Trigger Warnings: Spoilers from Love, Victor, Schitt’s Creek, and Genera+ion and mention of homophobic slurs.
When growing up, we are presented with the idea that we can be anything that we want to be. Of course, as long as that thing is nothing different from being heterosexual.
When thinking of coming out, how could you ever have these thoughts if the society you live in does not allow you to be anything different? Instead, the real question should be: “Can you come out?” As a Venezuelan, I understand how unrealistic it can be.
In a study conducted in South Florida to try to understand the trend of coming out among the Hispanic community, some statements resonated with me. When LGBTQ+ scholars at the University of Miami asked twenty Latinx people about coming out, many just knew it would never be possible to do so given their families' attitudes. For example, one of the participants mentioned how his dad “used the word ‘faggot’ all the time when he was talking to his friends,” while another one addressed his family’s “religious” background.
Dangers of Being Out
Though cultural transgenerational microaggressions may just seem like jokes, these subtle verbal attacks build up in several cultures and communities. What we think is funny is turning its back on the truth. As reported by the Human Rights Campaign in 2019, “43% of transgender youth ha[d] been bullied on school property” and “21% of gay and lesbian youth and 22% of bisexual youth ha[d] attempted suicide.”
Even though it is easy to advertise coming out, you cannot ignore the effect that negative responses can have on individuals who are just navigating their identities. Besides conservative households, academic environments can be cruel towards those who are different from the norm.
Coming Out Stories in the Media
When it is not that common to see an underrepresented community on TV, it is easy to be content with any type of representation. I have experienced this with almost every queer show I have watched. Part of the issue is that many are just coming-out stories with, mostly, white characters.
Though you’re seeing a part of your identity on the screen, not seeing yourself fully represented is harmful. Thus, it is so important that Hulu released the series Love, Victor to fill a cultural gap. In the show, young Victor tries to understand what his sexual orientation is. As opposed to other queer protagonists, Victor’s background is half Puerto Rican and half Colombian, which stands out especially when we hear the vague reaction of Victor’s mom to his coming out:
Not only that, but Victor’s mom stops talking to him because she cannot understand how his papi could ever be gay. I was able to empathize with Victor much more than with any other character because I have lived the struggle.
It is true that Love, Victor is also a coming-out story. However, it adds a Hispanic lens to the conversation.
Liberation from Labels in Media
Besides making a big announcement, not having a label and/or not coming out is also completely valid. While one can thank the media for attempting to normalize being publicly LGBTQ+, it is key to look closely at the recent shows that have highlighted characters without labels.
The iconic David Rose, in the American comedy series, Schitt’s Creek, is the perfect example. In the “Honeymoon” episode in the first season, Stevie subtly confronts David about his sexual orientation. David’s response is one that we will never forget:
Since acceptance reigns in the fictional universe of Schitt’s Creek, it would have not made a difference if David had never clarified his fluid sexual orientation. However, addressing it is powerful because it sheds light on the possibility of living for yourself without fitting into a mold designated by society.
In addition to coming-out stories and joy-filled queer stories, narratives of self-discovery are important within the community as well.
The HBO Max show Genera+tion portrays this kind of queer story through Greta’s uncertainty regarding her type of sexual attraction. In the series, she develops a connection with another girl, Riley. When it comes to getting intimate, however, Greta freaks out. Throughout the show, we follow Greta’s storyline as she tries to discover what she wants. It is not until the first season’s finale that she manages a response to Riley…and to herself:
Instead of simply labeling Greta as asexual, it is relevant for her to go through an introspective journey to end up still not finding a label. Society ingrains in us the idea that everyone must have a label. However, there are cases where some do not feel the need to share with others. Other times, you might not find one label that fits you. Sometimes, embracing the uncertain process of finding ourselves is the only thing that can bring us peace.
Finding a Balance
Considering it was World Mental Health Day just yesterday, let’s celebrate National Coming Out Day by putting our mental health first and start loving ourselves through the journey towards self-acceptance.
Some LGBTQ+ Friendly Mental Health Resources
Nicole Viloria is a Venezuelan and queer writer. She is a second-year student at Miami Dade College’s The Honors College, where she is majoring in English Literature. As a lover of languages, writing, and reading, she wishes to translate and write novels of her own. She has been published at Padrón Campus’ Digital Commons, Urbana Literary & Arts Magazine, and O’Miami. She is also the current president of Gamma Eta, the chapter of Sigma Kappa Delta English Honor Society and co-editor-in-chief of Urbana Literary & Arts magazine.