A.R. /

“I never thought I could choose to live an authentic life, and I still sometimes question my ability to do so. I grew up in Puerto Rico to a family of immigrant Cubans. Because of all their sacrifices escaping and building a new life in US soil, I’ve always felt that I owe them being the perfect daughter they always wanted.

About 3 years ago, they barged into my room furiously asking if I was “una tortillera” (a dyke. I said, “Yes.” My father hit everything in my house, and left for the day. He couldn’t live in the same house as “una degenerada” (degenerate). My brother cried, kneeled, and begged me to change. Eventually, they allowed me to stay in the house as long as I didn’t do anything “gay.” For a while, they didn’t let me go out unless they checked if I wasn’t hanging out with degenerates. They took my phone to threaten all my queer friends. Eventually it got a little bit better, but my presence in their house remained conditional on my behavior. And, I got accustomed to this life, a life of panic and shame. I would change clothes at college and I would lie constantly about where I was. I knew that I was on my 3rd strike with them. If I did anything else that they considered “gay,” I knew they’d kick me out. Anything gay could be as small as wearing my brother’s perfume. I knew that even if something happened to me, like someone crashing into me, I knew they’d think it was because I was doing “cosas indebidas” (inappropriate things).

Now, 3 years later, I’m no longer living in Puerto Rico. I moved to New Orleans with my girlfriend. Before starting classes, I texted my mom. I told her that I was staying with my girlfriend who I’ve been hiding from her for years and she’s never met. She said, “cuidate mucho” (take care), and that’s it. No one from my immediate and extended family has reached out since then.

I still feel guilty over medically transitioning. I still feel guilty over choosing myself over my entire family. But it really wasn’t a choice. Before getting to New Orleans, I didn’t know there was a future worth preparing for. They made me feel as if a dead straight daughter would always be better than a happy queer son.”

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