The closet, the media and the big, queer family

*I originally published this post on The Huffington Post.

Earlier this year, I traveled to Merida, the city where I was born and lived for 18 years, to attend my high school friend, Chalo’s, wedding. I ran into people I had not seen since we finished school, and we talked about our jobs, our plans, our significant others. I was so happy to catch up with them.

I also felt weird. I remembered my insecurities when we used to talk at recess, after school or at parties about, for instance, what girl we liked or who we wanted to date. At that time, I thought I mastered the art of choosing every word carefully, and even my tone of voice, to make sure they couldn’t tell I was lying. To keep it from showing. Because, of course, I was not interested in any girl, but actually attracted to a few of our male classmates. At this reunion at Chalo’s wedding, there was something missing: That imaginary shield I wore my whole time as a teenager was gone. Chatting with them without fearing that they could tell I was into boys, and not trying to maintain a certain appearance made me felt so comfortable. A liberating sort of comfort, because being in the closet is exhausting.

I told my friends and family I am gay about six or seven years ago. They responded in different ways, from lectures of how “forming relationships that won’t result in new lives destroys the love that God gives us,” to a, “Welcome to this big family of queers,” email from a lesbian aunt. Now I still hear of stories as varied as mine. Anecdotes range from the funniest to the most depressing.

In a world that still makes a lot of room for homophobia, where many young people still wear imaginary shields, coming out of the closet is still relevant. Not only in the privacy of our homes, schools and workplaces, but publicly. That is why I am moved by Ellen Page’s speech at the Human Rights Campaign conference where she said she’s gay, and reminds us of “people who go to school every day and get treated like shit, or feel like they can’t tell their parents the whole truth.” That’s why I’m glad to see in the New York Times Maria Bello’s article about being bisexual, fighting the myth that there is no such thing as bisexuality, or that bisexuals are just confused. That’s why I get excited to learn that Michael Sam, Brian Boitano, Ian Matos and Tom Daley are brushing off homophobic stereotypes in sports. Coming out still matters, and young people need to hear these stories. My 16-year-old self would have definitely wanted that.

Media shapes these closets, but closets shape the media as well. And, yes, some of those coming outs serve marketing purposes for celebrities and athletes. Yes, some are part of communication strategies with the help of experts. Yes, “we already knew” a couple of you were gay or lesbian. So what? Can’t we celebrate that someone stopped pretending, and is having a better time? That they are telling the world they have no reason to be ashamed or hide? A publicity stunt to advance someone’s career and sending out a positive message are not mutually exclusive events. Coming out of the closet, privately and publicly, is still powerful.

Being in the closet is exhausting. It’s a heavy mask, says Mexican actor José María Yazpik’s character when he comes out to his dad in La vida en el Espejo. I hope to see more Ellens, Marias, Michaels, Toms. More Rickys, Chavelas, Rachel Maddows and Kevin Kellers (for us fans of Archie Comics). I want to see more celebrities in Mexico and Latin America coming out too. We already know who a few of you are, anyway. It’s no big deal. And I promise to welcome you to this big family of queers.