January 31, 2011


Jonathan, age 5
Jackson Heights, NYC (1989)

I don't remember this photo being taken, but I do know it was just before kindergarten. There's a lot of my childhood I don’t remember. Unfortunately, what I do remember is viewed very differently by my birth father, who in the subsequent years would badger me on why I couldn’t defend myself at school.
Or why I had so many girls as friends, my affinity for female pop-stars, or why
I had no interest in sports. The truth is: Homie always knew.

"Step...and repeat."
There's a stigma to being gay and Hispanic. For many of the adults around me, gay men and women play a secondary role to the lives they surround. The flamboyant ones are expected to entertain, susceptible to becoming the butt of the joke. While our humanity is talked about as little as possible.

It's only more recently that young gay Hispanics are able to see transcendent figures who are not only gay, but fulfilled.

I grew up resisting what I thought would be my fate, if I "admitted" to myself what I was. Even though I already was, always had been, and always would be - gay.

I became fully aware of my sexuality at age 13 - when kissing a girl only did it for me when I was thinking about a boy. I came out at age 17 - when I fell in love with my best friend. And I began to accept it at age 21 - when I realized enough was enough.

At 25, I found this photo again, and my first reaction was one of aversion.
I immediately saw a boy that would eventually get picked on, feel like he would never belong, and have to go the extra mile to come to terms with who he was born to be. So I simply put the photo away.

After turning 26, I rummaged for this photo to look at it one more time. Now, I see an incredibly intuitive boy, a boy who loved music videos, Michael Jackson, and penny loafers. A boy blessed with friends who would become family, and support me when coming out. And a resilient little boy who wouldn’t give himself the appropriate credit later on for being a survivor - but eventually would.

I'm realizing that by resisting my "fate" I created an inner turmoil I wish on no one. But, it prompted me to define what being gay was on my own terms, by being myself. Being gay isn’t about fulfilling any preconceived notions or fitting into a mold. It’s about loving yourself with the added bonus of falling in love with the world around you.

Me back then?
Boys behind me staring, with my head tilted, hands on hips, left-foot in front of the right-foot, goofy smile in place - while wearing neon pants.

And me now?
Christ, I can learn a lot from that little boy.

Jonathan's first, famous-person same sex crush:
Ricky Martin
You’re telling me you didn’t see that coming?


Gregory Der said...

I loved your essay. Thanks for sharing. You remind me of what I was going through in the 80s.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful insights - and what a beautiful boy you were. This picture makes me think back to some of my own childhood moments that are so "me" unencumbered by everything people would come to expect of me. I'm so glad you reached a point of being able to reclaim this photo and everything it says about you.

EamonnEdmond said...

Too adorable. So glad you kept stepping! :)