My little cousin came out to me on instant messenger my junior year of college. I sat in front of my laptop, typing words that conveyed shock, but I really wasn’t. Juan was only a few years younger than me and we practically grew up as brothers. In lieu of sports we played with Polly Pocket compacts, and pretended to be the girls from Saved By The Bell. It was always obvious he too was gay, and I was beyond thrilled to finally have someone in my big Cuban-American family who was like me.
In fairness to Juan, I may have been a tad overbearing after his coming out. However, we had grown apart throughout the years and I really wanted to rekindle our relationship. I invited him dinner with my boyfriend, and told him we could go partying on South Beach (As I phrased it, “so I can introduce you to the gay scene!”). I started Myspace stalking him and even left a comment on his profile on how to take the perfect selfie that would show off his bicep.
I tell you none of this to come across as neurotic or overbearing. Rather to tell you how blind I was to who Juan really was. You see, Juan was a goth kid and I thought all he needed was guidance to liberate him from his dark garbs. He had long black hair, baggy black jeans with chains, and wore pale contacts. Basically, the antithesis of what I thought “gay” should be at twenty. South Beach was so obviously not his scene and all he needed was his big cousin to listen. I was the idiot who instead of loving him for who he was, thought I could change him.
So we didn’t end up partying on South Beach. But you know what was one thing we had in common? Comic books. And each time I came home for the weekend, we’d go down to the local comic book store or he’d come over my parent’s house with an action figure or collectible that was impossible to find in my college town. Going to the comic book store with him is among my favorite memories. We were gay geeks and the only ones in our big Cuban family that understood each other.
When I moved to New York my relationship with Juan took a turn for the worst. My other cousin, Raul, came to visit. I hadn’t spoken to Juan in a few months and asked how he was doing.
“Dude,” Raul told me. “You know he doesn’t like you. He was talking mad shit about you the other day and I swear to God I wanted to punch him.”
I was floored. “What do you mean? What did he say?”
“He said: ‘There are two types of gay men in this world. Ones like me and fags like Paul.’”
I stood in shock. Did another gay man just call me the F-word? Isn’t that like the pot calling the kettle black? But I wasn’t angry. Instead I felt guilty. Growing up Cuban American in Miami, my family lost a lot when they crossed the Atlantic for America. The one thing they had when they got off the boat was each other. They were a family and I was always taught family comes first. When Juan came out to me, I reacted the wrong way. He was clearly holding a grudge. True my intentions were good, but the path to hell is paved with good intentions. Now I was rotting in the fires of my mistake and I was determined to right my wrongs when I saw him at Nochebuena.
“I don’t want to be part of this family,” Juan told me on Nochebuena. “I hate being a Florez.”
I had cornered him after our parents served the lechón. I wanted to talk, but he didn’t even want to spend a second with me. I thought of our fathers, lost at sea, weather-beaten. Did they make that journey just so one of their sons would denounce their name? So that two gay cousins would hate each other? Absolutely not. I was the older one, I was going to smooth over the situation.
“Juan, just give me five minutes,” I said. “We can fix this.”
Juan looked down at his watch. “Naw. I’m good.”
I didn’t see him again until my parents hosted Nochebuena two years ago at our house. A lot happens in two years and I thought when he’d arrive that we’d forget the past. What’s more my little brother, Ryan, had come out of the closet in those years and had grown to be a confident young man who marched to the beat of his own drum. There was now three of us in our family and surely Juan would see how incredibly unique the situation was and would want to cherish it.
The second Juan walked into my parent’s home he immediately went to the bar, poured himself the most expensive liquor and started making fun of Ryan and I, pointing out my adult braces and my brother’s shoes. I was furious, ready to pick a fight with him and throw him out of the house. However, my brother pulled me aside.
“He can say whatever he wants about me,” I said. “But not about you. You are off limits.”
“Paul,” Ryan said. “Look at him, he’s miserable. It’s not worth it.”
Ryan is 6’2 and wears industrial looking platforms all around New York City. He dyes his hair teal, red, gold…basically any color he wants. He walks into a room with his head up high and doesn’t care what other people say about him. I realized I might’ve been overbearing with Juan when he came out, but it was clear he had issues with his identity and sexuality that transcended me. After all who calls another gay man the F-word? When I look at my brother, someone who is so incredibly unique and one of a kind, nothing brings him down and he never insults anyone else. I’m proud of him and he’s emblematic of a new generation of gay men who defy stereotypes.
I‘ve only seen Juan once since Nochebuena. My mother and I went to his parent’s house for a quick visit and he was in the living room taking care of his nephew. His hair wasn’t dyed and he wasn’t wearing contacts. I barley recognized him. He was bouncing the baby on his lap, smiling at him and saying “I love you” over and over again. I realized he’d changed over the years and that he finally found someone in the family he cared about. We may not have a relationship, and I find it difficult to forgive him for making fun of my brother, but I hope he teaches his nephew one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned: to value family.
Photo credit: Flickr
I am a bit hesitant to comment but a few thoughts come to mind
that may/or may not, be worth sharing.
First, I was wondering if the author asked Juan and Ryan if it was ok to
publish this article at all and with their names — especially Juan. I say that
because the author appears to take quite a few shots at him — for example
writing “look at him, he is miserable.” Also trying to make his cousin look bad by
asserting the cousin called him a fag.
Is that a shot at family — yes, i think so, though the author might say it is reality — though
the authors version of reality is just one.
So, there is a lot of family drama but writing unkind things about family is not
particularly kind, especially around the holidays — so you know the author really
has to consider whether he has learned to value family.
So, you say your cousin should value family, what about what about you?
@pjm1: Really? I think the author is very fair in talking about his own short comings, his failures leading to the breakdown of communication and his not understanding his cousins continued behavior against he and his brother but wanting a relationship with his cousin and hoping for the best. Plus, my brothers are very protective of me…hell yeah they are going to defend me against anyone putting me down. As I would them.
PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID
I dunno and forgive me but I seem to be picking up on a lot of passive aggressive in this article. Regardless, I hope you all come back together again. Life’s too short to hold grudges about petty shit.
Well, I do see the article disparaging Juan — so i am not sure how you can
disparage your family (unless he got Juan’s consent) in a public article and then
say you should value family.
As for family looking out for each other was the author really looking out for
his cousin Juan when he wrote this article? or is the author showing that he is
superior because the author learned to value family and Juan has not.
@PRINCE OF SNARKNESS aka DIVKID:
You are right, hopefully the family can find a higher ground.
Who is this, and why should i care?
Something tells me it wouldn’t matter to Juan what Paul says about him.
Something also tells me he’d probably never peruse a site like Queerty due to his own continual self-loathing of his true self and that many that represents the “fags” are represented here.
“The second Juan walked into my parent’s home he immediately went to the bar, poured himself the most expensive liquor…”
If you’re noticing crap like that, you must have some other issues, yourself…
I enjoyed the story because it’s different. Everyone’s so quick to judge and comment on how badly it is written or how it’s not a great story and try to take it apart and analyze every single sentence. Take the story for what it is…
You guys over-analyze everything. EVERYTHING.
i liked this. wish we could know who the author is!
Lololol. Juan talks shit and repeatedly shows his hatred towards Paul when all he did was try to be there for him.
“I don’t think its nice to write unkind things about family.”
Are you fucking kidding me? Juan is a douchebag. He needs to get his ass beat.
So Juan can be derogatory and hate his family for being nice, but the offended party can’t tell the truth?
You might as well say its rude of people to say Hitler was a murderer. Its fact, but you know, its not very nice.
“Are you fucking kidding me? Juan is a douchebag. He needs to get his ass beat.”
Hmmm, as I have gotten older, it is my practice to make an effort to engage in skillful
speech (and admittedly I often fail).
The purpose of my comments was to have the author consider his intention/motive in
writing the article and consider a different viewpoint.
So this mamón is one of 3 gays in his family. As boys, two of the 3 pretended to be girls and played with makeup kits. Of these 2 failed males, one goes on a years-long rage-filled vendetta against the second because of a few mild MySpace comments. The 3rd dyes his hair four different colors for some reason. The whole lot of you sound mentally ill. If only President Carter had ordered the Navy to turn back the author’s father, Queerty readers would have been spared this sad, warped tale of gender and personality disorders.
Hey guys, the author here. Thanks so much for reading! I don’t typically comment on my work, but to clarify:
– Names changed to protect identities
-Just my version of the story. I’m discussing my shortcomings in my relationship with Juan. No intentional jabs.
Again thanks for reading!
Everyone deserves the freedom to have the relationships they want, and freedom from the relationships they don’t.
Sometimes the exercise of these freedoms cuts family apart. That’s life.
Ambition is getting what you want, and happiness is wanting what you get. It may be possible for a person to warp themselves enough to make another person want them, but a careful analysis of the happiness return is necessary. Some victories cost more than they are worth.
@pf83: I see (glad you changed the names).
By the way, Glenn Greenwald (pulitzer proze etc) and others at “The Intercept”
regularly respond to comments and questions. Greenwald doesn’t hold back when . . .
when he has something to say.
All the best.
@NoCagada: How is that blurb an allude to “serious issues”? It’s not that damn hard to point out expensive liquor.
@NoCagada: Sorry… “other issues”
@NoCagada: Maybe you noticing that part of the article and making a negative out of it is an indication that YOU have your own issues to work out. The quote from the article was completely harmless.
@Jacob23: Someone got up on the nasty side of the bed this morning.
And the point of all this was to say…
Uh, well, you know, that…
Haha, he was trying to cheer up a goth. That is hysterical.
@Stevenw: I’m an old fart; so I didn’t see the irony. But now that you point it out, of course.
Growing up, I accepted advice from some people and I resented it from others — both, personal and professional. And the difference was that the advice I accepted seemed organic to the situation: I’d be at work and my boss would point out a problem (not with me personally, but at work) and then suggest a way of fixing it. When I resented and often rejected someone’s giving me advice (even if it was good advice), it was almost always when that person acted entitled to provide the advice.
Over the years since that time, I’ve tried to give advice only when it seemed to make sense or when someone actually asked me for it. I’ve taken criticism for not offering it sooner; but then I provide the fake Buddha quote: “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear”
I enjoyed the article. Personally I think Juan used his “goth” look as a self defense mechanism because he hadn’t completely comfortable with his sexuality. Only when his tolerance levels dipped down to certain level did he start making fun of the author and his brother. Seeing others be/act a certain way sometimes builds intolerance.
In the end, Juan finding a baby to bounce up and down is cute, but tolerance and forgiveness are lessons that the author didn’t say were learned or not. The author should forgive Juan.. the only one who is thinking about that is him. Time to let that go. He’ll find his own way.
gracias, thanks for the short story. First time i’ve read something on this site about a latino family experience. Nochebuena by the way is Christmas eve and like thanksgiving, we go all out, its like a mini family reunion. the point of this story is we got to be a we, no one is going to this for us. we are an anomaly, a blessing. The one true minority, there will never be more gay people than straits on this planet. its so ironic, how many juans decided to shit all over this mans effort. I loved your story. It shines a light on the very real, not exclusively Hispanic problem, of internalized homophobia. Thank god there are a few of us that fight everyday so that we have the equal right to f— up our lives , just like everybody else.
Thanks for sharing your experience. We are all unique. We can all try to let other people be who they are, and try a little kindness towards them. I hope you find a meaningful connection with your cousin and that all your family members can deal with homophobia’s effect on your relationships. Happy new year!
You kinda are just that – You expected him to be just like you and demanded tolerance from others whilst being intolerant of him – typical SoBe. Also, coño, bro! Hay un Cubano alive that does not love to exaggerate? “Cross the Atlantic”?!? It’s an effing 90-mile stretch of water, Maricon.
@cflekken: I noticed what NoCagada pointed out as well and i agree with him. Pointing out that Juan poured himself a drink from the “most expensive liquor” is basically saying “this freeloading piece of shit took the good stuff.” There’s no need for that extra bit of information unless the author is pointing it out for a reason. That reason being, he’s criticizing him. It’s ironic that the author would write about how his cousin was criticizing him and his brother but he himself is criticizing the cousin for choosing the better quality alcohol. The author is no better than the cousin, the only difference is the cousin says what he’s thinking while the author just thinks it. He seems to be overly praising his brother as well. As a Latino, I’ve noticed we seem to sanctify certain people in our lives as those who can do no wrong, while we vilify others who can do nothing but wrong. Which is probably why he’s still holding a grudge about him making fun of his brother. It was just words. let it go. I couldn’t help but to analyze that whole bit about their father’s drifting in the sea. It’s another hit on the cousin. If the cousin doesn’t value his family that’s his own business. Why mention their fathers’ struggle to get to the US? Unless he’s calling him ungrateful. I don’t see what the two have in common. My dad came here from Mexico. I’m happy to be born in the U.S. but i wouldn’t say I’m grateful towards my dad for it. He didn’t come to the U.S. for me, he came for himself. I was born 17 years after he came here, his decision to come here wasn’t based on me at all, so why should i be grateful towards him for that? I honestly don’t see the point of the story. There’s no real resolution. All he says is that Juan didn’t have dyed hair or contacts, which i guess means he grew out of the goth phase. So what? that doesn’t mean he grew to accept himself or his sexuality or whatever hangups he has with his family.
I like this article a lot. It’s interesting to see the dynamics of gay men. Gay men are individuals, we are not all the same, and this goes for every other group of people. Thanks for sharing this, I relate to this since when I came out, I thought I had to fit a stereotype to actually be welcomed into the gay community, but never change yourself over something so trivial. There is so much more to a person than their sexuality, ethnicity, religion and etc. It makes me sad when people don’t realize that.
The author does seem to pointing out his own missteps… but I’m not sure he really gets how ingrained, harmful, and active his personal prejudices and narrow-expectations towards others are – or at least were in this situation.
He seems to be pushing a trope that “long black hair, baggy black jeans with chains, and wore pale contacts” is some proof of a gay guy having ‘issues with his identity’ —
While on the other hand “industrial looking platforms / dyes his hair teal, red, gold…basically any color he wants” is proof of gay-secureness.
How does that figure? (hint: it doesn’t – because everyone shouldn’t be expected to live in the author’s bubble of preferred appearances and/or outward attitudes).
Reading the article, I can see why Juan called the author out on his judgmental bullshit, granted inarticulately –
But it’s sad that the author doesn’t seem to understand his made-up expectations of Juan probably came through pretty harshly – and was yet another slap to a young gay guy when he probably expected/hoped/needed his only gay family member to be one to NOT burden him for not fitting a preconceived mold.
Sure, it’s offensive and odd to be called a faggot by a gay man – but the author drew first offense by, I’m betting, treating Juan like he wasn’t a ‘true’ gay man (or even a normal person) because he didn’t live within the author’s bubble of rules. I can understand wanting to avoid a person with that mindset.
In the end, I certainly don’t see Juan as the one who needs a lesson on what it means – or doesn’t mean – to be gay and a supportive family member in the story told here.
@pjm1: Juan, that you?
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