A couple of weeks ago my husband Joaquin and I had dinner with our friend Julia and her parents at a Mexican restaurant in Columbia Heights in Washington, D.C. My friend, who had just finished law school, came out to her parents four years ago. Her dad has been mostly supportive, but her mom is much less comfortable. As a committed couple, friends often invite Joaquin and me to dinners with their less comfortable parents to show them an example of a loving, happy and productive gay couple. It can sometimes be uncomfortable for us, but we always at least get a nice dinner out of it.
During dinner, Julia's mother took me by the hand and said, "I'm sorry. I can't be supportive. You and your partner are good people, but I am Hispanic and I just can't." I stopped her and gently said, "Señora, you may not be able to be supportive but, with all due respect, you cannot make being Hispanic your reason. My grandmother is 84 years old and Mexican-American. My mother is Latina, and my boss is Hispanic and each of them was at our wedding and were so proud of us, so please don't blame your difficulty with being Hispanic."
Her mother and I sat next to each other for the rest of the night and at the end of the evening she reiterated her discomfort but also thanked Joaquin and I for being such good friends to her daughter and invited us to join her for dinner if we are ever near their home in Santa Fe. Our conversation at dinner that night got Joaquin and I to thinking more about our wedding on November 5.
As proud Latinos, Joaquin and I wanted our wedding to incorporate and celebrate aspects of our Mexican culture, including Mexican wedding traditions. We hired mariachis, my mentor was the madrina of the cake, we served cochinita pibil and Mexican wedding cookies, and we decorated Día de los Muertos altars to celebrate our deceased grandparents. For us it was important that our wedding fully reflected who we are and that it included our families.
However, we weren't always sure how that would work. For instance, we were a little nervous to ask my aunt and uncle who have been married 28 years to place the traditional lasso over us during the wedding ceremony. I wanted to make sure my uncle--a traditional Catholic of whom my first memory is him sitting on his low rider while making his hydraulics bounce up and down--would be comfortable taking on this role at our wedding. When we finally asked, his wife said they would be honored to play such a role. On the morning of our wedding when my uncle saw Joaquin and I come downstairs in our matching tuxedos, he had joyful tears in his eyes. I was surprised and deeply moved, but more importantly, I felt so loved by him.
For both of our families it was the first gay wedding they had ever attended. Most of them traveled across country to be there. Indeed, one of the most beautiful things about the wedding was that it gave our families an opportunity to come out with their support, and for us to show them how much we love and appreciate them. Looking at the example of our families, it bewilders me to think back to what my friend's mom said about not being able to support her daughter's orientation because she's Latina.
In reality, there is a lot of support for LGBT people among Latinos and this is because of our culture and values. In fact, in the last few years we've seen growing support among Latinos, in great part because of our family values and our belief in fairness and treating others as we would want to be treated. For us as Latinos, family is very important, and we don't turn our backs or exclude any member of our family.
When we, as Latino LGBT people, come out and share this part of our lives with our family, we are actually giving them the opportunity to show us love and support. For example, now that wedding photos are commonly shared on Facebook, Joaquin and I were overwhelmed by the love shown through "likes" on our wedding photos, video and announcements from our family. Many of them were not able to be at the wedding, and we had also never talked to them about how they felt about our relationship. But having been given the opportunity to show their support in such a public way, tías, cousins, uncles, and our parents stood with us proudly in person and online.
This Valentine's Day, my Joaquin and I will be celebrating twelve years together, but our first as a married couple. Our love and commitment to each other grew stronger every year as we joined our lives together through decisions about career, home and family. But there is something different about being married. Making a lifelong commitment to each other in front of our family and closest friends and having our love celebrated by our loved ones was an incredible, life changing, amazing and wonderful experience. Being able to celebrate every part of ourselves in front of family, friends, and colleagues was truly priceless.