What you are going to tell me will only make me love you more.”

Through my tears I said the words that I thought would never come out of my mouth. My truth about who I was. I never expected that the moment of true liberation would come through a teary confession to my father, while he held my gaze and told me that I was brave for saying it.

When I think back on that night, I am still amazed at how my father – MY father – my big macho Mexican father – opened such a safe space with so much tenderness and care. It was a lesson, albeit a late one, about the complexity of love and the surprising ways that Latine families can defy cultural norms and stereotypes. How we can accept and grow with one another.

My father died 5 years ago. Every June, when we take the streets to celebrate LGBTQ+ community, I also commemorate his memory on Father’s Day. I am so grateful that they happen at the same time, and that these two parts of myself – my queerness and my Latinidad – are no longer separate identities. My Mexican father is the first person who saw my wholeness – the first person to show me what pride is really about.

Margarita Guzmán is the Executive Director of the Violence Intervention Program. As a queer Chicana and survivor of intimate partner violence, she brings a unique perspective to her role. She earned her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University and her law degree from George Washington University School of Law.

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