American Faggot

American Faggot:
An Auto-Ethnography
by Vicente Gonzalez

I had been in Chile for at least a month; I made the decision to come here the night I came out of the closet to my family. It might have been my instincts, or maybe God. But whatever it was, it had possessed me and commanded me to escape my home and face my greatest fears. I am the youngest of seven children, all of which equally Chileno as I am. Yet I was the only one to make such a journey, and I went alone. When I look back I don’t know where I found the strength to do it.

I had tried to forget this part of my life since my earliest years when I first realized I was gay, because there is no place for faggots in the nation of Chile. They call us “huecos”. Hueco means space, or room in a box or other form of containment. But in this sense it means empty, like an empty person. I traded in my soul willingly in order to fulfill a chapter of my life that I had been denying for years. Homosexual migration is common in the Latino ethnic group, particularly in Hispanic Caribbean nations and Mexico. Homosexuality is portrayed in most Hispanic nations as a threat to national character causing thousands of gay men and women to seek refuge in large urban cities in the more accepting United States. This phenomenon has come to be known as sexile (La Fountain.) I have always been gifted derogatory titles other than my actual name. However, after weeks of hearing the word hueco I had lost my sense of self completely. The only contact I had with my home were the short conversations I had with my father. Up until that point our relationship had always been cracked and lacked the missing pieces.  When I look back now I realize that he was my main antagonist for why I left. We had a very dark history, mainly because of the drastic misunderstanding we had between the two of us. We were from completely different worlds and many of the customs he was raised to instill upon his offspring I rejected. And to make matters worse I was rejected by both societies and I often lashed at our relationship with my suppressed pain. So I found myself thousands of miles away from where he raised me in the land of his upbringing. I’ve always known my father left a piece of his heart in Chile; it refused to be fully separated from its homeland. So I spent my many weeks in our country searching for it.

After several weeks I found myself in a serious predicament. Anyone who has been to my country can tell you, it isn’t hard to fall in love with. Yet at the same time I was unable to place myself comfortably in our hetero-dominant society. I told my father “So far, I have fallen in love with Chile. But at the same time, the longer I’m here the more I see it can never be a part of my life. A part of me wants to just leave before I love it more, and have to come home with a broken heart.” There was one night, after about a month of my imprisonment that I dwelled on all the things I had taken for granted. The freedom I had found in college was as quickly relinquished as it was received and before I knew it I was falling into the nothing of a person I used to be during my closet years. I thought, if I could do anything with my gender what would it be? To be male emphasizes physical strength, power, aggressiveness, and competitiveness. To not fulfill such standards is to be a failed man (Liang.)  My answer hit me like a bus. I wanted to leap and crawl and pass my way in and out of shadows. I wanted to be immortal. I wanted to wail and shriek at the moon. I wanted to be a cat. A black, silky, mesmerizing cat. I had spent years of my life meticulously analyzing what it means to be a boy and what it means to be a girl. I always felt I was somewhere in between. Although I am feminine, I am not a girl. I do not feel like a girl although I relate to them more than men. It’s a dilemma that has always been impossible to portray to those who are not in the same state of mind. I find it easier to relate to cats. They are graceful, soft, sneaky, and poised. They live in darkness and silence. They conquer all walls and boundaries and even after falling they always land on their feet. They are feminine and womanly, yet not all of them are women.  This is the memory of that night, long after I made the decision, when I morphed into the animal I am today. My name is Vicente, and this is my story.

It must have been close to 9pm when I left my house. I had already begun to steadily lose my sanity. My inhibitions decayed slowly with each passing second, along with my cautious demeanor I had upheld during the previous eras of my life. Up until that point I had been living my life in fear. I existed in constant struggle with the discipline I had developed from an early age to suppress my true desires of what I always wanted. My sexuality commanded every aspect of what I was, and in fear of persecution I spent my entire life trying to discipline it into something acceptable to the world around me. Not on this night though, I had reached my breaking point. There was nothing that could stand between me and my true self. Tonight was the night I was to complete my metamorphosis. I carried with me my new flesh in the darkness of night, the energies of Halloween echoing from all corners of every block. I could feel my excitement purging from my throat. I could barley breathe I was so nervous! But at the same time, I walked swiftly and fearless. I had waited months for this night, the one night a year when anyone can be anything. A night of true freedom for all people. I had become immersed in raging adrenaline. After only a few short minutes I arrived at my destination; my friends were dressing themselves in glitter and mounds feathers. I locked myself in a room and stood before the full length mirror which was to be my gateway of liberation. I knelt on the floor, and began to unravel my new body.

I was never raised to be my father although that tends to be the tradition in our culture. Not that I never strived to inherit his demeanor, I simply concluded that my sexuality had stolen my chance to follow in his footsteps. Although masculinity is a universal concept, Latino masculinity differs from its Anglo counterpart. Latino men are expected to be macho, firm, and dominant. But at the same time Latino masculinity embodies honor, respect, and the ability to care for a family and a woman. The term for this ideology is caballerismo (Liang.)  My father was one of nine children, my grandfather being heavily involved in politics. Politics and activism are not simply vocations, they are lifestyles, and when the leader of a family is a politician, the family becomes entrenched in his craft. Like I said, I was not raised to be my father. My father would give me toolboxes and trucks in hopes that I would confront them with the interest that my gender implied I would. But he found himself confused when I tossed such things aside and for years he found it difficult to connect to my odd lack of masculine interests. I would never say that he was un-involved in my upbringing or that he never cared because that is certainly not the case. Latino fathers are heavily involved in the affairs of their children. Empathy and emotional involvement with children is central to the paternal instincts of Latino fathers (Glass.) But I would say that there were many years where my father was unable to emotionally fulfill my needs, mainly because he never could understand my emotions and the inner conflicts I was dealing with.

Latino culture is founded on the family and respect. Children are expected to display the upmost respect to their mothers and fathers. Family embodies the idea that each member plays a critical role in it’s success and upon fulfilling that role, receives their entitled respect. The term for this family structure is referred to as familismo (Glass.) My father never cleaned the house or cooked food. He grew up during a time when women stayed at home to tend to the children and housework while the husband spent his days working long hours to support the family. Almost 3/4ths of the average family abided by this lifestyle which created a sharp contrast between the responsibilities of sons and daughters (Hakim.) Unlike his sisters my father was heavily involved in my grandfather’s activities. He traveled to many cities in our country to take part in political rallies and advocacy groups. Politics is a man’s sport. Chile is a socialist nation of activism; oration, poetry, and debate are heavily rooted in our culture. This became my father’s world. He was raised to be his father.

Throughout my life this had been my dilemma. I had been followed by the constant failure to inherit what I always felt was rightfully mine. I was the only son of Luis Alberto Gonzalez, yet the inheritance of his power and political drive was never given to me. I never wanted it. I arrived at my destination ready to dress myself in my feline apparel. I whipped out my first item of clothing, jet black spandex along with a ripped British punk rock t-shirt to wear along with it; my new torso. I wrapped myself in them like tissue. I covered my heart with silky dance-wear, and the power of my sexuality polluted the darkness of my fear. I claimed the power of my father with a pair of ballet tights.

Although I am one of seven children, there is only one sibling that I share both parents with. Her name is Sara. I guess you could say that if I had been born a woman I would be Sara. It’s as if God split my father into two halves and gave them two drastically different paths to follow. I was the fag of my school and a hueco to my country. Sara was prom queen and class president, and had everything a teenage-girl could have wanted. I have never been jealous of Sara because she lived her teenage years when I was still in my early youth. But I have always seen Sara as my counterpart and we both strive equally for the same pride from our father. He had always been much more affectionate towards my sister, mainly because she was my sister, and sons are left in more solitude to develop their strength. This all changed after I came out of the closet. I noticed it within weeks. The affection he showed towards us was now equal. It was as if Sara was my twin. I acknowledged the change once with my father, and he spoke to me of the new worry he had for my life. He knew I would face many obstacles and had developed a new sense of protection with me. Every parent wants nothing more than to protect their child from the world and after coming out of the closet, a new burden of paranoia was placed upon his shoulders. He told me, and I’ll never forget it, that he felt I needed more protection than Sara because “Sara is much stronger than you.” 

I was once weak and fragile. I was afraid of the world and the harm it could inflict upon me. My life had become robotic and encaged under strict surveillance of non important persons who discriminated against what I was. Not anymore, not one more day I say. I reached into my bag and released a pair of black knee-high socks, ballet shoes, and a long shining black tail. These are my stilts, and this is my sword, and it shall flow behind me like fire. I pulled my socks as high as they would allow me to and placed the black slippers upon my paws. I let my tail fall into its rightful place, and stood there sturdy like concrete as my weaknesses melted onto the wooden floor. I am fearless now; shoot me with your giants. I will blow them away like rose petals.

There is a truth about life, which has been instilled upon me since I was a child. Destiny is inevitable. It is a path that finds us and even when we are lost it makes its way into our never-ending wandering. I’ve never known my path before. I’ve always been lost. I was thrown into the brush of life like a voodoo doll and my God has watched me play among his beings blindly since birth. He gave me everything I needed, and it would take me years to realize the weapons I had always been searching for were always within my grasp. I am a son of Chile, and its burning passion runs through my veins wildly. My history is drenched in political turmoil, hope, pain, suffering, death, and revolution. My people do not sleep. They are like raging wolves. They thirst for liberty without rest. I am a hueco, and Ill search my homeland forever for the reservoirs of freedom that my history has promised me.  I am a child of America, my home gifted to me by angels. They carried me here to save me from persecution and laid before me hope and dreams without boundary. I dream of masses, and uprisings, and that one day a sea of faggots will claim their rightful place among these peoples.  I am a dreamer.

I am the only son of Luis Alberto Gonzalez, and he gave me his consent to reek havoc upon this world with our name. I unleashed my final piece of my new being, a fuzzy pair of night black ears. I placed the crown upon my head and flew into the pitch black of hallows eve.  I am invincible. I am free. I am the morning and I am the night. I am nine lives running ahead of light itself. Look at how my limbs take flight! The sons and daughters of glory are at my command! My God, release me into the violent wild!  I am your everlasting servant and I promise you I will paint the skies of this nation with the stripes and stars with which you baptized me. My people are screaming for their emancipation! My name is Vicente, and I am the heir to my family crown. I am a Prince of Huecos. I am an American Faggot.

 

Cited Sources:

Liang, C. T. H., Salcedo, J., & Miller, H. A. (2010, November 15). Perceived Racism,

Masculinity Ideologies, and Gender Role Conflict Among Latino Men. Psychology of Men &Masculinity. Advance online publication. DOI: 10.1037/a0020479

Glass, Jon. Owen, Jesse. Latino Fathers: The Relationship Among Machismo, Acculturation, Ethnic Identity, and Paternal Involvement. Psychology of Men & Masculinity. 2010 American Psychological Association 2010, Vol. 11, No. 4, 251–261 1524-9220/10/$12.00 DOI: 10.1037/a0021477

Hakim, Catherine. Models of the Family in Modern Societies: Ideals and Realities. London School of Economics. Ashgate Publishing Group. 2003

La Fountain-Stokes, Lawrence. Queer Ricans: Cultures and Sexualities During the Diaspora. University of Minnesota Press. Minneapolis. London. 2009

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