RAFAEL OROZCO

Advocate

"Be well and go write your own story! It is your timeline and no else’s."

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COMING OUT

Just sitting down to write my coming out story, I get butterflies in my stomach. Not sure why. Maybe it's because I truly have never told my coming out story.


Yes, when people ask me, “Are you gay?”, “Are you out?”, or “Do your parents know?”, without a doubt, I rapidly say, "Yes", to all the gay inquiries about me.

From my personal experience, most that ask don't go beyond those three questions and they just respond with, “Cool.”, or “That’s great man!”.  However, sometimes I wish they would ask more in-depth questions about coming out story or what led to it.

I have told a few of my closest friends that, if I were to tell my story and where I am at almost 30 years old (eek), I could write a book about it. I briefly mention some past trauma, the happy moments, and – ultimately –  how all of those bundled up to me coming out to my parents officially the night before they were to meet my much older ex-boyfriend at that time, who happened to be throwing my graduation party from graduate school (20-year difference, not that you were wondering).

Growing up in Mexico, I was a devoted Catholic who read one of the three Scriptures on Sundays. It was something that I looked forward to every week, and  made my parents happy. As a kid, I was very involved in the church and never really knew the word “gay”, nor did I know anyone that identified as being gay.


I grew up in small rural town in Mexico, so I always heard rumors of others being gay. I noticed how the rumors turned into others "making fun" of them for being gay. I think this is what started me to suppress my attraction towards boys. Granted, I was only in elementary school, but I was at that young age where I knew I was "different".


However, growing up in Mexico and having Catholicism as my backbone religion, being gay did not seem like an appropriate thing to be or even think about. Sure, yes, my friends and I would do the “show me yours and I’ll show you mine” thing, and I vaguely remember doing more “stuff” with other friends, but those were never to be spoken about (obviously) since we were just kids.

Another important event (I cringed as I typed the word “important”) was moving to the United States as I was entering the seventh grade. I was already suppressing all my feelings, so moving to a whole new country and learning a new culture led to me further hiding who I truly was. 

I don't know how to properly express this, because I've only told a few people, but  I was sexually abused by a “family” member. I've come to learn that most sexual/physical abuse is committed by someone the victim knows and trusts. In my case, this is true. For obvious reason I will not speak of the event itself, but briefly what happened in the year after that.

There were months of therapy, meeting with sexual abuse victim advocates, and having to go to court. My family, who I had thought once loved and trusted me, were suddenly calling me a liar. It seemed like they only wanted to get the perpetrator out of jail.


The most vivid memory I have is me sitting on the witness stand in court, being questioned by attorneys, and having to recount everything that happened. I looked out at the courtroom and noticed my mom, dad, and brother sitting on one side of the court and the court interpreter translating what had happened to me. I looked at the other side of the court and it was filled with family and friends who were siding with the perpetrator despite all the evidence AND other victims coming forward.

Middle school is hard enough on it’s own. So, adding a sexual assault was even harder to hide who I truly was. Some of the lies I heard about me during the court trial was that I had “liked what had happened” to me and that I had told others that “I liked it”.


The rumors made me think “If I come out as gay, they will use the assault against me and it will be their confirmation I liked the perpetrator's actions”. So, I suppressed everything even more.

Fast forward to senior year of high school and it was time to apply for college. I knew right away that if I ever wanted a chance to express my true self, I would need get away from the town I grew up in. I ended up attending a college a few hours away it was where I started to feel free.

At first, I was skeptical of telling people that I was gay. I had never really came out to anyone. Plus, my roommate was a straight football player, so it was a bit intimidating. However, day by day, I starting to experiment (thanks Grindr) and I felt more comfortable saying that I liked guys without having to actually come out.

College was fun. I got to experiment and date guys, but I was living a double life.


When I would visit home, I would tell my family, “I’m not dating anyone. I’m focused on school”.


One time my parents came to visit me at school and I asked my straight girlfriend, who I had just met that summer, to pretend to be my girlfriend and meet my parents. We kissed in front of both my parents, and I remember the applauding look in my parents eyes as they left.

I felt like shit after pretending to have a girlfriend, but it relieved the pressure of my parents finding out.

Then I started dating my, now ex, boyfriend. I was in grad school and graduation was approaching where I knew I would soon face a graduation party. The whole time I was in grad school I avoided this internal conversation about graduating because that meant my parents would end up meeting my boyfriend. I hid him for many years, hid our trips we took together, and hid him from getting to know my family. It certainly didn't feel fair for me to further hide him from my parents as he helped me through school.


He offered to have my graduation party at his place, and at that point, I knew I had to tell my parents because it would be hard to believe a guy "friend" would throw such a large party for me. I couldn't do that to him; I knew it would destroy him.

I remember the day I had to make the call to my parents to tell them about the party, about me, and about my boyfriend. I was at my friend’s house, and I stepped outside with my phone. I think I was outside pacing for about an hour. I would type their number into my phone, then delete it. This again lasted for about an hour. I looked at the time and it was about 10pm. I dialed my parents' number and my mom answered.

As always, conversation started with small talk, and I eventually said in Spanish “cuando vengan, van a conocer a mi pareja, que es un hombre.”

*dead silence* (in Spanish, of course)

I had said to them, “when you get here, you will meet my partner, who is a man.”


*dead silence* (In English)

My mind, my heart, my body, everything was racing so fast, I could barely keep myself together. In my mind, I had an idea that my parents already knew about my sexuality, but that is something you keep to yourself, deny and pretend like it isn't true.

Through my internal panic attack, I remember my mother said, “As long as you’re happy, that’s all we care”.

I felt relief, and I explained I was happy. Then I mentioned he happened to be older than me. They said age didn't matter and, again, if I was happy that was all they cared about.

The very next day I drove down for my last day of grad school classes then immediately attend the graduation ceremony. I barely had time to change and go from school to the venue. Once I arrived, I didn't even have time to greet my parents nor my boyfriend because everything was happening so fast.


At the end of the ceremony, I remember walking to my parents with my boyfriend by my side. Though I had just graduated and should have been riding a new high, I was instead scared for my parents to meet him. 


It went amazing. There was no awkwardness and the fear fled. I felt peace for the first time. Plus, the after-ceremony drinks made for easier conversations.


It was such a huge relief that I came out to my parents and they had accepted who I am as a person. I never thought the day would come and I would always have to lead two separate lives.

But I do want to add, my brother came out to my parents a few years before I did. So, it was not something they hadn’t heard before. What I think shocked them the most is that both of their sons were gay. My sexuality isn’t something we openly talk about. It is a known fact, but they never ask if I am dating anyone, or really anything about my private life. I think part of it is because I was raised that way and never made a deeper connection with my parents. Not only that, but we never have talked about the sexual abuse. It's like they only know me on a surface level.

I think if I had the chance and the strength to come out to my parents rather than waiting until I was 25 years old, I certainly would. We all have our own timelines and there is no pressure to come out. The time will feel right when YOU know it is right.

Be well and go write your own story! It is your timeline and no else’s.

 

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