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Marcos Saldivar

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Being Gay, Latino and Fearless

Posted: 04/05/2013 6:27 pm

Uruguay's Senate on Tuesday voted to legalize gay marriage with an overwhelming vote of 23-8 in favor of the bill. If approved, the law would make Uruguay the second nation in Latin America -- 12th in the world -- to legalize gay marriage.

My consequential Facebook status upon finding out:

"'It goes beyond homosexuality, it's about a law where everyone shares the same rights and obligations.

Well, it wouldn't be the first time a Latin American country younger and more conservative than the US has made quicker progress than us."

It's a sobering reality and one that I have mixed feelings about. Though it's great to see another Latin American country embrace social change, it's still difficult for gay Latinos to embrace their sexuality.

On Monday morning, I showed up to work anxious to hear the discourse surrounding the Supreme Court's pending decision on same-sex marriage. My first status on Facebook that morning was:

"Nervous but hopeful that there will be great headlines today!"

Twenty-two "likes." Not too shabby.

Over the course of the day, I continued clicking the "reload" button to check the latest on HuffPost's Gay Voices. I will admit, because I was at work, I couldn't afford to be too invested in the dialogue, so I was mainly checking for headlines that said I could elope with a random (hot) stranger after work. If I so desired.

Upon arriving home, I was eager to get back to clicking the "reload" button on my computer. The next article that inspired another status update was one outlining prominent companies that were in support of same-sex marriage.

My status: "I work for one of these companies!"

Much to my chagrin, only 10 "likes." Lame. Still, I rejoiced the fact that HuffPost came out in support of me and my gay brothers and sisters attaining equality.

I continued reading the host of headlines and articles outlining the stories of those who could be affected by the Supreme Court's decision on the Defense of Marriage Act and to overturn Proposition 8, the California measure that prohibits same-sex couples from getting legally married.

Amid the headlines, I read: "Divide Over Marriage More Stark Than Ever." Admittedly, it wasn't the headline that drew me in as much as the accompanying picture below it. It was a bunch of protesters outside of the Supreme Court carrying signs, most of which were anti-gay marriage.

Coming from a college that boasts a flourishing LGBTA community with excellent outreach programs -- the University of Southern California (fight on, Trojans!) -- I've attended a few rallies in Los Angeles at the height of the debate over Proposition 8 during the 2010 midterm elections. Thus, I've seen many a clever signs and many a pejorative signs. I've seen the "F" word in BIG, BOLD letters on signs, but I kind of just brushed it off because they were the minority.

But seeing the article's featured picture depicting anti-gay marriage slurs made me ponder:

"This picture is really intriguing to me. Though I've seen hateful signs during my participation in the marches for equality throughout Southern California, this picture had a much more profound effect on me. I think it says volumes of those who continue to support traditional marriage. The people with these disgraceful signs are at the forefront of the movement... embarrassing."

Only one "like?" Asinine.

Then, all the pink Human Rights Campaign logos on my friends' profiles became more conspicuous. I couldn't recognize whose profile it was with the logo, but what I did recognize was solidarity.

And, for whatever reason, I started writing a new status:

"Perhaps this may come across a bit uncouth or crass to my relatives, whom I seldom speak about my "sexuality." Though I'm not ashamed of being gay, I've adopted a "Don't Ask Don't Tell" policy to avoid an awkward conversation at the dinner table on Thanksgiving or Christmas Eve. Maybe it's cowardly of me to say it this way. Maybe my relatives will be saddened by the idea that I ever thought they would reject me, disapprove of me or even disown me. Unfortunately, I didn't have the courage. But I do now. And I hope I can continue to have the same support you've given me all my life. (Maybe, I'll butcher this status in Spanish and it won't matter. Lol). ♥"

The above status was translated to Spanish to ensure my relatives, who are friends of mine on Facebook, understood. I hovered my mouse over the "post" button for a few seconds as I stared into my computer.

Click.

Almost, instantly I received two notifications: two "likes," one comment. The comment was from my cousin.

It was close to midnight. I needed to go sleep was my excuse for logging off Facebook for the night.

The following morning, after snoozing my alarm a few times, my iPhone had a few Facebook notifications for me. I ignored them. Almost an hour later, with three shots of espresso on the rocks (no, seriously), I checked my Facebook.

Fifty-seven "likes," 15 comments. Among them I noticed one in Spanish from Uncle Leo.

I considered the possible repercussions of my status. Worst case scenario: my relatives would disapprove and we wouldn't speak until they decided they were done brooding. All things considered, I felt a lucky gay Latino because we're not all as fortunate to have this outcome bestowed on him.

I finally mustered the courage to read my comments, most of which were supportive "I love you's." Even my first-grade teacher Mrs. Maloney joined the conversation: "You are and always have been an amazing person and I knew even in first grade that you were special. Glad to see you haven't lost your Spanish."

It was my sass that gave me away, I'm sure. Just eight comments below Mrs. Maloney's was Uncle Leo's note: "Hi nephew you have our support it was time for you to face the reality that we all new lets remove the white elephant in the room god bless you you're a precious human being."

That wasn't bad. At all, actually. Then again, my situation isn't norm and even I was hesitant. There are countless young gay men and women who don't have supportive families or friends to turn to and their situations are dire and often unfathomable. And it's for all those men and women who are scared that I "came out," so to speak. So that my relatives could put a face to the gay community and hopefully be less prejudiced next time they encounter someone gay.

It's a small effort that by no means deserves praise, but if coming out to my family means preventing even one less oppressed gay person, it's worth facing my feelings of trepidation. It's worth enduring an awkward Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner.

I eventually responded to Uncle Leo's comment:

"Thank you, Uncle Leo for your support! I think in this case it was a pink elephant in the room, no? Hugs and Kisses ♥ Marcos"

 

Follow Marcos Saldivar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/marcosjsaldivar

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