Inspired by the recently released film "Pariah," Salon teamed up with New America Media to run a series of coming out stories by minority and immigrant LGBT youth. A new story will be published each day throughout the week. This is the fourth installment:
It was harder to come out as undocumented than it was to come out as gay.
Despite the stereotypes and prejudices that may still linger around the gay community, I always felt comfort in my gay identity— a comfort I often struggled with living with as an undocumented immigrant.
When I come out to people as gay, I don’t have to wait for the questions, “How did you get here?” or “Why can’t you just fix your status?” No, I usually get, “Oh OK, I just wasn’t sure,” or my favorite, “Of course you’re gay, why would a hot guy like you be straight?” That one usually makes me blush and laugh.
But just like being gay, being undocumented wasn’t a choice for me. It was something I discovered as I grew up.
I am originally from Lima, Peru. My dad was a pediatrician and my mother a teacher before we moved to the United States.
Growing up I always knew that there was something different about me; I just wasn’t sure what. I just knew I had an attraction towards guys, ever since I was about nine years old and had a crush on a 5th grader during summer school.
I was 17 years old when I discovered I was undocumented. My dad broke the news to me that I wouldn’t be able to get a driver’s license because we were “different” from everyone else. His words were subtle but I understood.
My parents warned me not to disclose my immigration status to anyone, fearing that I would be treated differently.
I recently came out of both “closets” after finally coming together with other queer and undocumented folks for the first time in my life.
It was after a confrontation with my parents about my undocumented friends’ sexual orientation that I came out to them as gay. It wasn’t how I had hoped it would happen. I always thought I would come out to my parents over dinner after my college graduation.
To my surprise, it happened on a Tuesday morning in my parents’ bedroom.
My friends, whom I met through an undocumented internship program called Dream Summer and who were also undocumented and queer, were in the next room waiting for breakfast. While they were patiently waiting, I stood speechless and motionless hearing my parents go around the possibility of me being gay.
They were tiptoeing around my sexual orientation, warning me of how I would be perceived if I continue to hang out with gay people.
I finally broke the silence. I looked to the ground for comfort and in what I thought was a strong voice muttered, “Just like my friends are gay, I’m gay.”
The textbook questions of “How? Why?” followed, but so did the same warnings of not telling anyone.
I had been here before five years ago.
Unlike being undocumented, there have been strides to make being gay not a legal issue. I can freely announce that I’m gay and not fear that I’ll be arrested or deported or accused of taking some other American child’s seat at UC Berkeley. However, I still get nervous when I mutter the words, “I am undocumented” to strangers.
The stigma that goes along with being undocumented still lingers in my mind. Though I have never had trouble with my passport or consulate ID card, a trip to the Castro district in San Francisco still sparks fear and worry in me.
What if this time they don’t take my ID?
I often think about what my undocumented status will do to my romantic life. I haven’t been in a relationship since coming out as undocumented and I sometimes worry about how guys’ perceptions of me will change when I disclose my status.
Coming out of that closet still seems difficult.
Raul Rodriguez, 21, is a senior at UC Berkeley majoring in media studies and anthropology. He was born in Lima, Peru and raised in the suburbs of Los Angeles.
Little Saigon Tet Parade Board of Organizers: Stop discriminating against VA LGBTs from participating in the Tet parade.
"On behalf of the Partnership of Vietnamese LGBT Organizations, we are asking for your support…
The Peruvian government on Friday reversed a ban on police officers being in same-sex relationships…
An original telenovela set in East Los Angeles, with a suspenseful plot involving infidelity, family…
NEW YORK — Last night women of color across the country sent a clear and…
I have one indelible memory from election night 2008.A gay man was standing outside the…
In the 1990s, homosexuals in the small, predominantly white college town of Moscow, Idaho faced…