My parents are not as traditional as many may think. Our kitchen and living room are decorated with images of The Virgin Mary, the cross, and other Catholic memorabilia. My sisters and I were raised with the tradition of praying before going to bed, going to mass with the family on holidays, and respecting the 10 commandments. However, I knew we weren’t strict Catholics when I started to question religion in high school. I had friends who came from very Catholic homes and other religions that were far more conservative. I wondered if my parents were “doing this right” and if not, why were we still considering ourselves Catholic? It was dire to me to find answers to this question because this was around the same time I realized that I’m not straight. I didn’t know how to label myself, much less come out during high school, but I had to be sure my parents wouldn’t be the type to use their faith against me.
Yeah, I was afraid. Having done bible study and my first communion in English was already bending boundaries, but it was interesting that I hadn’t heard it explicitly from my church nor my parents that being gay was wrong. I had heard that and worse from others in the Latinx community and just thought they were wrong, “but that’s none of my business.” Once I got to college and met more folks and exposed myself to other communities, I learned that many others felt the same as me. Some even had the same not-too-strict-Catholic upbringing and explained to me how they still felt a connection to God while being true to themselves. Others told me about the ways their faith was used as a way to condemn and justify hatred for “their choices” so they just removed themselves from the church. Others didn’t bother to come out to their family while they were receiving financial aid from their parents. And it was interesting how a lot of my English classes referenced the bible and the influence it had on a lot of literature that we were learning about, and yet, it is one of the most interpreted texts ever. This means that there is no set way to read the bible—it is all up for interpretation.
And as time passed, and I learned more about the LGBTQIA+ community (including the importance of pronouns, sexuality on a spectrum, etc.) I kept facing my own wall of how I could consider myself a Catholic. I thought long and hard about the way I was raised, what I heard my family say, and what I took away from what I had learned from the bible and my church. As I spent endless nights in my dorm room in Segundo thinking about this, I couldn’t help but think about how my family raised me with love and kindness. My church and the bible taught me to care for others, value my family, and have a strong relationship with God. Nothing about hate or persecution. It was cheesy, but I let these feelings sit with me as I explored more about my sexuality.
I remember the summer before my second year I came out to my best friend over Pho. I was nervous and anxious as the words I had held on to for a long time were finally going to be heard by another person. I was afraid of how my friend would react, though her demeanor was always very relaxed and easygoing. When I finally told her that I’m pansexual, she literally told me, “Wait for real? Okay, cool. I don’t know what to say. Thanks for telling me.” I laughed a little and explained to her that I wanted her to hear this from me – it gave me the confidence to breathe and really be myself. I went on dates, met lots of queer people, and slowly began telling my family, like telling my mom about the bad dates I had. Then, pride 2019 was about to happen, and I told my parents I’d be attending. My parents embraced me and told me that they love me and fully respected my desires. For them, the most important thing was making sure I stayed safe, healthy and that I kept them always in the loop. They always repeated that no matter who I’m with, the most important thing is that they respect me and that I respect myself: to never lose sight of who I am for anybody. Going to pride expanded my sense of community and I was able to make friendships over good music, good food, and good vibes. Without my parent’s support, I don’t think I’d be able to express myself the way I have. Thanks to their love and support, I can go about my life with love and with pride.