Alex / Venezuela
“My name is Alex, I’m from Caracas, Venezuela, and I feel that I was born gay. When I was 15 I had my first girlfriend and that’s when I got the courage to come out of the closet. I knew it wouldn’t be easy but I never thought it would be so tough. My parents took it very badly. When I told them, they took me out of the city and in a couple of weeks I was out of the country: they sent me to a camp in Virginia, United States. My parents assured me that after that I’d return to Caracas, my school and my normal life, so I thought that it wouldn’t be so awful but as soon as we got there they took all my personal hygiene items and during those three weeks I was not allowed to bathe. They showed us which leaves us use and which to avoid to clean ourselves with after going to the bathroom in a hole we had to dig for ourselves. My camping companions were a girl who had attempted to commit suicide more than six times, and a boy who had lost part of his nose due to all the cocaine he had consumed. But the worst part was when the psychologist told me that my parents had decided to send me to a place in Utah. At that moment I felt like a hole opened in my chest, my parents had deceived me again and that was when I realized that I really had no opinion or control over my future.
That place in Utah was a rehabilitation center for minors where my parents begged the staff to make me heterosexual and although they insisted that that’s not what they do there, my parents pressured them to take me in, so they did.
In that place life was very sad and hard: it had many rules and tasks that we needed to fulfill, the worse rule was that you could not, under any circumstances, touch others. It was common to see people crying inconsolably, trapped in their consequences or addictions, being unable to get a hug. If we broke a rule the minimum punishment was to spend two hours sitting with your feet flat on the floor, back straight and hands resting on a desk.
The kids there were addicted to chemical drugs, children with trichotillomania, sex addicts, others who had sex for drugs and some were involved in criminal gangs. Many of them had forgotten how to read or how to relate to others because of the amount of drugs they had consumed.
Every day was full of tension, fear and depression but I did my best not to let the depressive spiral take a hold of me, trying to help others deal with problems that I had never had and I tried to focus on positive things.
Ironically, my affection and attraction to women helped me stay stable: the idea of having my girlfriend waiting, although she was across the continent, gave me strength, but my best friend told me she had forgotten me and had another girlfriend. That was a terrible shock but I had bigger problems. Soon I came to feel attracted to a female staff member and that feeling was able to give me courage. Years later I learned that my best friend had lied to me, she told my girlfriend that I was with someone else in Utah. She had deceived us to break us apart.
I spent a year of my life in that rehabilitation center. I lost the feeling of protection that parents provide, I lost my sense of privacy and intimacy, I lost my ability to relate to other people, I lost the innocence I had left, I lost the capability trust others. That place made me doubt my sanity, my emotional stability. I wasn’t fixed, I was broken.
When I returned to my hometown I had to make a greater effort to recover the remains of my life. The support of my youngest brother was crucial for that.
Today I feel that I have forgiven my parents, we have been able to reach a minimum of tolerance and we try to focus on the positive things.
The thing that has always kept me strong in every decision I’ve made in my life is pursuing my own happiness, understanding that I don’t need to deny what I am or try to maintain an appearance of what I’m not before anyone and by no means in front of my parents.
Understanding that made my parents succeed in being ok with my decisions, knowing that I am alright and happy is what transformed their vision of a rebellious teenager to a grown woman who knows what she wants and goes after it with perseverance because she’s knows who she is.”