“When You Were Young” – Hugo Santiago
I turned 18 last week, but I don’t feel 18. Actually, I feel like a little kid. It’s funny because when I was a kid-I was an adult…sort of. I didn’t have my parents around most of the time so I had to figure things out myself-the monsters under my bed, the peer pressure, puberty and the bullies that were my teachers and classmates. It took around 17 years but I came to realize I was proud of myself, for fighting all the adversity on my own and because most of all I knew who I was. When I was young…I knew myself.
Now that I’ve finally accepted being gay, everything’s changed and if you’re reading this, don’t say, “but being gay shouldn’t change anything about you-you’re still the same you” because the thing is it does change everything.
Everything has changed because I don’t feel like, “That Guy” I use to be. While “That Guy” was precocious in many aspects, he also use to compete with who other guys over girls all the time. Another crazy thing I found out about “That Guy” during Training Seminar One is that now he can sleep in the same room as a girl without it being weird-girls feel safe around him. “That Guy” doesn’t have to live up to the authoritative characteristics that were so ingrained into his Mexican ethnicity (“Machismo” they call it). “That Guy” would not struggle talking to the other Global Citizen Year Fellows, but now he doesn’t know who he is so he has become bashful and he hates it. “That Guy” never had to worry about people resenting him for being gay-now he does. “That Guy” was not apart of the LGBT Culture and did not have to learn the whole new set of social norms it carries. A lot of the conservative values he believed in have to go, because if he still followed them…he’d just be a hypocrite and contradiction to himself.
I guess “That Guy” is another guy now. Another guy that can be hisself-he can hug other guys, dance with them and even hold hands with them because it’s okay now. Okay…”So who am I now”? Who am I and how do I introduce myself to my host family, to my Spanish teacher and to my new friends in Ecuador? If you know, hit me up! My e-mail is:
Seriously, let me know because it’s been two months the city of Imbaya, Imbaburra has been my domain and I still don’t have the slightest clue on the feasible topic on, “How Do I Present Myself”.
On the car ride home from Training Seminar One (TS1) Madi, Austin, Soumaya, Maxx, Desire, Kate, Bennet and Anna (the other Global Citizen Year Fellows in my Regional Cohort) all fell asleep around me-I was literally right in the middle of the mini-van. There was still around three hours until I would hop onto the bus to the city of Ibarra, to then take a taxi to my home town. With all the free time my mind drifted to how out of balance my life has been thrown off now that I am gay, about how despite all the people I read about who had fought for my right to be gay it still took me 18 years to accept it. It made me feel like crap.
Suddenly, the car changed directions to stop at a “Snack-N-Shop” rest station. Contently Lisa, my team leader, insisted we buy snacks for the two hours we had left on the road. I was still feeling a bit down about how it took me all this time to accept myself…but (out of nowhere) as sad as I was (what was it-two minutes ago? Three minutes ago?) I was also really happy. I was happy because even though Lisa was probably more tired than any of us and she had to hurry to go off to finish other GCY errands, she still asked the driver to pull the car over just so she could buy us our favorite brand of chips and soda pop. That’s something a lot of people I grew around wouldn’t do for you, they also wouldn’t accept me for being gay too easily. Lisa did both.
And that cheers me up a lot.