#23 THIS IS HOW IT STARTED

I grew up in a time where I was not suppose to have a voice. I was a dark skin Latino. I was gay. I was on constant survival mode. I wasn’t embraced and I knew that anytime I chose to be seen whether it was with my voice or my presence I would have to prepare myself for someone, anyone because they were going to say something. Backing down wasn’t a choice. I learned that at a very early age in the hood even if it meant I was going to lose physically I made sure that you remembered our confrontation. It was about respecting me, having to think twice before starting with me. I sharpened my tongue because it had to have a ready made arsenal of words that I can stand on. You couldn’t hurt me without me hurting you back verbally. What was funny is that being gay at the time (80’s) everyone tried me. Not just the straight over machismo guys which in my eyes were the most threatened by me but there was also the real smart guys, the not so attractive guys that wanted to make passes at me on the hush, the angry women who never understood or the religious zealots for you can’t be born gay and even the quiet ones. The ones that disturbed me the most were the ones like me-gay. It seemed like everyone always had something to say that was not nice or tried to put their hands on me.
Being young it tends to break your spirit. You want to go away and find a place that is peaceful, not full of hate and dirty looks, a place where you are embraced and nurtured exactly for how you are. More times then not that place is not home. It is within you, it’s in books, it’s in the pages of your diary or journal, it’s in the music, it’s in the dance. That is where I found me. Even if for a few hours it was my space. I was happy there. It’s where I nurtured all things artistic. So while others did it to entertain I did it to survive. It’s where I wrote the wish it could be, this is how it should be and one day it will be. When I danced there was no identity lines. Your feet was your fave and I had a very pretty set of feet when I hit the dance floor. It was between the pen and the dancing that I found me. I found my worth. I found my gift. The special thing that was common amongst others that were into the arts, any type. 

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#22 BEING GAY ISNT ALWAYS HAPPY

I was always gay. As far as I can remember and I’m talking 5 years of age I have always been gay. I have always liked boys and all my best friends were girls. I was also very feminine. It wasn’t a secret that I was gay. It was a secret to me that everyone knew but not to my family. I played with Barbie’s and mastered Double Dutch. Collected the best caps for hopscotch and Skelzzies. There was a price to pay for being so open about myself. Not to mention that I was naive. Believing that everyone that smiled was a friend In my pre-teen and teens i was teased. I had to learn how to be quick with my fists and my tongue. I can say that I fought at least 2-3 times a week for s couple of years in my youth. With that much practice after a while you tend to kind of settle things quickly by any means necessary. I had to find my happy place and definitely had to pick my tribe. That was through a lot of trial and error. It took some time but I found those that embraced me. It didn’t mean I was exempt from the hardships of finding me. It was in that journey that the unhappy came in. It was never all giggles and unicorns. Now I am not saying that everyone has a great happy storybook life. That is not what I am saying. What I am saying is being gay comes with its own trials and tribulations unique to the lifestyle. It is a know fact that it will have its missing pieces, a guarantee that it will be the one of love and soul searching. It will involve finding yourself and how you fit in the whole life puzzle. The finding a partner in a world that does not embrace you and I don’t care how free and liberal this world may be. Not everyone gay is OK being out with theirs. It’s about having to find your voice and not being embarrassed of scared of offending those who can’t stomach the sight of you let alone the sound of your voice. You shouldn’t give a fuck but you won’t acquire that attitude till later. It is about finding your spirituality where it doesn’t in involve a hateful spewing, judgmental, unforgiving GOD. It’s finding a comfortability in your skin that allows you to move and dig inside without it making you feel less than who you are permitting depression and anxiety to run rampant in your mind. The journey of finding your courage and not being over ruled by fear. Finding the ultimate you in spite of what the world has tried to make you believe is a huge and constant battle. Being gay is not always happy. It’s will come with it’s guaranteed hardship. 

#21 WHERE DO I FIND MEĀ 

I never found myself on TV. There was nothing that I can identify with. We are speaking of the 8o’s here. All they had were those pretty families that in 30 minutes all tragic problems were resolved. The Mom kept the house clean and she always found time to have it all under control and the dad worked making enough money to have a house, the kids clothed, food on the table and never a serious worry. Both parents worked together to give advice and make sure the family was unscathed from anything. Punishment was handed out instead of beatings. There was even a weekly allowance from doing chores. Like who heard of such a thing.
This definitely wasn’t my home. Single mom that worked super long hours. She had it far from under control. Absent dad that left while the going was good, while youth was still on his side. You cleaned house because it’s what you did because mom couldn’t do it all alone. God forbid if she came home from work and things weren’t in order because Mom didn’t spare the rod. Lord knows I received my fair share of beatings. Sometimes mom, a single parent didn’t have the answers. There were times that she didn’t want to hear a thing let alone more problems. Even when my step-father joined the family they both didn’t have the answers. It was a home with lots of alcohol, a gay kid, a straight jock and a dog. Both my parents had 2 totally different upbringings in which I must say didn’t benefit me much. Silence was a tool served often. There is a saying- aprende de mi silencio. That usually meant that whatever topic was on the table was not up for talk, debate or questioning. It got to a point when my attitude was- Why bother asking it’s not gonna make a difference”.

I sit in bed watching these family sitcoms it becomes even farther from the truth than ever. I don’t know if it’s a way of just kind of reprogramming society as a whole.

 I truly think that this is why reality T.V is so popular and in high demand. It’s the mire normal living than these sitcoms. 

With that being said I didn’t find myself in those sitcoms or the silver screen and when I did he was not very good looking. He was usually dressed in the worse drag and brought in as the comedy relief. I was lead to believe that gay people were supposed to be funny at all times or that pretty/attractive wasn’t a requirement. That when you appeared you was the butt of jokes. It wasn’t a cool feeling. This is why I tell my story because straight or not WE all go through similar situations. No one is exempt from difficult times or life changing events. It has nothing to do with sexuality or preference. That there is a dysfunction in it all not to mention that gay is not always funny. My days are far from comedy and just for the record I’m far from a sitcom.,

#20 I KNEW THIS

The other day I came upon some old flyers from clubs that I use to go to. These flyers were during the Freestyle and 90’s house music era. The memories that are attached to these incredible exciting times of my nightlife in NYC are epic. As I started looking through them I was automatically transported to a time in my life that really had not many worries. I ate, shitted, talked and breathed dancing. I had a tribe, a group of friends that was considered family to its core. We all loved, laughed, danced, partied together. We understood each other and there was never strife like that. It was seriously magical. Till this day we are all close. 
When I finished looking at the flyers, with a huge smile on my face I put them back in this box that I had them in. I put the box back in the closet. I sat on the bed and it was when I exhaled that it hit me. This feeling of awareness but pain at the same time. It didn’t make me cry but what it did do was keep me still,?just staring off with a blank stare on my face but aware of just sound. It was in that moment of stillness that the memories once again played themselves out but in fast forward mode, it was a blur but still being able to maintain the faces of us, the group, the tribe. It was in that flash of moment that I saw us as who we were broken. How we were family to each other at a time when life was just way to hard for us to bare. We helped each other at a time where self reflecting was mental suicide. We needed each other’s company so that our everyday life didn’t overwhelm us. With us as a group together there was acceptance in a silent way. There was this love that showed itself in camaraderie. Sometimes words were not even said and we just knew that together we were not going to get eaten alive from the nightmares that was our youthful life. How the music and dancing and singing healed more deeper than hugs and kisses. 

This moment that lasted minutes revealed an epiphany that had attached to it a longing of brother/sisterhood. When the moment passed I knew that I was blessed. That through all the madness something greater than us as a whole had always had its hand in our lives. That we were always weaving magic even when we weren’t aware of it.  

#19 MOMMA

Woke up this morning in deep thought. I have been dealing with certain things for a couple of weeks and it has not only showed me the importance of people it has also put me in a place where I myself, the man, the kid has stood within and found parts of me even more. My mother to me is everything in my life. in our journey vulnerable. No one has ever embraced me unconditionally like my mother. Was she tough- YES! Was she her own person and did shit her way- FUCK YEAH! Did she make all the best decisions at all time- NO! Pero es mi madre. She gave me and my siblings anything and everything the only way she knew how and it was with a strong back hand and hard work. A little lady raising 2 boys, losing 2 daughters in her lifetime and raising a grandson can never be easy. Don’t care what anyone tells me this would kill the usual and mommy rose, fell, rose again and lived. 
I started to write the personal essay on her and it got so damn real I had to stop and just breathe. Mommy I understand your choices. I understand why you did what you did! Having you live with me has let me understand that the choices you made when my siblings and I were growing up were done on what you knew. You absolutely had no love growing up. Once your mother passed away you was a burden. You were passed around to relatives and strangers hands for money and to not have to be seen. You had no one in your corner. You literally lived day to day. You were constantly on guard because men at an early age showed you they were not nice at all. You never learned to trust. I now understand why growing up it was rare for you to have friends and actually kept people at arms length. I can’t imagine your fear being so young arriving to Nueva York. Focused on making a life for yourself and vowing never to step foot in Puerto Rico. I totally get why Bacardi was your best friend. Through all that you managed to not only get a job but have your own respectable little business as a seamstress. You were beyond good. You managed to support 2 generations on your back solita. I never heard you complain. I never saw your tears when your back was against the wall. 

I know you came from the era where tragedy was stuffed deep down so as not to affect you, placed somewhere where it’s forgotten. Actually to a point where it never happened. In a weird way I say thank you mi viejita. Though there are so many things of my childhood that were not good, there are so many shortcomings that I can dwell on I can say in all sincerity that you did THE BEST with what you knew and how to. 

I came out a strong man, independent , hard working, responsible. Taking in how with no education at all you made a dollar out of nothing helps me continue on my path. I can accomplish it with no excuses. Thank you. Te amo mucho viejita.

#18 WHEN MAGIC IS IN YOUR BLOOD

I was raised catholic. My mother made sure I went through all the passages of Catholicism. I did the Baptism, Holy Communion and Confirmation. Through it all mommy being a devout GOD fearing woman made sure she took time to be in touch with her ancestors. Something she brought from Puerto Rico the same way the slaves did. 
On Sundays is when she would open our casa. On those days she would always have me around to assist her. I would bear witness to something greater than what I believed in for my young age of 8. On these Sundays strangers would come to our home and mommy would help them. They would come from word of mouth. Mommy would sit with them and she would become a totally different person. Her speech, her diction, her tone was not the mommy I knew. I was mesmerized. Whether it was advice or massages or some concoction made from herbs mommy made sure I was present. Mommy’s specialty was children. Parents came with their newborns that had some ailments. The parents explaining to mommy that doctors couldn’t cure or the ultimatum was unacceptable. What always amazed me was before these guests came mommy would go through the ritual of waking at the frack of dawn. She’d be cleaning and singing and dancing and praying. It would end off with her talking to me of people that had yet to appear at our door. She would tell me what to get so as to be ready when they arrive. I can say that I have seen some real incredible stuff. This little lady no taller than 5’1 called mommy healed. Regardless what her week was or how she was living those Sunday’s were to heal others. She never charged either. She asked for a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread but never money. 

It was during these Sundays that I learned charity and hope. I learned that there was more that I can’t see then I do see. It was these Sundays that I learned our family history-we were curanderos. That from La Isla, in my blood flowed a family history. That there were cures from the simple cold to arthritis to respiratory conditions that can be cured with a candle, holy water, prayers , laying of hands and a lot of faith mixed with herbs and teas. Mommy eventually stopped when I got into my early teens not before I was taught and told about the family tree. How it came to be that I at one point will also be a curandero, un brujo. 

#17 AUTHENTICALLY YOU

I don’t know if it’s my age on this earth or maybe the experiences I have had to face in this life way before becoming a young man or maybe it’s entering recovery and constantly having to dig deep within but a life goal to live an AMAZING and productive life is to be authentic. It’s to be authentic to you, yourself and only you. This journey called life has to have a goal (even if your not one of those goal oriented kinda people) and it will, trust me, end with you being true to you on every level. What makes this hard is the stereotyping that society already has us under. It’s as if they already have this dumb list as to how far or how we as a person, as a culture ARE supposed to be. Please not only is it extremely limited to who we are it’s insulting as fuck. Like if I had a dollar for every time someone told me that no one would be interested in hearing my story or that because I am gay I can only be so much of a man I’d be dead already. There’s other bullshit lies that society has told me like I’ll never become a better person because I was an addict or that I’ll never find love because of my blasphemous lifestyle (this one makes me chuckle every time). 
To be authentic requires digging! Not surface either, though in the beginning it will do. But eventually it will take some serious sitting down and just not being scared of what parts are you and which ones are not. It’s owning the ugly and making it either acceptable enough to work through it or just throwing it out understanding it’s not going to fit in your journey anymore. It requires lots of tears and lots and lots of forgiving. At first you’ll resist thinking certain individuals don’t deserve it but when you come to the understanding that the forgiveness of them is really for you it will be worth it all. That is one of the hardest lessons I gave had to learn and at times digest slowly was the forgiveness. How do I expect to be authentically me if I harbor and hate? I am old enough to own my shit. Can’t say that’s pleasurable all the time but if I’m to know myself it is to my utmost self care to own the kart I okay. That includes embracing my ugly, my flaws, me imperfections, my rage and my shortcomings.