Editor’s Note: This article is being re-featured in honor of the Mexican lesbians we love on Cinco de Mayo (and everyday!)
It’s been my experience, being a queer who is also a Mexican and member of a family that just barely has its foot out of the closet, that there are ways to navigate through family functions that are borderline ridiculous. Having spoken to other lesbian and queer friends and acquaintances, we’ve found that our experiences are pretty similar. Here are 10 roles you may have to play when you’re gay and Mexican.
Master tension diffuser
You’ve stopped referring to your girlfriend as “mi amiga.” They know what’s going on, and you know that they know what’s going on, so she comes over for dinner, you say, “Mom, dad, this is my girlfriend.” They fumble with their words for an uncomfortable amount of time, they forget the mechanics of shaking someone’s hand, have an awkward short exchange, until you step in, cut the night short and save yourself and everyone another minute awkwardness. You know they won’t mention this or her again until the next uncomfortable encounter.
Current Event Informant
You’re out to lunch with the fam, and somehow your girlfriend is the only one whose invitation has been unintentionally/intentionally withheld, and every once in a while you have to bring her up and that restaurant you went to together, just to remind people that she still exists.
Reproductive System Guru
Your mom is sure that her only hope for grandmotherhood is your younger brother, and now you find yourself explaining the ins and outs of sperm donors and adoption, as well as assuring her that your ovaries still work.
Remember the pinch on the arm when you couldn’t sit still in church when you were little? Well, it’s nothing compared to the glare of death your mom will give you if you so much as hint at just how gay you are while grandma is visiting. Bonus points if you get the infamous “No empieces” through gritted teeth. Because grandma will actually die of a heart attack if it’s ever said out loud.
A public pervert
How much PDA is too much PDA? To your parents, hand-holding is probably your ticket to eternal hellfire; remember to watch where you put those fingers.
Whether you live at home still or not, there will come a time when a relative or old friend from “el pueblo” will visit and will ask you the most important question relating to your wellbeing. “Do you have a boyfriend?” There is a ruckus behind you as your mother drops everything she’s doing, including whatever she’s cooking, shoves people out of her way and jumps over the dog, just in time to kindly reply for you, “Oh no, she’s too busy with work.”
Gay Illuminati member
Mexican families are huge. We have around 250 cousins that all show up at wedding receptions, baptisms, quinceaneras, you name it. At least a third are gay, and 100% of that third will inevitably end up crammed at the same little table, catching up on all things gay while heteronormativity goes on around them, oblivious to the gay agenda being discussed over shots of tequila.
True Gay Detective
We all have that family member. You know the one. The one you didn’t know even existed until one day your mom lets a name slip and upon clarification through the masterful use of carefully worded questions, you find out grandma has a sister who lives in some dark little corner of your family’s hometown in Mexico with her “good friend” and “roommate” of 40 or 50 years. It’s of no real relevance to you, you’ll most likely never meet her, but it feels good to find the gay roots in your family.
The best way to learn to pee on command is to experience the true pressure of sitting through a film where you know there will be same-sex sex—with your parents. If you know what’s coming, you can will yourself to run to the bathroom a scene or two before it happens. It will save you the tension of avoided eye contact, and the offhanded invitations to Sunday mass.
And finally, one role I’ve become familiar with over the years. Your parents know you’re a writer, they’ve seen you do it, and they also may have an idea of what you write. This is why you will never link them to your AfterEllen articles and they will never ask for said links because your Sapphic inclinations, like the ghost of your grandpa that grandma claims is hanging around, in theory is accepted, but no one’s really ready to see it.