About a month ago in my education class, we talked about the diversity of culture and identity within each of us.
When my professor asked how the intersection of these identities cause conflict within us individually, I instantly thought about my bisexuality and my Latinx roots.
The intersection of race and sexuality within me has always been a gray area, and one that I didn’t understand until recently. Being raised in a puertorriqueño household, my siblings and I were taught that machismo, or masculinity, defines a man. And from a young age I felt I could never live up to that standard.
Even today, reaching this unattainable model of masculinity feels like a losing battle. And the emphasis on tradition in Latinx culture has caused me to feel like an outcast, like an anomaly within my own ethnicity.
When I began coming out as bisexual, I felt like I was leaving one culture for another. That is, of course, until this month.
The fact that National Coming Out Week coincided with the end of Latinx Heritage Month felt like an ode to my complex identity, an intersection of pride — or orgullo — that manifested itself on Oct. 7. OutFest in Philadelphia was the first LGBTQ event I had ever attended, and within minutes, it became one of the greatest days of my life.
OutFest is the largest National Coming Out Day street festival in the world, taking place in Philadelphia’s own Gayborhood. On that Sunday, I marched through a parade of Pride flags set to the score of queer music and down streets filled with people celebrating their individuality. Like a rainbow of skin tones, the people around me were unapologetically proud of their identities that coincided with their ethnicities. For a few minutes, I even lost my friends in the crowd of colorful banners and flags.
Over the course of a few hours, the stage became home to powerful speeches by community leaders, avant-garde performances by drag artists and memorable concerts by queer musicians.
One performance, however, was incredibly memorable.
About an hour after we arrived, a Latinx drag performer took the stage adorned in a beautiful dress and a golden sash that signified her champion status in the Philly drag community. She danced across the stage with unapologetic confidence and boldness — with true, unwavering pride — as she lip-synced a Spanish rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive.”
By and large, she had the most entertaining performance at OutFest, but something about her steadfast pride struck a chord with me that no other performer did. Her unabashed embrace of her Latinx culture while simultaneously disavowing the concept of machismo was absolutely inspiring and powerful for me, a Latinx bisexual man in the audience.
Watching a Latinx drag queen perform a song in Spanish showed me Latinx men don’t have to be burdened by the chains of the masculinity that we’re taught from a young age. Sexuality and ethnicity aren’t mutually exclusive of one another, and there’s no partition between my two cultures.
It might seem like something small that a drag queen of Hispanic descent performed a song in Spanish. But for a bisexual puertorriqueño boy who was never introduced to successful people who represent both his sexuality and his ethnicity, it was life changing. I had known of queer Latinx people before. Frida Kahlo, Princess Nokia and Sylvia Rivera are just three examples. But never had I seen someone like me with my own eyes.
I wasn’t an anomaly.
In the days since OutFest, I’ve looked across the internet for the name of the inspiring Latinx drag queen who helped me realize the beauty in my complex identity — but with little luck. Not a single website, news article or social media post could name the person who, in five minutes, changed my perception of myself.
And, at the end of the day, the anonymity of my newest role model is something I can live with.
It could take decades of attending Philadelphia Pride events and OutFest celebrations, decades of encountering more and more LGBTQ people of Latinx descent, decades of being proud of my own identity before I get to say thank you to the person who helped foster my own self-understanding without even knowing it.
But until then, I’m going to wave my Pride flag to the heavens, shouting “me amo” with every ounce of orgulloso in my veins.