Last June, I had just turned off the light to go to sleep when I received a Whatsapp text message from my mother’s sister, my Tia N who lives in Ecuador.
My Tia N is my mother’s older sister and one of the most loving people I know. When I visit her in Ecuador, she doesn’t hug me when she greets me. She squeezes me so tight all while planting multiple kisses on my face and calling me her queen. “Mi reina bella!” she says. This is a woman who makes you feel like you are the most important person in the world, even when surrounded by the mother who raised her and the children she gave birth to. That’s my Tia N, so filled with love that she needs to squeeze it into you.
Her text message to me on that night felt like one of her squeezes. It radiated love and it rid me of any drowsiness I had been feeling in the darkness of my bedroom. It was a few sentences that basically said “mijita, I see you and it pains me to think that you went through this process on your own.” As I read, I realized I had accidentally come out to my family in Ecuador through an essay I had posted on my website about evolving the coming out conversation. In that essay, I had very clearly stated that I was very much so a queer woman.
Coming out to my family in Ecuador through this essay was not my intention. I didn’t even realize that they would read my essay or that they even could, considering my cousins in Ecuador speak Spanish. I did not realize how much English they could actually understand and read. Similar messages of love and support appeared from my loved ones in Ecuador one by one. One of my primas wrote a simple comment underneath a picture on Instagram “Te amamos prima!” My other Tia R who lives in Spain sent me a message on Facebook assuring me that she loves me no matter what and that I am allowed to love whoever I please. There was so much love from my family that for a moment I wondered why I hadn’t told them sooner.
Then I remembered.
I did not come out to my loved ones in Ecuador because I was afraid that I would lose them. There was not a lot that made me think differently. I assumed that they would not accept me because of Ecuador’s commitment to Catholicism and conservative laws regarding women and the LGBTQ+ community. Most of all though, I had noticed something on every trip there that did not seem to go away, not even with age.
I observed that many young boys and men, would use homophobic slurs, jokes and language during casual conversation as much as they used high frequency words like “and” or “but.” “Marica, menestra, frutilla, meco” were words that came out of their mouths so easily, that telling them to stop saying it was a full-time gig when I was supposed to be on vacation. I realized putting members of the LGBTQ+ community down was an Ecuadorian boy’s number one punchline when making fun of other boys. Throughout my life, I’ve realized that it’s not just an Ecuadorian boy problem. Using derogatory terms to describe gay people in Ecuador goes beyond age and gender. I’ve heard a multitude of people use these terms.
Yesterday, same-sex marriage was legalized in Ecuador. Today, I feel proud of the Ecuadorian couples that fought to make this happen in our country, a country that is filled with beautiful queer people but also a silencing toxic masculinity that keeps our love behind closed doors. I am also feeling for the young boy or girl who is sitting with their family watching the news while their loved ones call queer people words like “maricones.”
Laws are powerful but language can also be so incredibly debilitating and silencing. It kept me in the closet until I was 28. Today, I celebrate my Ecuadorian LGBTQ+ community. It’s also a perfect moment to remind the country I was born in and the country I was raised in to think before your speak. Rid yourself of language that so often disempowers perfectly capable and beautiful people.
Happy Pride, Ecuador.