The call occurred and there was nothing I could do about it.
Someone, I still don’t know today who this guy was, called my house and asked for me. I think I know who it was and I’m pretty sure it was done with malicious intent since I had warned all of my early gay acquaintances of my dire situation at home and had asked them to respect my privacy, but still, I’ll never know for sure.
Cell phones were out of the question back then. It was late at night, my home-phone rang, and unfortunately, my oldest brother, Emmanuel, answered.
He shook his head, answered “no” to all of the questions asked on the other line, and slammed the phone.
He then went into my parents’ room and explained the scenario: he told my parents that some guy that sounded “gay” had called asking for me. It was late at night, my freedom was far away, and I had some explaining to do.
I was in trouble.
Being raised in a traditionally Mexican, machismo-dominated culture has had its pros and cons. I’ve had to combat the feminine urges that have prevailed in my life. I always wanted to be pretty. I loved looking at the mirror and admiring my unique beauty, especially after I had just gotten a haircut.
But I always had to live in fear of getting caught by my brothers and being called out on my vanity. If you’re a boy, girly behavior is highly punishable. I had to learn it the tough way.
Being gay and Mexican is like swimming against the current: you always have to be conscious of what you say and how you are perceived; your masculinity has to dominate all aspects of your demeanor. There is absolutely no room for femininity.
Women are objects, easily dominated by men. They are there to serve men and that is all. They are to take care of the home, cook, and fulfill all sexual needs. It really is disturbing in this day and age, but that really is what Hispanic Machismo encompasses.
My dad has always been a man’s man. He has always commented on a nice set of boobs or a big ass on Sabado Gigante on TV and he has always taken pride in his strong and stern upbringing. Dreams of raising a family come standard with Mexican parents. Perhaps this is the reason why I feared coming out of the closet so much. I was afraid of all of the disappointment I would cause. I now understand that this is why I held so much inside and it eventually led me to take a path of solitude and darkness in my life.
Emmanuel didn’t know any better. I don’t fault his reaction; I don’t blame him, nor do I resent him. He stood by my side when I was going through my episode with crystal meth, and for that, I am extremely grateful.
We are all products of our environment, and I’m sure he intended no personal harm by indirectly outing me to my parents over that mysterious phone call.
I had to explain, through lies, to my parents that I had no clue about whom that had been, that it all could’ve been a practical joke. After all, my trips to Gay Disneyland, aka West Hollywood, were far off into the future. I was not about to admit I had gay friends, yet alone, come out of the closet. My journey of personal discovery was fresh and I was not ready to own up to something I had been taught to perceive as shameful.
Silence ensued after Emmanuel finished talking:
“Antonio! Come in here!” My dad yelled.
I was in my room, hoping nothing bad would come from that mysterious phone call, but Emmanuel had done his part and I was about to pay the consequences.
I was shitting my pants as I stood in the doorway of my parents’ room. I was expecting the worst as I stood silently before my father…
“Quien chingados te anda llamando?”
Literal translation: “Who the fuck is calling you?”
“I don’t know, Dad. It could have all just been a joke.”
I knew better: it wasn’t a joke and it definitely was not funny. My blood was boiling with fear and embarrassment.
“I don’t want you hanging out with the wrong people, Antonio.”
“I know, Dad.” I quivered.
“And tell your little friends not to be calling here anymore, understand?”
I laughed it off and dismissed it, acted like nothing was wrong. But inside, I was scared and ashamed. My racing heart, my cold sweat, and my stutters confirmed my apparent denial.
But I wasn’t gay then. I wasn’t out. I was just hiding in the darkness of my closet, fearful of another embarrassing phone call.
I wanted to revisit this episode in my life because I am working on my current relationship with my father. Being gay and Mexican, as expected, and no different than any other machismo-dominated culture, is no walk in the park.
Now that I am approaching 33, I’ve realized that coming out is only the beginning in the journey of milestones and hardships as a gay man.
Metaphorically speaking, the closet represents darkness, fear, pain, and shame. As a gay man, I know I’ve suppressed this period in my past, but I have also learned the importance of acknowledging our shadows: I now know that being faced with the discomfort of wounds from the past will make us heal in ways we could have never imagined.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that the lack of love and support I felt from some of my siblings, but especially my father, during this difficult time in my life has led me to subconsciously resent them. Of course, I’ve been civil and cordial to them these past few years, but I would be lying if confessing this isn’t getting a big load off my shoulders.
Revisiting this period and these memories can be painful, but it can also be liberating. Talking about it to them has allowed me to grieve, forgive, and solidify my relationship with them.
I firmly believe that if we aren’t healing, we aren’t living, and if we aren’t living, we aren’t growing as individuals, and if we aren’t growing, we aren’t finding personal purpose and fulfillment.
As an LGBTQ community, we’ve come a very long way with our movement towards equality, but it is also important to not overlook the constantly untold and silent struggle of our youth. Let’s unconditionally love and support them because they are our future and they depend on us. So for anyone who is part of the LGBTQ spectrum and living in the darkness of the closet: look up, look forward, know that you are loved, and there is so much more to life beyond the closet.
This message is also for anyone looking to mend a broken relationship with a friend or family member or for anyone dealing with wounds from the past: have strength, courage, and humility because the shadows that belong to us should never obscure us from the light that shines within us.