Until his first year at UCSC, Eugene Negrete did not talk about his identity as a queer Chicano.
At his generally heteronormative high school, the queer community was underrepresented and a sense of homophobia lingered, keeping Negrete from fully expressing himself.
“During high school I was held back from even thinking of the possibility of an alternative to life or gender expression,” he said. “We’re taught through institutions such as the school system, our parents, culture, and in the case of Latino/Chicano culture, the Catholic religion.”
Raised in a Catholic home, Negrete said his Mexican-American culture hindered him from accepting his queer identity.
“In high school I was very internally against, and I tried not to think about it. I tried to occupy my mind through extracurriculars, academics and plans to go on to higher education,” Negrete said. “I looked at [other activities] as an escape from thinking about it.”
While Negrete assumes his parents will accept his queer identity on some level, he is still hesitant to fully discuss it.
“In high school I was very concerned about my family, in terms of my family not accepting it and me thinking it was wrong and disgraceful,” he said.
Negrete still has not directly told his family, but assumes they know because of his increased confidence in college.
“Till today, it’s still an issue. It hasn’t been directly stated yet — it’s kind of invisible. I go back home after all these years and I’m sure they sense that I have this new confidence and a new perspective of life,” Negrete said. “I think yes, [my parents would accept me] because of the sense of love. But I also think it will take time and, internally they’re still not used to challenging they way they’re brought up.”
However, his father’s background as a migrant from Mexico and separation from his family leads Negrete to assume that his father will most likely be more understanding.
“He’s gone through the struggles of feeling singled out and being isolated,” he said.
From a queer Chicano perspective, Negrete discusses the “two pillars of oppression.”
“Being Chicano, you’re often singled out because of being a minority in the United States,” Negrete said. “And by being Chicano queer, you’re singled out by your own Chicano community and family. I don’t belong here, and I don’t belong there.”
In his transition from his first to his second year, Negrete made his queer identity public in a gradual process as a result of his classes, Rainbow Theater, involvement with Familia Equis, a group dedicated to creating a space of healing for students with queer and Latino/Chicano identities, and allies at the Cantu Center.
For queer individuals who have not come out, Negrete advises they take all the time they need.
“It’s a process of coming out to yourself first — coming out to yourself and coming to terms with the way you felt growing up, your attractions, and just being honest to yourself,” he said. “There’s no need to actually make it public and think about what the world is going to say. It’s not like when you meet someone you ask, ‘Are you straight?’ It really shouldn’t really matter.”
About the Series: Coming Out
October is LGBT History Month. In honor of the month, City on a Hill Press sat down with members of the LGBT community to hear their coming-out stories and insights into what it means to be queer and questioning in 2011.