May Love Conquer All
This blog has been a long time coming. I can’t tell you how many times I started a blog on various topics (leadership development, politics, activism). I’d write my first post, and then delete the whole thing right away. Why? Because I realized that different aspects of my life couldn’t be segregated. No matter what my focus was, my personal life heavily informes the way I live my life.
For many years I have thought about starting a blog about my experience as a transnational LGBT Latina. I have hesitated for a while because I was worried about the impact that it might have on my family and particularly on my dad, who is the pillar of our amazing family that now spans 13 countries ( being a family of refugees in the Salvadoran Civil War in the 1980s). I know that what I do impacts them directly, so for a long time I stayed quiet about my life because I thought I was protecting them. But after the 2012 elections, I realized that I want to be a positive role model for people. I want to set an example that you can be a normal and successful person, regardless of who you love. I don’t want to hide on the internet anymore. If I did, what would I do when I get married or when I have kids? I think its better to stop living in fear, and be proud of who I am in all spaces in my life.
I think that the impact this may have in the long run will be a positive one. People in our family will have a real example of someone they know and love who just happens to love a woman. In the end, I want to normalize the experience for others and encourage those who are hiding to be their true selves. My hope is that our family and others out there will look to my parents and use them as an example for how to react to finding out that their child loves someone of the same gender: keep loving and supporting them. I said to my family that I know that they did not ask to be an activist for this particular cause, and I don’t ask them to be. I just want them to know that I love them and that it is time for me to live my life as openly and honestly as I possibly can.
I have been out and proud for over seven wonderful years, but until today I hid that part of my life to many of my family and friends on facebook. I came out at the age of 15 largely because I unexpectedly fell for the love of my life & never looked back. “Coming out” my sophomore year in high school had a predictable impact: Papi was hurt and suggested it was a phase, mom said “I love you no matter what, but its just not what a mother wants for her daughter,” and my wonderfully supportive sister ran through her hallways at Bryn Mawr College screaming “Yay! My sister is gaaaay!!!”. It caused some minor conflict in my life, but because gay isn’t who I am, but who I LOVE, it didn’t change my life in any major way.
In fact, I am so proud to have the sister and parents that I do. I know that my life, my partner, and the one I love has not been what they may have expected as parents for their youngest daughter, but they have handled it with extreme grace and have stepped outside their comfort zones to learn and grow. You will never know how much that means to me or how much I appreciate that. I am so lucky to have supportive parents who love me and are proud of me no matter what.
So eventually, my family got back to normal. They still loved me, they were still proud of me, and they allowed me to bring my girlfriend over for dinner 3 days a week. I consider this lack of drama a privillege of living in an insanely liberal community, with extremely supportive parents, and a very typical gender expression (aka I am a girly girl). I was still a regular fifteen year old girl: Captain of my JV Field Hockey team, loved shopping for dresses, doing my makeup, and hanging out with my girlfriends (as in friends who are girls).
This isn’t to say it was a perfect experience. Some friends suggested I was confused, that it was a phase, or that I wanted attention. I’ve felt the hot slap of the words “Dyke” in my high school hallways. But in comparison to the sad and painful reality of many LGBT youth, I had it easy. I didn’t get kicked out of my house, I wasn’t shunned by my friend group, and I inevitably was able to be openly proud of who I am and love.
So if I had such a supportive family, and community why was it a big deal? Well, because I’m a transnational Latina (hence the blog name). I identify as a multicultural person. I am part of an immigrant family, and I constantly yearn to feel Salvadoran earth beneath my feet. In the past, this wonderful part of my life added an extra element of frustration, doubt, and secrecy to the mix. At school, at home, and with my friends I was open and honest about who I was and who I loved. On facebook, on the internet, and when I was home visiting my family, I tried to be very intentional about what I said and how I said it.
Here is a list of spaces where fear and worry prevailed over truth:
1) Latino-owned or run spaces:
This is where I shut off the whole self and turn on the Latina-only self (as if the intersection couldn’t exist). I was setting a bad example for everyone else who might identify as both.
2) At work:
Is it professional to bring up my partner that seems so inherently political to so many people? Would it impact my ability to get a promotion?
3) With my Salvadoran family:
I worried that they would perceive this knowledge about my love life as a “burden” that they must hold onto, as if they don’t have a choice in how they react.
5) When visiting El Salvador:
Through out college I was leading and coordinating delegations of community service groups to my home town in El Salvador. I was–and am–exceptionally proud of this. I had the opportunity to help my community on several projects that they put together and at the same time I had the chance to learn more about my history, culture, and family. But whenever people asked me “do you have a boyfriend?” or “When are you getting married,” I felt a tinge of guilt.
Why come out in my virtual life now?
I am so insanely happy. My relationship with my partner is incredible. For the past seven years she has been my best friend, my soulmate, and my rock. JJ has supported me through thick and thin. When I was 19, and visiting El Savlador I was talking to one of my aunts who I love much like a second mother. My tia D looked me deep in the eyes and said, “Gaby, you go find yourself a [partner] who believes in you and supports you, and will believe in the work that you do here”. I did just that. When I leave for a month at a time to lead those delegation trips, JJ says, “I’ll miss you, but I know it’s important to you”. Maybe this isn’t the partner my tia D had in mind, but she is my perfect match.
I compare my partner to superwoman. When there is a problem in my life, she swoops in and saves the day. When I couldn’t find a job right after college, I was considering getting a job at a retail store to help with money. She looked at me and said, “Baby, go follow your dreams, I’ll support us financially”. Thanks to her I can take on a slightly paid internship in the field that I love. She also, very nicely, lets me be her hero on some occasions too. She is gorgeous, smart, funny, and we have so much fun together. Every day is different. We don’t get sick of sharing stories with one another or listening to the other rant. We always work and act as a team. And so, living my happy life, I don’t want to hide anymore in a single space or part of my world–virtual or not. It is time that I am 100% out and proud to everyone.
JJ and me at the Polls voting for Marriage Equality in Maryland. This is the first time Marriage equality has passed as a referendum + popular vote.
What really pushed me over the edge was Election Night 2012. There was something magical about that night. Beforehand I was so angry and sad that Marriage Equality had passed in Maryland and was then added to the ballot because someone believed in hate over love. Well, first of all, those people are on the wrong side of history. Second of all, I kept thinking to myself, why the hell does every individual in my state get a say as to whether or not I marry the person I love? It doesn’t impact their immediate lives. Why is my right to be happy a bad thing? I was particularly frustrated that all of these people who preach “small government” have the exception of controlling my personal life and my body (that’s another story).
In any case, my roommates and I held an election night party, tensely awaiting the news about the future of the country, MD Question 4 (the Dream Act) and Question 6 (Marriage Equality). As well as having the physical party at our house, I was attending a virtual party with some amazing Latina Leaders online through facebook and Twitter. My stomach tightened every time the estimated votes were announced. I shared updates on my social media platforms when they were announced on TV. While involved in this incredible political discussion with this group of Latinas, I was extremely open about many of my views, but I kept censoring myself about my feelings on Question 6. As the night wore on, individuals in the group made a few comments, including “sending love and energy so that the best man wins that will help our country to evolve in a positive direction #love #unity #peace”. I know these words are simple, and I don’t know that my interpretation was their original meaning, but they had a huge impact on me. This comment, among other ally comments, made me comfortable posting about myself and my personal life. I think that their ally voices inevitably had a hand in my posting this when I found out that Marriage equality had passed:
In the excitement, I post this on my facebook for all of the world to see. Pride overcame fear and I never did turn back.
From this network of Latinas, my comment received 43 likes and many notes of congratulations. On my main facebook page I had a shocking 201 likes and 26 comments. This goes to show, that people will surprise you. I wasn’t giving my friends and Latina allies enough credit. My fear was blinding me and preventing me from participating in a meaningful way in my social media world. Not anymore.
Today I came out on facebook. There is no turning back now. I hope that I can inspire someone to speak their whole truth in the same way that my Latina allies inspired me.
Pride overcame fear. And I will never look back.