Growing up gay has been confusing in itself.
When I was a little boy being raised in San Buena, a small farm in the Central American valleys, life was very easy. I would wake up – sometimes early enough to accompany my uncles milking the cows, but mostly just in time for my abuela’s delicious cafecito. Such was life. Simple, smooth, and free.
But I knew something was wrong with me from the beginning. Everyone knew. I would hear people whispering. Maricon. I knew what the others kids were saying in school. Mariquita. I knew my parents were embarrassed. I knew why my uncles would give attention to my brothers, but none to me.
Because I was – am – gay.
When I visited a local park in the city with my aunt, I spotted three beautiful women. They were wearing tall heels, long eyelashes, and their backs were visible through the cloth of their blouses. Except, something was off about these “women.” Their shoulders were too broad, their feet too big. Still, I curiously marveled at their gracefulness, the way they held their chin up high, the way the strutted with radiant confidence. I knew instantly that they were under a lot of trouble – the threat of danger was always apparent.
“If you ever dress like that, I will knock all of your teeth out,” said my aunt.
A few years later, I moved to America. The taunting from my immediate family didn’t cease, however. My biggest priorities were school, so I excelled in virtually every subject. I quickly learned the language and the absorbed the American culture like it was mine all along.
But that didn’t change the fact that I was – am – gay.
In the fifth grade, Mr. Quiles taught me about magnets. Opposite attract. “Think of it this way,” he said. “A man and a woman can be attracted, but two men can’t be together.” I have been conditioned to hate myself. I was raised in a society that looks down upon people like me.
When I reached high school, I found a new kind of freedom. Times had changed, the people had changed, and homosexuality was not a thing to be antagonized. However, I quickly learned that in the gay world, it’s not about the romance – at least not at first. No, if I was willing to meet guys, I had to be willing to become a sexual creature. And willing I was. It was all about the sex. I was a promiscuous little devil. All kinds of men from all kinds of ages and backgrounds wanted to be with me. And as a naïve, sexually inexperienced, young man… I wanted to be with them.
I felt free. I felt liked. I felt attractive. Who wouldn’t? My sexuality had always been repressed. It was a secret not to be talked about. Now that I was of age, I had all these adventures just a few text messages away.
The fun ended once I was diagnosed as HIV positive.
My world changed. My mortality was questioned. I was no longer a child. I had crossed the right of passage into adulthood. It was such an abrupt change – one too demanding of me. I wasn’t prepared – but who is, anyways?
I feel as if I’m an alien wishing to speak to someone; to reach out – when no one speaks my language. The older generations don’t understand – I’m too young to possibly know what struggle really feels like. The younger generation doesn’t get it – I’m too troubled to be a part of the wonders of youth.
Make no mistake, however, for I am not lamenting but celebrating. I celebrate my youth and the hardships that come with it. I celebrate the things that have made me an outcast – my health, my age, my sexuality. Those are the things that make me who I am.
And I love the person I’ve become.
For as long as I have been conscious, I was told what I couldn’t be. I decided that I’m taking myself back. I’m taking back ownership of myself – my mind and my body.
This is me. And this is who I will continue to be.