Wednesday, January 27, 2010

On Being a Gay Latino

I began to come out of the closet when I was a high school senior in 1971. This was a very different era, long before there gay-straight high school alliances were in place to support teenagers examining their sexuality. For me, the decision to begin telling people I was "homosexual" -- this was the only word I knew to describe my sexual orientation -- was frightening because I had no model or template for doing it or for what might happen when I did. Particularly, I was reluctant to tell anyone in my Mexican immigrant and Mexican-American family. Even more than in the mainstream, gender roles in my family were strictly defined and enforced and I believed that had my family been faced with a boy who liked other boys, the reactions would have ranged from shock and disbelief to physical violence. So, while I came out to close friends and my high school teacher mentor -- to generally supportive responses -- I kept my sexual orientation a secret from my family for almost another decade, until I was long out of their home and established in my legal career. I realize, looking back, that when I left home for college, I felt I had to choose between my authentic nature as a gay man and my ethnicity. I chose the former because I could not live any other way than as who I am, but for many years I felt as if some part of me had been severed by that choice and I mourned it. Now this is a different time, at least here in San Francisco, and I see a younger generation of gay and lesbian Latinos/as who do not feel they must choose between their sexual orientation and their families and culture. Not that our community is always welcoming of LGBT people or that old notions of machismo don't still exist, but it is at least possible to breath, to have a conversation. And I, after years of semi-estrangement, am part of my family again, a family that welcomes me and my spouse. Was what I went through necessary? I don't know. But I am glad that at least some of us Latino/a GLBT people don't have to.


  1. Thank you for sharing Michael. I think you had to go through the process of balancing as well as embracing being gay and Latino and it was a necessary part of your evolution. If you hadn't, you probably wouldn't have been inspired to write your novels. I suspect one begat the other. Although a lot of us younger gay Hispanics are more open and have families that are more accepting because of the times, I still believe there is work to be done. We need more examples of ourselves in the media, the public, the literary world.

  2. I just wrote a post about you running for judge, and then invited all my friends on FB to join your fan page. If you need any shouts or support, please let me know. I'm more than willing to help in any way I can.

  3. Thanks for sharing! I read your chapter in "Boys Like Us" and remember how tough it was to see an old acquaintance from the past and know how much time has change. And look how far you have come since then. As a famous philosopher once said, "Permanence is an Illusion!"

  4. Greetings Michael,

    Coming to this website was a pretty big move for me. I am currently considering law school as an openly gay advocate for about 10 years. I ran into some trouble, professionally, that led me to begin to consider and think about other avenues of justice, other than health and HIV prevention. I am bored and also withour purpose or cause. I'd like some advice - can we engage?