I haven’t come out to my father. It’s been 8 years since I first kissed a boy and I’ve had a delightful partner for half that time. I’ve made my peace with never coming out to him, or the rest of my extended family for that matter. And that’s totally ok!
That doesn’t mean that I’m closeted or ashamed. Quite the opposite; being queer has been a wonderful source of self-love. I’m just discovering how to come out on my own terms, how to celebrate my queerness in my own culture. Sometimes the best way is silent validation.
For many queer peeps, our narratives are shaped by that one moment. Coming out feels like we have finally found who we are. In a way, it’s how we make sense of ourselves, our gendered experiences, and our desires, and integrate them into our identity.
But that narrative is not for everyone. And can be especially true if you’re from a multicultural or multifaith background. Our stories are shaped differently. Coming to terms with our gender, sexuality, or body is only half of the process. For many of us we still have to reconcile all of that with our faith or cultural background.
This can be really difficult. As a Mexican non-binary person, questioning Mexican notions of masculinity was part of the coming out process. Yet I find very little space to have these this conversations, both within the gay community and within the Mexican community. Our entire language is structured according to the gender binary. Unlike English, every single noun in Spanish has to be gendered. Non-binary people like me, use the neutral term Latinx to describe our Latin American background. As a Latinx person, reconciling my cultural identity with my gender and sexual identity has taken significantly more work than just coming to terms with my gender and sexual identity alone.
Queer peeps from multicultural and multifaith backgrounds have to navigate our sexuality in terms of a very different cultural profile compared to the rest of our peers. Being gay, ace, trans or non-binary often means something completely different to us, and we don’t have as many role models, narratives or representation for guidance.
For many Latinx people, coming out is a gradual, nuanced process. For me, it never came down to a single moment where I said it out loud. Many of us come out in silence; in actions rather than words. For example, the cover for my phone has a rainbow at the back. Of course, I know my father is well aware of its meaning, but he's never commented on it.
Similarly, my extended family know I volunteer with the local government as part of a diversity committee, though the exact nature of that diversity has never been uttered out loud. They know I go off to Sydney every few weeks to visit my partner. But it's never really my "partner". It's this in-between state of “friend” and “life companion”. To my family, “gay” means a purely sexual relationship and erases all the other far more fulfilling aspects of my relationship. This is why the closet is a safe space for me: it lets me happily reconcile my relationship, my gender and my family.
While I can only speak for my own experience on how I've come to integrate my heavily gendered Mexican background with my queer identity, this is a conversation that needs to happen within other cultures too. This questioning of the overarching queer narrative is important. We need to have spaces to talk about what authenticity means to us, and how we navigate the complicated spaces between religion, gender, sexuality, and culture.
It’s time to acknowledge mainstream narratives no longer encompass all our experiences- they never have. Finding other people from your cultural background who you can relate to can be an amazing experience. You can learn a lot from others who have successfully reconciled their culture with their gender or sexuality.
That is why giving space to people from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds is so important- it is incredibly healing. This way, we can get to know what it means to come out on our own terms. We need to create safe spaces where people from culturally diverse backgrounds can hold conversations about gender and sexuality on our own terms, and create narratives for ourselves.