Sex & Society » Lgbt, Acceptance, Sexuality: "Living La Vida Secreta: Growing up Gay in a Traditional Mexican Family"

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Living La Vida Secreta: Growing up Gay in a Traditional Mexican Family

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Iveth has a church-going mother and a father who routinely “gay bashed,” taking every opportunity to use the term “joto” or fag when he saw fit. Outwardly, Iveth was studious and respectful, but inwardly she was everything a good Mexican girl shouldn’t be: Gay, uninterested in marriage and children, and deeply opinionated. Coming out would likely sever ties to her family, and despite being uncomfortable with the dynamics in her childhood home, she still wanted to be a part of it.

In college, Iveth began going to lesbian clubs like Truck Stop in West Hollywood. Being able to openly dance and kiss other women felt as freeing as being able to fuck one, but still no one in Iveth’s family knew her secret.

A few years ago, the structure of Iveth’s family changed and her brother became the man of the house. Previously the two had gotten along well, but now that he called the shots, Iveth witnessed his personality shift and they clashed often.

During this time, Iveth decided to come out to her sister, who was quick to point out that being an undocumented woman of color was hard enough without also being gay. At 24, Iveth suspects the rest of the family knows her secret. During arguments with her brother he will refer to her as a “pinche lesbiana.”

Even as she struggles to come out, she hates labels like “lesbian.” To her, labels come with too many preconceived notions. As her parents hold on to the hope that she will one day introduce them to a boyfriend, Iveth counts the days until she can move out and then officially come out to her parents.


Felix had numerous girlfriends in high school. He was the prom king and pictures of his crowning still adorn his home. It was a sham of course, but he did his best to play the part of the straight guy. Felix didn’t have the chance to come out; his mom made the discovery after coming across some revealing writing. In retrospect, it was the best thing that could have happened. Through her eventual acceptance of his sexual orientation, Felix was able to begin working on accepting himself—a process he still struggles with.

Growing up in a Catholic household, Felix remembers the whispers surrounding his uncle’s illness. As a child, he witnessed his uncle’s battle with AIDS, and very quickly made a connection that’s still hard for him to shake, despite being an educated adult: If you are gay, you will die of AIDS.

Recently—eight years after his mother confronted him—Felix came out to his father. At 26, he was in his first serious relationship with a man, and felt compelled to share the news. After revealing his secret, Felix was both relieved and shocked to hear his father say, “I love you,” but this acceptance came at a price: Felix was never to bring a boy home to meet his family.

Last Thanksgiving, Felix looked on as his younger sister introduced her new boyfriend to his parents. Growing up, he had countless privileges his sister wouldn’t have dreamed of, but he would have traded it all in to be able to sit next to his boyfriend at the family table.


Like Iveth, Lydia dislikes identifiers like “lesbian.” She’d rather be known for anything other than her sexuality. If pushed, she identifies as gay, and it is this tiny sliver of who she is that’s caused her the most pain.

Three years ago, Lydia began experiencing panic attacks and depression. She knew the source of her anguish, but couldn’t reveal it to her parents. In a moment of desperation, she reached out for help, and shortly after, began therapy.

During this time, her mom went to Mexico and Lydia grew close to her father. As their relationship improved, her secret began to eat away at her until one day she couldn’t take it anymore. She called her dad into her room and though the words “I’m gay” never left her mouth, her revelation that she “liked girls more than guys” was loud and clear. Lydia’s father told her to keep the secret from her mom, and should she ever find out, her father promised to support her and move out with her if it came to that.

Despite her father’s acceptance, things are still not easy. Recently Lydia learned that her mom agreed with singer Paquita La Del Barrio’s sentiments that children would be better off dead than adopted by homosexual parents. During a heated argument Lydia posed a hypothetical about marrying a woman and her shocked mom quickly dismissed the idea. Lydia’s still not sure if that constitutes coming out, but she longs for the day when she isn’t afraid of falling in love and all that entails.

Iveth, Felix, and Lydia all contend that if given the chance, they’d bring their partners around in a respectful way, limiting physical interaction and other signs of intimacy with partners, to make their families feel more at ease. After all, they were raised by good parents and taught to be thoughtful and polite, even when not being treated with the same respect.

Painting at top: "Los dos Fridas" by Frida Kahlo


Contributor: Ellie B
Ellie B  

I just returned from a trip to Mexico City where I stayed with two gay dads and their 18 year old son. They were a loving and wonderful family (though the boy was treated like a precious baby). I asked one of the boys friends if the boy was teased and he said yes. His take was that most people didn't understand and didn't like gays, but he himself was cool with it. I suppose that's not to different than how alternative families are treated here in the US. Thanks for the article!