Arguably, as a nation, we have come quite far in pushing for gay rights and accepting people for who they are. We can see examples of this in our media, with new TV shows starring many gay characters, thus normalizing them. However, as accepting as we’ve become, not every space is a safe one. Despite having more gay representation now than ever before, sometimes younger LGBTQ+ folks are given a false sense of security, resulting in very dangerous situations.
A person coming out has to consider their own position and situation. They may fail to realize how different the characters on TV are from themselves. For example, a lot of gay males in TV are characters who are well off into adulthood, with money, and a somewhat accepting (usually white) family. That’s great, of course, but not all of us come from white families. That is something you have to take into account if and when you choose to come out.
Coming from a Latino family, I can tell you that it is immensely different than coming out to a typical white family (and by ‘typical’ I mean one reflected on media). Every set of parents are different, and depending a variety of factors, it might come with its own unique sets of issues.
For example, if your parents came directly from some part of Latin America, they might consider being gay as something only white people do; it's something "American." You have to be careful when coming out to parents who have a more conservative mindset because you might be putting yourself in danger of being disowned.
However, if your family is second generation, it might be a little easier; you really have to test the waters to see how they react first. Perhaps play a movie or TV show where same sex couples are very visible and notice their reactions. They might seem alright with it, but do not confuse “It’s ok to be gay” with “It’s ok to be gay, as long as you're not my son or daughter.”
Much of this comes from religious viewpoints. A good chunk of Latino parents are catholic and only say gay white people are acceptable. That said, this is mostly due to the those gay white people not part of their faith and community. If you’re a young member of the LGBTQ+ community and a racial minority, there are a few more things you have to be aware of before you commit to coming out.
As an 18-year-old about to enter college, I foolishly came out to my parents brashly and expected them to accept me without asking questions. “Why should their opinion of me change if I’ve always been this way,” I thought to myself. Fortunately, after much passive aggressive acceptance filled with micro aggressions, it went pretty well for me considering my less fortunate LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters.
But, what I failed to realize is that I was not thinking about them. Sure, I came out for myself, but when one comes out, your family has to come out for you, as well. If you’re from a typical Latino family, your family is HUGE. I’m talking about 10 aunts and uncles from both sides of the family. I came out to my parents but not to the rest of my family. After I told them, I moved to college and let them take care of having to answer my uncle’s intrusive question of how many girlfriends I had.
Unfortunately, a lot of Latino families equate being gay with being weak, and it reflects badly on the father. For that reason, I have postponed telling my family about my identity until they see me as my own person, independent of how my father raised me.
This being said, it is completely fine coming out at your own pace. No one should force you to come out if you aren’t ready. Come out in steps, tell certain people, abstain from sharing with others. Have a secure network of friends behind your back in case your family does not react the way in which you expect them.
The purpose of writing this is not to discourage young LGBTQ+ readers from coming out. It is, instead, intended to give them the opportunity to come out on their terms, in a safe and loving environment. We might be living in a time where being gay is starting to be viewed in a more humane light, but it is important to remember that each coming out story is different, and no one should have their backs turned on them for being who they are, especially our youth.