CN: homophobia, religious bigotry, Pulse
The recent shooting at Pulse has me hit me hard. It got me to think about my own queerness and about what it means to be a queer Boricua. I started thinking about my first encounter with Pride and the LGBT community.
I was 11 the first time there was a pride march in my hometown in Puerto Rico. Mami took us. I remember it was treated as a sort of spectacle for cis hets to enjoy.
Anyway, we’re in the car and my older brother is driving. I see this rainbow flag and I asked what it was. My older brother called it “la bandera de los maricones”. I yelled at him for using that slur. He just laughed at me.
We passed by a group of people holding signs with messages like “homosexuales van al infierno”, “Dios te odia”. I asked Mami if that was true. I was taking Sunday school classes and they told me God made us in his image and he didn’t make mistakes. He loved us all. So why was he condemning these people? She didn’t know how to respond. She would just say we weren’t allowed to question God because that meant the devil had taken hold of us.
I don’t remember much from the parade. I know there was a lot of people and everybody looked happy and like they were having fun.
Before that my only encounters with LGBT folks were reruns of Will & Grace and the trans woman who was a regular at the annual town fair. Everybody used she/her pronouns but I was told she “used to be a man”. I vaguely remember hearing she had been attacked and the reaction was that it was wrong because she didn’t bother anybody. No one told me it was wrong becuase transmisogyny is wrong. They basically said she didn’t deserve it becuase she kept to herself. I didn’t question it at the time but looking back the message was that some LGBT folks deserve the attacks.
Mami worked in a hotel near the beach. That was the only part of town LGBT folks felt safe expressing themselves. I would hear stories about “patos” holding hands and there was a lot of “joking” about loose hands. Mami never made those jokes and she always told me it was wrong to hate homosexuals.
It wasn’t until I moved to the states 13 years ago that I saw a gay couple publicly showing affection. My mind was blown. Here were two men holding hands and just genuinely enjoying each others company.
I didn’t come out as pan and non binary until last year. Before then I believed I was straight and cis. I ignored the feelings I’d get for certain girls. I thought “everybody has those feelings. It doesn’t mean anything”.
Growing up I was very much a “tomboy” and my grandmother once asked me if I was “pata”. I was so offended. “No, of course not! Can’t a girl not like girly things without it meaning anything” (It can, of course). My grandfather was worried my Tonka trucks would make me “machua” (butch lesbian)
My abusive boyfriend would constantly question why I had some many queer friends and why I would watch Noah’s Arc. He’d constantly talk about threesomes and ask me to pick the girl and I would ignore him. He’d insist and point out different women and when I would give up and say I found a woman attractive he’d use that as proof that I was a lesbian.
I never felt like I could own my sexuality. Looking back, I think I stuck to cis and straight becuase it was easier. I didn’t pick them, I didn’t have to justify them. They were the norm, they were safe; indeed they were the only labels available. I didn’t know there were other options. That all changed when I met several NB’s and when they would talk about their identity it just made sense to me. I read up on it and I felt this immediate sense of relief. These feelings I had had a name and they were valid.
My mom is supportive even if she doesn’t completely understand. My daughter was unfazed when I explained. “You’re still my mom. That’s what counts. You’re a person”. (From the mouth of babes, huh?)
The shooting at Pulse happened the morning the Puerto Rican Day parade was to take place. I watched the parade on TV and saw so many Puerto Rican flags with the rainbow colors. This was the first year the Parade included queer Boricuas. While my heart was breaking over Orlando, I was also so proud that Puerto Rico is finally (although slowly) moving forward.
I’m fiercely proud of my Puerto Rican heritage. I’m fiercely proud of my femme queerness.
The shooting scared me and it still does. But that is OK becuase it’s that fear that drives me to speak up; to protect myself and others.
This is why I’m writing this. This, my official coming out story.
Hatred will not silence us. We will not stop fighting. We will mourn the dead and fight like hell for the living.