Growing Up Latino and Gay

By Jacundo Ramos

I never thought being gay would affect me.

I never thought being gay would make me want to kill myself.

I never thought being gay would make me feel ashamed of who I am.

My name is Jacundo Ramos. I am now a PROUD young Latinx Demisexual First Generation College Student PROUDLY living with HIV. As I have grown older, I realized being gay didn’t do these things to me. It was growing up in a machismo, religious background in a predominately white, conservative town in West Texas. It was being around individuals who shamed me for living my true authentic self. It was growing up in an unsupportive and judgmental Latino family.

Many of us who come from a Latino family with strong roots in the Catholic church go through the fight of:

Be who you are OR make your family happy.

Be who you are OR lie to protect yourself.

My stepfather was an aggressive, machismo drunk. My mother was submissive and did not know how to process her own feelings – much less her gay son’s. Growing up and going to church, I learned very early that being a homosexual was frowned upon and a sin. In the Sunday Youth Service, I was told that if a man lays with a man, he would burn in hell. This was a shocker for me because I started having feelings for the same sex in 3rd grade.

When I was younger, my sister and I had a babysitter who I loved dearly. One afternoon she decided to paint all of our nails. I got the pretty pink color with purple glitter and I was so happy. It made me feel special. When my mother picked us up, she was furious. She yelled, “BOYS DON’T WEAR NAIL POLISH.” When my stepfather got home, he yelled at me, slapped me, and grounded me for the rest of the afternoon and whispered in my face, “Only sissy boys do this and sissy boys don’t make it.”

After that, I really started internalizing the homophobic remarks and negative actions that were thrown at me from school, home, and church. I pushed down the feelings I felt for men and trying to miracoulsy grow feelings for women. If I was asked if I was gay, I would say, “No that’s disgusting!” or I would talk down on the queer community.

My family did not talk about emotions—”sweep it under the rug and forget about it.” In my experience, this is what most Latino families do, especially the older generations, because that is the norm for our culture. We do not seek help; we figure it out on our own because that is what makes you stronger—especially for men. We put up a façade that we have to provide, that we have to be the backbone. This in turn leads to years of internalized childhood trauma, not being able to create healthy boundaries. It can lead to engaging in chaotic and toxic relationships because they seem normal to you.

I learned in church that God was supposed to love all his children…and also that being gay was a sin…and also if you judged others you were a sinner…and if you didn’t live by the Ten Commandments you were condemned. It was all very confusing for me to find myself in a world of religion, homophobia, and implicit biases.

For so long throughout my childhood, I would look in the mirror and cry and ask God:

“If I am your son then why did you do this to me?

Why did you allow me to be hated?

Why did you allow me to hurt?”

When I was 16 years-old, I attempted suicide. Dealing with the years of physical, mental, and sexual abuse alone was too much and I felt a deep yearning to end it all. A year and a half later, I was emancipated from my family. I can say it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I was able to freely explore my sexual orientation and gender identity. I was able to explore my spiritual boundaries and rich culture without the worry of it being shoved down my throat.

Seeking therapy has helped me deal with the resentment I had against my family and my religious cultural background. I have been able to now set healthy boundaries, prioritize self-care, notice that culture glorifies trauma bonds and self-neglect, and have learned how to communicate in a way that is mutually beneficial for me and others.

For those of you out there growing up in a rich Latino religious background with no support:

Know that you are not alone.

Know that we are out here and there are others like you that have walked this road and that you and your story is important and a radical act of healing.

Do not let society’s limited conditioning bring down your goals and aspirations for a beautiful life that you deserve.

Recuerda que tu eres amado, tu eres importante, y la vida es una sesion.

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