“What Stays” Part 2

I’m writing this to confront my own concerns, concerns that I am doing a disservice to Ecuador before getting to know the country. I’m referring to my second blog post, “What Stays.” I began to think about my own assumptions about how I, and my sexuality, would be received here more critically following a conversation I had with one of my Team Leaders, Andy, one of the first nights of Fall Training. It was about what my experience as an openly gay man might look like in Ecuador.

In “What Stays” I spoke to a question that comes with going to another country and staying with a different family in a different community than my own, the question of whether to continue to live as an openly-gay man, as I have for the past 11 years, or to keep it to myself.

The disservice I do to Ecuador is not in pointing out that it is a country with a machismo culture, or a homophobic one. The greatest disservice is in not pointing out that the question of whether or not to be open about my sexuality is not specific to Ecuador, or even just Latin America, but everywhere I go.

Whether it’s another country or even in the “progressive” Bay Area, I am never made to feel safe. I analyze every gesture and word I speak in the company of strangers. I am constantly aware of  what I tell others about myself. The phrase “openly gay” struts out of my mouth wearing layers of irony. Openly gay. Open. Open like a swinging door with twelve deadbolts. Open like a gas station after 11 at night where you speak to an attendant behind the safety of bulletproof glass. Is there such a thing as being openly gay if the openness is dependent on the opinions of others?

When I was 9 years old I read the following poem to my 5th grade class:

I am a boy

a boy who likes to play


I am a boy

a boy who is not afraid


I am a boy

a boy who is not afraid to say

I’m gay


Do not laugh

I am the same kid as yesterday

I read that poem, I came out, because I wanted what I wrote to be true. I wanted to be unafraid. I wanted to live in a world where it didn’t matter. I still do.

The last conversation I had with one of my best friends was about what might happen when I was placed with a family. I was in the courtyard at Stanford, two nights before departure, pacing back and forth in the dark. The conversation was light. I told her about Fall Training. She told me about school. Then, suddenly her voice became heavy with a sort of worry I had never heard before. She asked me if I planned to be out in Ecuador. I said yes.

“Be safe,” she said, “If something happened to you I don’t know what I’d do.”

But something could happen anywhere. And I don’t want to define my life with the fear of “something” even if means being able to predict nothing.