Latino LGBT youth coming out at their own pace
Editor’s Note: Names used in this report have been changed at the request of those interviewed, to ensure confidentiality.
Imagine only being allowed to show half of yourself to your family or your peers. Then imagine carrying a guarded secret that may cause you to be shunned by your family and friends. Now, you’re in the state of mind of a closeted youth.
“All I ever wanted to be was happy,” said Esteban Candelario. “Now that I see who I am, it will be difficult to achieve my goal.”
Candelario, 17, who is closeted, views being gay as something he wishes he weren’t.
He remembers how, as a sophomore in high school, he was pushed into a locker during his P.E. class. When teachers and staff asked what had happened, he said it was an accident.
“I said I ran into the lockers because I was going to be late to my next class,” he said, owning up to his fib.
Candelario knew the real reason why he was pushed into the lockers but didn’t want to be seen as an outcast. He was being bullied by classmates, who labeled him as “gay,” although he has yet to come out.
“Looking back on that, I wish I would have spoken up, but I also see that was going to be the point where I came out of the closet. I definitely was not ready then and I still am not now,” said Candelario. “I have many friends who know that I am gay but I feel like that is just the tip of the iceberg. I know for a fact that others know I am gay. I can tell because they always tease and harass me.”
Numerous studies have concluded that homosexuality is not a choice, but genetic – just like having blues eyes, if your parents have them.
However, many in the community still see homosexuality as taboo.
Manuel Fonseca, a mental health therapist for Kern County Mental Health Department, said the anxiety that surrounds coming out of the closet can be compared to having an identity crisis.
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