I'm scared of being pansexual. In years past, I didn't think too much of my sexuality. I could not fathom why someone would hate me because of who I love. Although I had faced homophobia in eighth grade, I figured it was just the ignorant whims of children. In my high school, homophobia seemed like a scary bedtime story you told kids to scare them. It was like the monster under the bed: it wasn't real. Everyone, whether it was students or teachers, was either an ally or LGBTQ+ like me. I was never scared to tell people at school that I was gay.
College changed that. Although Emory does a lot to support LGBTQ+ people like me on campus, I faced some discrimination. At student activities fair, this guy representing a Christian organization came up to me and asked if I was interested. I said, "I would love to but I have to ask: Is your organization supportive of LGBTQ+ people like me?"
He told me that although my existence is a sin, his organization would like to hear my perspective on issues.
I was shocked, sad, and hurt. I had heard that some Christians were anti-LGBTQ+, but it was different seeing it face to face. I tried to brush it off, but when I went to a martial arts organization, I was told by someone else that the existence of my people is a sin and that God punishes humanity through creating people like me. Being out of the closet was hard.
It hurt having someone tell me that my existence is a sin without knowing anything else about me. The moment I revealed my pansexuality, I stopped being a human and started being a monster. I suddenly remembered my grandparents telling me that our family doesn't speak to one of my relatives because they are gay. My entire family cut that person off for being the same thing that I am: LGBTQ+.
I'm scared that my family would cut me off if they knew. Although my mom, dad, and older brother know that I'm LGBTQ+, no one else in my family does. I became hyper-aware of the fact that if my abuelos knew I was gay, they might never speak to me again. When I heard from my mom that some of my relatives in Mexico had read my Facebook posts, I couldn't breathe.
I fell back into the infinite void of the closet.
I started seeing Orlando differently. Orlando stopped being a one-time homophobic incident and became one of many horrific tragedies committed against my people. As I started going to clubs, I realized that I could have been one of those people dead in Pulse Nightclub. Being LGBTQ+ is like waiting for a bullet. I don't know if the bullet will be my family finding out or one burrowed in my chest. Either way, I'm dead to them. In her poem about Orlando, Andrea Gibson wrote that,
"Half of us are already dead to our families before we die."
Andrea has a point. They're right. One day, if I fall in love with a woman and decide I want to marry her, my family will have to find out. I don't know what will happen then. Is it a sort of murder if I suppress the pansexual woman inside of me? If I only date heterosexual, cisgendered men so my family does not know? How could I ever ask someone to be a secret?
I can't. One day, I will walk out of that closet, but today is not that day. I don't know if tomorrow is. I believe in living my life true to who I am but when people ask you if you're honest, they don't think about the people massacred for being LGBTQ+ or how some of my gay friends lost their families the second they came out. They don't know what it's like to be one of us.
I don't want to lose my family, but I don't want to lose myself in the closet, either. Those people in Pulse Nightclub were so brave. They chose to be out, to be who they are in public, to own the wonderful amazingness that is queerness. They lost their lives for it. I don't know if I'm that brave. I don't want to know if my family would stop loving me if they knew.
I'm scared of what it means to be LGBTQ+. I love my people. I love our culture. I love going to pride. I am proud of being LGBTQ+. I don't stay partially in the closet because I'm ashamed. I stay because I don't want to lose my family. I am out to my friends, to my college, to my high school. I came out at Emory, and I faced discrimination, yet I also received so much love. I'm not scared of defying homophobia. I'm scared of losing my family. I am writing this article even though I know one of my relatives could find it, and read it, and choose to out me.
I write this because I know there will be people in my family who will read this, and not know I'm gay. I write this because there are other people who are LGBTQ+ like me and are scared of losing their families. I write this because we are people too. And maybe in our shared humanity you might choose to accept me, and stay.