When I realized it was all about the boys for me, there was not a queer in sight. Unbeknownst to me, thousands of men and women were grappling with similar sexual and romantic challenges. I am a child of the 60s who came of age on the Douglas, Arizona and Agua Prieta border, the son of the town’s most macho cattle rancher who passed on saddling up for watching reruns of Gene Kelly and Debbie Reynolds in Dancing in The Rain. Growing up queer on the border in the 60s was such an unforgettable experience that I recently published a book about it, Letters to Young Carlos.
I try not to dwell on the past, but I keep past lessons in mind to never repeat them along with my Southern Arizona Senior Pride friends who share the same history. Which practical takeaways from my generation’s struggles could help you live your best life today?
The Art of Coming Out
Here’s one: you have never stopped coming out, have you? You come out daily. It’s second nature–our way of living. Coming out is a lifetime journey, not a moment in time. The clever queer has learned to manage expectations, never anticipating the degree of acceptance or rejection we may encounter with every new person and situation. It’s a process of continually illuminating others with our mere presence that gender fluidity is real and here to stay.
—yes. there’s more like me, a lot more.
It takes time to refine the art of coming out. At first, I was selective, coming out to some and remaining silent or a mystery with others. It’s none of their business, I would say. But really, I still feared the loss of privilege naturally awarded to straight men and resented those free and out under the guise of promiscuity.
The closet requires you to be so many different things to many people. It’s a full-time job just keeping track of your being. With different parts of your identity fragmented, it takes time to come out because you must state the truth about who you are in all the different aspects, roles, and parts of your life and bring these different parts together. And for the rest of your life, you will be bumping into something you need to come out to.
The Truth Is…
People are as comfortable with you as you are with yourself. The parts of yourself you don’t like, people will support you by not liking them as well. If you still allow what people think to influence any aspect of your happiness, please take a big break from this because people just don’t have the time for this—they really don’t care—only you do.
One last word from my generation to yours: life is surprisingly short. Celebrate your queerness now. Get the tattoo, cut your hair, quit your job, and move to Oregon–all of it.
Be so very much yourself everyone feels safe to be themselves. This is how we will build a better world.
We are in charge.