Louie: Thanks for
meeting with me
Efrain: No thank
you! I think it’s really cool that you’re allowing me to be a part of this
project. I am glad that Felix connected us.
Louie: So am I.
Actually, Felix’s interview is one of the interviews that still moves me till
this day and that was almost 2 years ago. So no pressure as I am about to
Efrain: None at
Louie: So tell
me, what did you grow up?
Efrain: I grew up
in Chester, right outside of Philadelphia – by the airport. It was cool. All of
my family lives out there and we were all pretty close. My father is Puerto
Rican and moved to the states when he was 12.
A s a kid, I loved being around that side of my family. I loved being
surrounded by the culture and watching my aunt listen and dance to music while
she cooked in the kitchen. It just felt like home. As far as my sexuality, I
kept that to myself. I hid it – not out of shame because I was never ashamed of
myself but I have a very nosy family.
Efrain: Right. In
my family, if you were male and didn’t say anything or make any noise when a
pretty woman walked by, people had questions about you. If you didn’t like
sports, people had questions about you. I didn’t like girls “that way” or
sports, so questions were always there about me.. One day my cousin, being nosy
as always, pulled me to the side and was like and asked me if I was gay. I
answered honestly but she then started to tell other family members. So before
it the information spread like wild fire, I told my parents. I felt I owed it
to them to hear it from me and not anyone else.
Louie: When did
you discover Philly’s Gayborhood?
Efrain: It had be
like 1994. I was 16 – 17. I remember sneaking to Woody’s on young adult night.
I would wait until my parents fell asleep before I left and I would leave my
sneakers by the basement door and leave the door unlocked. I would return in
time right before my father got up to go to work.
Louie: So what was that like for at age 16?
Efrain: It was
good thing to see that guys were attracted to other guys. At that age, I knew
that there were gay people out there but I didn’t know any at that time. It also felt good to be in a space where you
could go up to a guy and talk to him without feeling like you were going to get
into a fight.
Louie: Do you
remember your first Latin night at a gay club?
Efrain: It was
also at Woody’s of course. It was cool because I would hear the same music that
my aunt played in the kitchen. All my
friends were black and weren’t interested in going. So I jumped at the first
opportunity to go. I wanted to check it out.
It was cool to see other Latino gay guys too. But the interesting part
that experience was how I was made to feel like I didn’t belong. Like I wasn’t
“Latino” enough by the other Latino gay guys. I am not sure if it was because I
didn’t look “Latino” enough or if it was because I didn’t grow up in their
neighborhoods or whatever. I felt really uncomfortable and I thought it would
be like home and it wasn’t. I would watch them greet each other like family and
I felt excluded.
Louie: We Black
Boricuas get that a lot.
Efrain: Yes, I
would get asked “Oh you’re Puerto Rican, do you speak Spanish?” And when I
would say no they would say “How are you Puerto Rican then if you cannot speak
Spanish?” This still happened till this day. It is mainly why I stopped going
to Latin night. I got tired of feeling out of place or feeling like I had to
prove that that I was “Latino” enough. I love the music and I love dancing salsa
but feeling out of place is not worth it – sometimes.
Louie: Do you think that could change after Pulse? How we
all interact? How people make room for Black Puerto Ricans?
Efrain: I think
so. I hope so. I have become friends with Ricky Melendez. He was one of the
first people you interviewed. I saw his
video. He understood me and he knows what it is like and has embraced me and
been really welcoming. I see people like yourself, this project and
organizations like Galaei and I want to be more involved. I have fears that I
will not be accepted but I want to be more involved.
Louie: Well listen, I am in Philly soon. When I am there,
let’s take a visit to Galaei. You down?
Efrain: Yeah, I’m down.