When I was a little boy, I learned to take a “pill” every morning that would force me into an identity that wasn’t my own: the heterosexual identity.
This “pill” had the power to systematically remind me of the behaviors that were socially accepted in a man: “Sit like a man … don’t walk that way, walk like a man … don’t sing that way, sing like a man … don’t cry … don’t play with dolls … don’t move your hands like that, you look like a sissy.”
This “pill” had the infinite power of denying any homosexual impulse that inhabited my body and, above all, it had the power to make me feel ashamed for experimenting with any homosexual feelings. On top of that, it had the power to make me act like a man (whatever that means). That’s what I thought, at least, between the ages of 3 and 5.
So, as any obedient child who wants to be loved and accepted by everyone does, I learned to keep quiet, to hide, to pretend not to be myself, to pretend to be “normal,” to deny my existence and to turn to the only thing within my reach: becoming an exceptional child; a straight-As child; a child who would only think, think and think without the need to feel anything; and a child who had to silence everything and, above all, silence himself.
I was afraid. Afraid of being rejected and not belonging anywhere. I felt a profound fear of being caught, a profound fear of being humiliated, a profound fear of being shamed publicly. I was terrified by the idea of experiencing the same violence as those who did not have the fabulous ability to hide themselves like I did. I learned that not seeming gay was a socially rewarded skill.
At age 16, I had my first girlfriend. Yes, girl. So that “pill,” the “heterosexual pill,” had the enormous power of making me feel like I had finally been cured. I took a breath. I cried. I felt relief.
I was terrified by the idea of experiencing the same violence as those who did not have the fabulous ability to hide themselves like I did.
Everything was going well, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I was still feeling, with every fiber of my being, an unspeakable and shameful taste and attraction for people of my own sex. Everything was going well, if it hadn’t been for the fact that, on the other side of the world, I met a man who invited me to spend the night at his place. Everything was going well, if it hadn’t been for the fact that he kissed me, if it hadn’t been for the fact that I felt his beard scratch my own beard, knowing perfectly well that he wasn’t a woman and that there was no way out for me. He was gay, and he was kissing my lips and, no matter how much I denied it, that made me gay as well. It made me a “sick person.” It made me a “degenerate.” It made me guilty of the huge crime of being homosexual.
I did not sleep for one second that night, and the next morning, I ran away —fleeing not from him, but from my own homosexuality. I couldn’t be gay.
The “pill,” then, was still working. It was still keeping me away from who I was and from any impulses and feelings, from my own reality. And so began a long journey of loneliness, isolation and self-destruction because, somehow, I internalized that I had to annihilate everything that I felt and was, even if I was miserable the entire time. Thus, I had a very clear mission: I had to kill any traces of homosexuality that existed within me. The “pill,” then, had a side effect that wasn’t mentioned on the socially accepted medical prescription: I wanted to die. I needed to quietly die.
Years later, I have come to understand that this “pill” is homophobia, and that that thing I’ve internalized for years and that I still feel sometimes is the hate I have for myself simply for being gay. Nevertheless, as time went by, I realized that there were other alternatives, but the one I had in front of me wasn’t necessarily better. This new alternative, if it can even be called an alternative, was the option of being the “perfect” homosexual. I took a faltering breath. I could be gay as long as I behaved according to Mexico’s socially acceptable requirements and standards.
The next morning, I ran away — fleeing not from him, but from my own homosexuality. I couldn’t be gay.
Therefore, I had to have the perfect body, be part of the perfect couple, have the perfect affairs, the perfect job, the perfect dog, the perfect truck, the perfect clothes, the perfect life and live in perfect happiness. As if that wasn’t enough, the perfect gay man doesn’t kiss in public, doesn’t love in public, doesn’t express himself in public and takes part in criticizing other forms of sexual expression different from the heterosexual way. He criticizes his own kind, he despises them, he’s violent against them and, secretly, he envies them because they are braver than him ― brave enough to be who they really are.
As you can imagine, I found nothing but an even more infinite disappointment for never meeting these requirements. Trying to very precisely obey the heterosexual regulations that would allow me to fit into the standard of the perfect homosexual was incredibly suffocating.
Life, however, offered me other options when I was almost 37 years old. Those options have once again given me the power to question, deactivate and demolish the side effects of the “heterosexual pill.”
Many may still think that the only battle we have left in Mexico is the legal one: the battle for same-sex marriage and single-parent adoption. And it is, but it’s only one of thousands of battles.
For me, the real challenge was and still is living outside of the closet. Living outside of the closet by my own standards, the ones that make me feel free and comfortable in my own skin. Outside of the closet, in my office, on the street, at the park and with all kinds of friends, some of whom are different than me.
My challenge is living outside of the closet despite conservative groups. My challenge is to set clear boundaries for any expression of intolerance and being proactive by marching, expressing myself and doing what’s necessary to defend my own right to be. My challenge is living outside of the closet in my own family, with them and, sometimes, painfully, in spite of them. And, above all, my challenge is living outside of the closet in my own intimacy, without any ghosts haunting me or “pills” pushing me to repress what I am.
It doesn’t matter if it costs my life: The most important stand a human being has to make, gay or not, is defending his right to be.