Belonging

In the fall of 2008, I my parents proudly displayed a Yes on 8 banner in our front yard, as did several other families on my block and neighborhood. My friends’ parents, too, supported the California measure to define marriage as between a man and a woman. My church fervently supported this measure. I supported this measure.

I am gay.

I knew no differently as I supported Prop 8. I saw my secret behavior as a mere phase I would one day outgrow and kept to my religious upbringing to inform my political beliefs and identity — for the most part.

On November 4, 2008, as I cheered the approval of this Proposition 8, I too cheered the election of our nation’s first black president. Despite all the noise and raucous, baseless, bigoted opposition to our new leader, he represented a change, a change in our politics, a change in our foreign policy, and most importantly a change in generation. Just a handful of years older than my parents with kids my age, I felt connected to this man and the movement he inspired. For the first time I felt excited by politics, I knew I was watching history unfold the night he won the Iowa caucuses.

My support of Barack Obama clued me in to the disparity between my parent’s faith and beliefs and my budding political identity. Wednesday nights at church would be not much more than the defamation of our new president calling him “President Osama” and claiming that he’d turn the “White House black”. As a seventh grader, this was jarring to hear. In the years that followed, my church would continue to espouse extremist Tea-Party ideals using the Bible as the groundwork of their fight for religious liberty and the enlistment of Judeo-Christian principle in government. Again, in school up until high school, I’d hear my classmates regurgitate their parents’ views in attacking this president.

At the 2010 Get Out the Vote rally in Los Angeles, CA.

When I was a freshman in high school, my dad took me to an Obama rally in Los Angeles during the lead-up to the 2010 midterm elections. For the first time I felt like I “belonged”. Instead of hurling invectives to the enemy, I saw peaceful unity and diversity. Instead of homogeny in the crowd, I saw people of all walks of life: Latino, Black, White, gay, young, old, native, immigrant, they were all in the crowd. I felt safe. I felt like I belonged. Until I moved out this past summer, these experiences were few and far between. Be it with my handful of like-minded friends at school or the simple “like” among the rebuttals in my political posts on social media, I didn’t feel like I belonged much in my community. At church, though I was never out of the closet when I attended, I felt their innate sense of superiority, I saw the blindness and hate religion causes. Instead of feeling welcome, I felt dejected, unsafe.

Throughout high school, as I became more and more certain in my sexuality, I began to notice and personally feel the hate coming from the Religious Right, the people with whom I proudly cheered the passage of that anti-gay measure. I became aware of the potential of divisive rhetoric founded on ideology. I noticed for the first time a sense of moral superiority. Along with all this I came to notice the harmful, detrimental effects of this ideology on our country’s future. Not just a mere guide to make decisions, the Bible and “morals” came to dictate the Right’s policies. Those in disagreement were deemed as sinners, unholy, subject to the Almighty’s wrath. So naturally, for a closeted gay teen, this made the prospect of coming out much easier.

I came out to my parents last summer and moved to New York in short order. I figured that once I moved to a liberal city, away from my parents and conservative community, my problems would disappear, I’d be free to openly express myself and my political identity. I was wrong.

I started as a Sanders supporter during my first semester. I felt the Bern. Then I lost it. NYU, replete with students living their dream in the city with daddy’s money supported this man who offered the moon and the stars for free. It was “their right” they said to free college. Of course they believed this, they’ve had everything handed to them their entire lives! They hate Clinton and see her as a worser evil than Donald Trump. The Bernie or Bust phenomenon always seemed so naive and narrow-minded to me. Why not take a half-step forward instead of three devastating steps back? They are not satisfied with compromise, they see the revolution as imminent. In my mind they are no different than Trump’s supporters, unhappy with the current situation, apt to vilify anyone who disagrees with them, eager to incite violence. I did not buy into this narrative. I do not fit into this mold. I found virtue in moderation, I saw experience as positive, I believed that compromise was the only way to create meaningful, long-lasting change. Sanders does not represent this. I believe Hillary Clinton does.

By supporting Clinton, I have been ridiculed, I have had my intelligence questioned, my morals doubted, just like I have before. I’m an outsider among Liberals just like I am an outsider at home.

Though I came to New York City to find acceptance in my beliefs, I take pride in being the odd man out. As a result I am forced to think for myself, to back up my opinions. From this position I have been able to constantly nuance my ideas, to shape them as my confidence in them grows. Perhaps I will never find complete acceptance — I haven’t — and I’m perfectly fine with this. I have grown from my experiences — I am who I am because of them and I wouldn’t change that.

I am a proud gay Mexican-American who loves sports, architecture, rap, Beyoncé, cold brew, Hillary Clinton, politics, my boyfriend, sleeping, long runs, and pineapple, among other things. I don’t fit into any mold and that’s okay.