Pariah, the critically acclaimed debut feature from filmmaker Dee Rees, follows 17-year-old Brooklyn teen Alike, an African-American lesbian who is coming to terms with her sexuality and how it’s affecting her more traditional family.
Inspired by the film, Salon has been running “Pariah Personals,” a series of coming-out stories from minority and immigrant LGBT youth. Some have had an easier time than they expected, others have found it hard to be accepted by families who may carry long-held prejudices or worry about their chances as double minorities.
For Raul Rodriguez, 21, coming out as gay was less problematic than dealing with the fact that he and his family are undocumented immigrants.
Rodriguez, a senior at UC Berkeley, writes:
But just like being gay, being undocumented wasn’t a choice for me. It was something I discovered as I grew up.
I am originally from Lima, Peru. My dad was a pediatrician and my mother a teacher before we moved to the United States.
Growing up I always knew that there was something different about me; I just wasn’t sure what. I just knew I had an attraction toward guys, ever since I was about 9 years old and had a crush on a fifth grader during summer school.
I was 17 years old when I discovered I was undocumented. My dad broke the news to me that I wouldn’t be able to get a driver’s license because we were “different” from everyone else. His words were subtle but I understood.
The series ends today with an essay from Promduson Ok, a 24-year-old Cambodian-American who is the director of the youth-journalism project VoiceWaves.
Both Pariah and “Pariah Personals” should be considered required reading/viewing for anyone who thinks being gay in America is just about being white, privileged and fabulous.
Images via Raul Rodriguez, Focus Features