By: Jessica Ramirez
Being part of the LGBTQ+ community is oftentimes surrounded by social stigmas that are furthered by traditional cultural norms. Conservative ideals, especially those found in older Hispanic generations, cause people to have trouble accepting others for who they are, which can create conflict for those who do identify as LGBTQ+. In addition to the general social pressures, strict and conservative families make it difficult to feel welcomed and accepted. One South Gate student, Eduardo Cholico, exemplifies this situation in his struggle to find acceptance in his Hispanic home.
A current senior, 17-year-old Eddy, comes from a family of eight, but lives with two brothers, one of which is his twin, an older brother, and his parents. Growing up, he remembers never really questioning his sexuality but knowing he liked boys and simply being himself, or as he describes it, “being in my own little world”. In elementary school, people began noticing and insulting him for his mannerism, saying he walked and talked like a girl. Eddy remembers struggling to conform with the labels of “LGBTQ”, but eventually identifying as genderqueer. To him this means being his own person somewhere in between male and female, or as others deem him, a very feminine boy. As he grew up, Eddy always knew he was attracted to other males but was drawn to females when it came to friendships.
While he never officially came out to his parents, Eddy always felt as though his sexuality was established but ignored. He recalls a time in 6th grade when he was writing a letter to a boy confessing his feelings, when his dad walked into his room and demanded to see the letter. With tears in his eyes, Eddy’s dad asked if he knew what that letter meant. Taking ownership of his feelings, Eddy said that he did, in fact, know what his words meant. Since then, his sexuality has been a quiet subject and only been addressed once more in 10th grade. He remembers being in the car with his mom when a very inspirational song played and he just simply declared that he liked boys. Feeling as though he needed to confirm something that was never acknowledged, Eddy officially came out to his mom in a very sudden and unplanned way. In response, she said that regardless of anything he is still her son and will be loved no matter what, but Eddy knew that it would be difficult for her to ever be fully accepting of his identity.
Coming from a Mexican household, conservative ideals are dominantly present in Eddy’s home life. His dad has been especially unforgiving, claiming to have stopped believing in God and almost entirely refusing to talk to him . His dad especially favors his twin, Benji, who to him, embodies the ideal masculine son. “Machismo” is a form of toxic masculinity that plays a big role in why Eddy’s dad is so intolerant of his identity. There is little communication between them not only because of his dad’s blatant rejection, but because Eddy is fearful of fully expressing himself. His dad believes that “boys shouldn’t act like that” and wishes that he would just subject to male gender norms. His mom on the other hand, tries to be accepting but Eddy knows she does not agree with some of his behaviors and choices. Eddy explains, “She loves me as a son, but not me as a person”. Having been the school dance team’s captain in the beginning of his senior year, competitions and performances required him to feel confident and empowered, which is something he felt from wearing makeup. His mom, however, is adamant about him not wearing makeup, seeing it as a too-obvious manifestation of his sexuality. Eddy explains that most of her concern is for his safety because she knows that there are homophobic people out in the world who express their hate in many, often violent, ways. Despite this, to him makeup is a form of expression that allows him to feel confident, which is why he continues wearing it regardless of his parents’ disapproval. His actions are often scrutinized by both his mom and dad, who look for any excuse to discourage his feminine behavior. In addition to that, the lack of communication on the topic makes it difficult to overcome these differences of opinion and results in a strained family dynamic. Over time Eddy has come to realize that his parents were raised in a very different time and environment, which accounts for their lack of understanding. Regardless, he knows that they will always love him, but will never fully accept the person he is.
Eddy is one of countless other members of the LGBTQ+ community that struggle with finding acceptance within their families and communities. He believes that a big reason why this happens is because of the desperate need for labels in society. Labels were originally imposed by people who needed a way of classifying people who are different, but Eddy explains that the LGBTQ+ community has embraced them as a way of providing unification for homosexual minorities and eliminate their negative connotations. Nonetheless, he recognizes that while labels and titles are not important to him, he accepts the fact that they help others understand and respect the differences that make us all unique.
Respect, acceptance, and support are some of the main things that make Eddy and other LGBTQ+ members feel confident being who they are. He details the importance of accepting yourself despite what others may think: “At the end of the day regardless of what happens at home, I still find a way to be open with myself as a person, seeing as I am more than proud of my differences regarding my sexual orientation… it is important to feel comfortable and safe just being honest about who you are because no one should have to keep that a secret. I personally am not afraid to flaunt my sexuality and I want to encourage others to do the same, as we can be all the better for it and make the world more accepting of who we are as individuals”. Wise beyond his years, Eddy is an example for many other young LGBTQ+ members who struggle understanding their own identity and seek the freedom to express themselves openly; it is okay to need encouragement and support, but it is always most important to stay true to yourself.