If you had asked me if I was going to come out to my host family in Ecuador last year, or even last month, I would have said “duh” and left it at that.
But now, it just doesn’t really matter.
During Pre-Departure Training in August, I talked a lot about being proud of who you are. As I’ve come to realize from this whirlwind of the past four weeks, being gay is not the only part of me to be proud about. I’ve been called the “token Gay Ecuador Fellow,” the “Gender Rights Activist,” and the “San Franciscan” to name a few. And as much as these titles may fit me they are certainly not all I have to offer.
One of my favorite quotes of this year came from my friend, Hanna, in Quito one day; she said “you don’t need permission to be yourself.” I hold this very near-and-dear to my heart because I practically live by this saying. And, at the same time, I’ve found a way to totally and completely be myself without verbally saying ‘I’m gay.’
When my students ask me if I have a girlfriend, I say ‘no’ and when they ask why I respond ‘because I’m here to work.’ Which is the absolute truth. I am in Ecuador to learn and witness a new culture. Yes, Ecuador definitely has a machismo culture, and I will add that, yes, it’s been hard at times to not latch out for the sexist stereotypes I’ve seen. And the fact that girls can dance with girls but boys can’t dance with boys makes me want to grab a picket sign. But these are just differences in cultures I will, and have begun to, accept.
Do I need to tell my host family that I’m gay?
What do they get out of it? The sole fact that I prefer sexual intercourse with a man over a woman? Am I not still the sarcastic, funny gringo who talks a lot and eats a little? Nothing has changed, and, if I am being honest, the rural community of San Juan surprisingly does not have a thriving gay community center directly across from the church. Go figure.
So, where as I do miss my giant, Urban, black cloak and talking about septums versus nose rings, some things just don’t feel necessary to share. And I have thought about this idea a lot. Am I ashamed to be gay? Not even a little. Do I feel like I’m hiding something from them? No, because I don’t see being gay as my defining attribute and, as far as I’m concerned, they don’t either.
I am still being me, and I am proud to be me.