Secret Identities

Hugo Santiago - Ecuador


February 24, 2016

Peter Parker is the Amazing Spider-Man! This guy has always been one of my favorite comic book characters. I think it’s been because I could relate to him in some form or another. When we weren’t short on cash or bullied, we were out trying to help others and no matter how hard we tried it just felt like we couldn’t be there for the people most important to us…but even if the world around us was crumbling down, some way things always worked out in the end…
…but most of all, we both knew exactly what it was like having a secret identity no one knew about. In his case it was being Spider-Man and in my case it was being gay. And just like Peter Parker was able to find the courage to announce his secret identity as Spider-Man in Civil War #2 to the world, I was able to find it too.
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It’s official! We’re out of the closet!
And just as we both found a new relief in what we did, we found new ethical dilemmas. I started to realize how the country of Ecuador was in some ways a lot like what I read the United States was during the 1960’s-1990’s regarding the LGBT culture. I figured this out when my host sister introduce me to her “gay friends” and I can’t use their names because then they might become subject to the discrimination they told me about.
They told me how people are a bit scared, they told me how discrimination is still very real in 2016. I think…I have even faced this too. My my new host mom, told me how she suspected the reason why my original host family didn’t talk to me was because I had told them I was gay. I went on to ask, “How come you just don’t all unite and come together”, in broken Spanish of course. Then they told me they didn’t do that because fighting meant relieving they were gay which meant losing their jobs, losing their families and since they didn’t have others to rely on they couldn’t risk it. One guy even told me how his father didn’t talk to him after he told him he was gay for six months, and he considered that lucky. I found out how “fuerte” which meant, “tough/strong” in Spanish was the slang gays in my city used for one another. Then I heard another story about an indigenous man who was gay and abandoned by his family for breaking tradition. I thought about what it meant to be a free LGBT citizen and I think apart of it is to be able to say who you are without fear. Then, I noticed that while maybe these people weren’t out and about to the world, they were still some of the dam happiest people I ever met. They sang, danced and drank with each other. This was their life’s and their predicaments and were okay with how things were. Then, before they left I was told they were here if I ever needed someone to talk too and they kept that on check, when I went to the Amazon one of the guys was asking where I was at and if I was doing okay since he hadn’t seen me.
Maybe in the time that contemporary Ecuador stands, it’s best where the LGBT community is at..but honestly, I just don’t know much about where this new community i’m apart of even stands or what it even means to be LGBT in today’s world. This is why I have decided to revolve my community project around the LGBT community, to discover why it struggles with the problems it faces today. And the other truth on why I want my project to revolve around this topic is because I’ve never felt more connected to people across the globe and I’ve just never felt more like a Global Citizen ever since I came out.
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A few of the messages I found in my inbox after I came out, I found out a lot of people were actually LGBT too and I found a lot of support from the other Global Citizen 
Year Fellows scattered across the Globe…any future LGBT Fellow, just know there’s a support network out here, whether you live in the Amazon Jungle or Pune, India
 
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I’ve had the issue of debating whether or not I should be out and about about being gay in Ecuador. Apart of me didn’t really care what people thought, but then my head rang back to what Austin Nguyen said, “do whatever you want, but just remember your safety”. Then my head stopped revolving so much around myself and started thinking about the people it would affect…
“How would this portray my host family if the city new they held a gay son or how would this portray Global Citizen Year as an organization? Would people resent my family? Would people be scared to take part in being a host family for Global Citizen Year if they knew it meant they might receive a gay/trans/lesbian/bisexual kid?”
 Then my mind drifted to when I told one of my favorite people out here, Mayrita, I was gay in confidence. This was right before I switched host communities. She told me she didn’t approve because of her religion. Yet she told me she still cared about me. I told her I didn’t approve of her religion not approving of me. Yet I told her I still care about her too. And you know what? I think i’m okay with that because what this whole year has taught me to be is more tolerant and conscious of another people’s opinions.
Since I still pretty inexperienced to the LGBT culture, I’ve decided it’s best to keep being gay to myself and close friends…but to you, a future LGBT Global Citizen Year fellow, whether you choose to either be out in the open or stay incognito as a haven, all I can say is that it isn’t easy having a secret identity.
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A teenage Peter Parker get’s what it’s like to be a in-the-closet gay teenager in Ecuador
 (photo cred. to “The Spectacular Spider-Man”)

 

 

Hugo Santiago