May 03, 2013

I still remember when I came out. The world had just blossomed and I was ready to embrace it with open arms. But too soon humans forget hope can easily be exchanged for a feeling of abandonment. Don't misunderstand me, I loved the gay community, but nobody looked like me. While everybody listened to Lady Gaga and danced to the latest techno, I stayed behind, swooning over Romeo Santos and wanting nothing else, but to dance Bachata. When I opened the latest edition of gay publications, I would see primarily white gay men being avidly represented; there were little to no people of color.  Whenever they did appear, it was a poster about HIV/AIDS. It hurt me. Moreover  when I began to learn the disparities among white LGBT members and LGBT members of color. My little piece of utopia within the gay community was far from a paradise, it was full of the same system of privilege as the heterosexual world; I couldn't escape it. Through this journey I felt empty. I searched for people of my color in the LGBT community, but they were too little and too far in between. Then I attended GLSEN's Students of Color Organizing Summit in Phoenix, Arizona. I was astounded to see  so many LGBT people of color coming together to finally address the issues that grew with the intersectionalities of our identities; for me specifically this was being both gay and Latino. It was not an easy task. As we peeled away the layers of race we, at times, found ourselves naked, faced with the inconvenient truth of power and privilege. My breaking point was speaking about my brother, whom I love dearly. Due to his darker skin color and his attire, he was robbed of many opportunities; he simply wasn't "white" enough for people to see past the color of his skin and witness his brilliant  intelligence. Being surrounded by so many students of color also reminded me of the painful moment of my past, my move to the US about four years ago. During the culture sharing, I told a story of why saints bracelet, a bracelet my grandma gave to me when I left Mexico, meant so much to me.   When I came to this country, I felt pressured to shun my culture and ultimately hate myself. My food, language and skin color, all were to be hidden in order to properly assimilate. I did just that. I gave up who I was in order to transform as close to a white person as I could. However, no matter how hard I tried I would always be brown. I think that's why my  grandmother gave me that bracelet; she wanted to remind me of who I truly am. It had taken me many years to come to terms with who I am, especially as gay and as a Latino. Through GLSEN's Students of Color Organizing Summit in Phoenix, I was able to fully come out as who I am, not just pieces of my identity. The people I met there will remain with me forever because they helped resurface a hidden part of me. I am gay. I am brown. I am beautiful. Luis SOCO Student Team Member GLSEN Greater Dallas

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