Dear Mom and Dad,
Esta carta que te escribe es un grito de ayuda, un grito que me ames en el nombre de Dios. (This letter that I am writing you is a cry for help, a cry for you to love me in God’s name).
As the sweat trickled down my thighs hitting the soft carpet, the pastor’s voice rang high as he screamed in God’s name—allowing everyone around him to feel the Holy Spirit. He read the New Testament with a fiery passion as he exclaimed: “The surrounding cities, which likewise indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural desires, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire” (New Testament, Jude 7). All that echoed through my brain was the word punishment, as the guilt and shame coursed through my body like that eternal fire the pastor spoke about. Next to me, abuela chanted “Amen” over and over like her body was now being possessed by that Holy Spirit.
I was merely a little girl when I realized I enjoyed looking at the beautiful women that acted in my favorite movies and television shows. The first moment I realized who I truly am was in the movie, Jennifer’s Body, when my YouTube history was full of curiosity and excitement as I kept re watching the kissing scene between Megan Fox and Amanda Seyfried. Mom always believed that I should not waste my time indulging myself in such silly Americanized movies when La Rosa De Guadalupe was just as good as anything playing on ABC Family. But how could I tell you, mother, that Novelas were too traditional, that they did not begin to explore my wildest curiosity on my sexuality? You had no idea how much I shuddered and cringed at the ideal family values portrayed in the novela. I cringed, mortified at the rose that is constantly being enforced throughout the show, as a meaning of virtue and heterosexuality. Now the fact that I come from a Mexican heritage and share a religious outlook on life—because of my self-identity—there are some values being put to question. The most mortifying value to you is that I won’t want to partake in a traditional man and woman marriage, family, or the traditional gender roles enforced upon me.
The family tradition you two taught me growing up was the intimate relationship that should only be shared between a man and woman. “Miralos, se ven gay,” dad whispered to me as we walked behind two men standing a bit too close to each other for my dad’s liking. As I looked at them, their love shined so brightly for a brief second it felt as if you never said anything. I was only 12 years old when you whispered that to me, but it’s something that is permanently scarred in my brain. It was the first time I truly felt the homophobia vibrating off of someone I admired my whole life. You were the person that held me when I cried and taught me what love meant, so feeling your homophobia made me realize something. I was old enough to finally understand that you two would never accept me. When I think about the hardships, I endured throughout my coming-of-age story, I always reflect back to the idea Jean Baker expressed in her novel How Homophobia Hurts Children: “Gay children often grow up with no one recognizing or accepting who they really are” (Baker 22). The concept of homophobia was extremely prevalent in our home—which is why I always reflect onto this idea—especially when I think of that moment of my twelve years’ realization. I grew up fearing the idea of coming out because you two did not accept homosexuality. Since birth, you have been creating the perfect image that showcased our family tradition to every person in our church group. I was to be the perfect Mexican daughter, which meant listening to my parent’s values and obeying the laws of the church—and because of that, I became perfect in mastering hiding my identity. But now I’m finally beginning to understand my values are not being destroyed by my “gayness;” instead, I know que un dia voy a casar me con una mujer. I will marry a beautiful woman whom I love, and we will share a beautiful relationship where gender is endless.
What does the perfect Mexican daughter entail? It entails keeping our culture alive despite residing on American land. That means that even though other teenagers my age are allowed to watch Jennifer’s Body, I will stick to my culture and only watch telenovelas. And to you, mother, that’s perfect, because I will not adapt to the culture that Americans have created. I will not start to believe that homosexuality should be accepted and encouraged. The only shared value that is in both American and Mexican culture is family and how important it is to an individual. The only difference is that American culture is so progressive, I could never begin to explain the diverse families I see gathering at the stores. American values allow individuals to date and marry outside of their race and gender, without fearing isolation from their families. In Mexico, the most common family is the traditional family you have been preparing for me my entire life. The author Kim Ann Zimmerman, of the article “Mexican Culture,” best described Mexican culture as “usually large family units” (Zimmerman). I have been prepped to knowing my future by all my relatives. I am expected to be a mother next to a loving husband to the numerous of children we have. Abuela always gave me my bedtime stories where she explained the large family units she grew up in and the large family of her mother and so on. Abuela is a mother to five children but she has loved you all regardless of these norms she was expected to accomplish, dad. I dream of a world full of unconditional love— where I can clean up the vomit of my precious babies or hold there beautiful pinkies as they sleep in their crate next to me. The idea of family has always been beautiful to me, something I will always strive for. So, mother you should not worry about me being gay affecting you having nietos. If anything, you are going to be up to your neck with the uncontrollable laughter of my children as they race around your backyard, and hopefully by then understand why I’m holding hands with a woman.
“Keyla, un hombre nunca te va amar si no empiezas a limpiar o cocinar,” mom exclaimed at me for the millionth time just that month. I understand why you worry so much, your mother taught you the gender roles we must wrap around ourselves. You raised me to believe in the traditional roles I must play- me being a stay at home housewife that loves to clean, and cook, and bake flan, while my husband is at work providing rent money. Zimmerman talks about the dominant traditional gender roles that is heavily influencing Mexican culture (Zimmerman). These gender roles have influenced me my whole life. I have been a part of this monopoly we call life, by just reinforcing everything I have been taught. For the longest time, I started to believe my priority was to learn how to cook and serve a man, and I had no idea how I would act towards a woman. How is it even possible for two women to play the gender role of a man? It’s simple, mom: we don’t follow these outdated traditions. It’s the twentieth-first century, so I want to live my life to the fullest. I want to be more than a mom, more than a wife, and more than a housewife. I want to be known as a great worker, a role model to others, and most of all as an individual that can have a career and love what I do.
Last night I had a conversation with God before bed. I begged and cried to him wondering why he made me this way, why I was so different than others. I felt the burning sensation course through my body like you always described to me. He made me believe that I wasn’t any less part of my community just because I’m gay. None of my values are being questioned because of who I’ve always been. I love the idea of being a mother and a wife and I want you both next to me every step of the way. God wanted me to tell you both that it’s okay: he has a plan for all of us and that includes our love being everlasting.
Con todo mi amor,
- Baker, Jean M. How Homophobia Hurts Children: Nurturing Diversity at Home, at School, and in the Community. Harrington Park Press, 2002.
- Zimmerman, Kim Ann. “Mexican Culture: Customs & Traditions.” LiveScience, Purch, 19 July 2017.
Keyla Flores is a first-generation, Mexican American university student. She is about to become a sophomore the following school year and majors in English. As a Chicana, she struggles with identity and sexuality inside her culture.