The Gran Varones is a legacy project that uses video and photography to tell the stories of Latino & Afro-Latino Gay, Queer and Trans men. Our stories shine light on what being “out” and “proud” means to us, our families, and our communities.
ok, so admittedly these kinds of list often times makes me wanna
literally roll my eyes by snatching them from out of my face and rolling
across my office floor. why you ask? well because they are often times
generic, i mean really generic and they seldom, if almost NEVER mention
the institutional systems that socialize us into hating ourselves.
does this list have things that are useful? sure, but you can find
these “tips” in any inspirational mariah carey song. hey mimi, you know i
love you gurl! so read the article because it does provide some surface
shit and sometimes we need that. no judgement. however, i don’t believe
that anyone’s unhappiness is entirely because of “simple” reasons. so
here is our list:
1. systematic homophobia: we live in a
world that teaches us every gawd damn minute that there is something
wrong with us and that our pleasures and desire for each other is a sin.
we as gay and queer men have to intentionally work to unlearn that shit
- and it ain’t easy. it is a lifetime of work that can be fuckin’
exhausting. so much so that we sometimes do not have the energy to
simply be “happy.” we are “simply” trying to sustain a small piece of
2. systematic racism chyle, when i was a young
queen, i got teased by all the kids in the school yard. i couldn’t wait
to grow up and be around other queens because queens wouldn’t tease each
other. i thought being with other queens would be the equalizer. chyle,
i gagged once i found out that shit isn’t true. yes, the other queens
didn’t call me “faggot” (well not in the way the school yard kids did,
anyway) but i have been called “spic,” “hood rat,” “wet back” and “cha
cha queen.” i learned early on that mainstream gay culture reinforces
the same racist and classist bullshit that is in the fabric of american
culture. calling that shit out or learning to live and “be” in spite of
that takes work. so much so that we sometimes do not have the energy to
simply be “happy.” we are “simply” trying to sustain any kind of happy.
3. AIDS stigma
although we are over 35 years into the AIDS epidemic, latino and black
gay me continue to be disproportionately impacted. of course, this is
because a myriad of reasons. but one major reason is stigma. how many of
us have had a friend, family member or human say, “cool, you’re gay? i
support you. don’t get AIDS.” this ultimately impacts how we experience
sex. so some of us become secretive about how we fuck, who we fuck and
when we fuck. so we begin to associate sex with secrecy and shame. this
is dangerous because when someone us test positive for HIV, we often
times feel like we have failed ourselves and our loved ones. they told
us to “not get AIDS” and we didn’t even listen. we internalize this
shame and it tricks us into believing that we are not good enough. so we
hide. we say mean things to keep us in hiding. some of us even say to
younger queens “don’t get AIDS.” so the shame and secrecy of AIDS
becomes stigma. it takes love, support and an entirely new internal
conversation with yourself to unlearn all of the terrible things were
are taught. so much so that we sometimes do not have the energy to
simply be “happy.” we are “simply” trying to sustain some kind of happy.
yes, we have come a long way from where we once were. but for some of
us, walking down the street puts us at risk for getting teased, taunted
and attacked. hell, we can’t even sleep without the threat of someone
pouring hot water over our bodies. shit is beyond real and while we may
have been born this way, we live in a world that wishes that we weren’t.
man, we live in a country that experiences those of us who are queer
and undocumented as a “dangerous” combination. being prepared to defend
ourselves at any given moment is hard and taxing. so much so that we
sometimes do not have the energy to simply be “happy.” we are “simply”
trying to stay out of harm’s way.
so yeah, that is our short
list. while it is daunting this is what i know - we are magic. we are
fuckin’ magical! happiness, much like self-esteem, is always in flux.
some days are going to be easier than others. that is ok. not being able
to be or feel “happy” does not mean we have failed. we are beating the
odds every day. romanizing happiness alone will not make us happy.
happiness found in those fleeting moments when you are with your
good-good girlfriends laughing so hard that you piss on yourself. it is
found when you are going to war and find that muthafuggahs got your
back! it is found when we feel, know and believe that this world was
made for us too.
“Some of us are presently in that one in four and know first hand that the epidemic is being driven by racism, homophobia, poverty and stigma. Some of us know that we bear the great burden of HIV infection in our community. Unfortunately, only some us know that these statistics DO NOT mean that we have failed each other or that we have not been doing our best to sustain ourselves as Latino MSM. What these statistics mean is that the system and the prevention organizations charged with reaching us have failed us on many levels.”