We are who we are: A special Coming Out Day feature
Editor’s note: The following is a first-person account by Angelica Erazo, Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator at Oracle and Latinitas mentor, in honor of National Coming Out Day. The event is observed annually on Oct. 11 to bring visibility to the LGBT community and offer resources and support around the issue of coming out.
When I decided to come out of the closet, I really did not have much of a choice. I was outed.
I was outed by my older sister at the age of 14 after she saw me kissing a girl I had liked at the time. She told me I was “disgusting” and that she was going to tell my mom.
I was very afraid because I did not have the best relationship with my mother at the time. I remember that day after my sister saw me, I told the teacher I needed to borrow the school phone to call my mother, but in reality, I was really calling homeless shelters because I feared my mother would kick me out.
I feared for my safety and I needed a backup plan. I knew she wouldn’t accept me.
Growing up, my family would always make comments around homosexuality on how it was disgusting and weird so I would hide this part of myself. The expectation was to marry a good man and to have children.
I knew since I was in pre-k that I was attracted to the same sex and I would always hide this part of myself because I was ashamed. It felt like I was doing something wrong but I didn’t understand why it was such a wrong thing. My family was not even religious.
I had a soccer game that evening after my sister saw me. As I was walking over to the locker room at the school to get ready for game day, my mother’s car was parked. She was waiting for me. My sister had already told her. She told my soccer coach I couldn’t be in the game and told me to get in the car.
Before I entered the car she told me there were going to be some serious changes around the house and that she wanted me to really think about what I did that day. It takes three minutes to get home from my school but the silence felt like an eternity.
Once I got into the house, my mother told me to sit down on the couch and didn’t dismiss any of my siblings from the living room. She wanted them to see her discipline me.
New rules were created for me:
A) No baggy clothes. I had to wear feminine-presenting clothes from now on that she had to approve every morning before I went to school.
B) I had to wear my hair down every day and the only exception was when I was playing soccer.
C) I could no longer walk home alone after school or go to school early for tutorials. My sister and I were to get dropped off at the same time.
D) No cell phone.
My mother started coming to my soccer games, not to support me, but to monitor me. It was horrible and I felt trapped. I remember taking extra clothes to school in a separate bag and having a friend of mine wash my clothes at her house so I could change into something I felt comfortable with.
I kept this up for about a year before I couldn’t handle it anymore. I denied being gay to my family and told them that it wasn’t true. I admitted to making a “mistake.”
At the age of 15, I finally decided to confront my mother and admit to her that I liked the same sex and did not plan to hide it anymore.
We were on our way home from cleaning offices in the evening and I told her to hang up the phone.
I sensed she knew it was coming. I felt her become nervous. I had prepared for this day for months.
In the back of the car that day, I had a backpack full of clothes ready to jump out of the car in case she became hostile. I was ready to walk out on my family. I was ready to walk out on comfort, on my little ‘mans’ (my younger siblings), and welcome a life of potentially dropping out of school to be able to pay for shelter.
I was ready to risk it all because I was done hiding a part of myself I could no longer hide. I had prepared living arrangements with some friends and had secured a job at the age of fifteen. By the grace of God, all those preparations were unnecessary.
I told my mother I was gay and that I am sorry if it embarrassed her. She began to laugh and told me that she knew this since I was a child. She told me that she was upset that my sister outed me and that I did not have the courage or bravery to come out myself. She also admitted that it was difficult because she never expected any of her children to be queer and wasn’t sure if it was bad parenting that caused it. We grabbed dinner that night. Alone. It was the best feeling ever knowing that I no longer had to hide this part about myself.
The transition was difficult. There were moments until I left for college that I felt my mother have doubts and that it made her feel uncomfortable. Comments such as, “Well, why can’t you be a lipstick lesbian?” or “Why do you just have to show that you’re super gay.”
My younger sibling Anthony, one of my little mans, once told me, that he knew I was gay and that he didn’t care. He was nine when he said he would “beat up” anybody that would try to hurt me and that I was still the best person in the world.
All my family embraces me now. They all advocate for me and now it’s something that we can joke about. I talk to my mother about my relationships and she gives me great advice.
For any of you that are struggling to come out or are thinking about coming out, please know that there are thousands of people willing to help. I want to thank all the queer people in my life that helped me become proud of embracing my own identity. It feels great to not have to hide a major part of my identity.
I think there is a self awareness that comes with being a member of the LGBTQ community. I encourage all of us to “hold tight” and not let go of our partners’ hands in public just to make other people feel comfortable. We are who we are and I’m proud to embrace my diversity.
Angelica Erazo is the Diversity and Inclusion Coordinator at Oracle where she works to create an inclusive and diverse culture that drives innovation and business success. She also proudly serves as a mentor for Latinitas and as a member of the Mexican American Cultural Arts Center Advisory Board.