Matt Thompson writes: I’m a son of immigrants, and a gay man who grew up in Orlando in the ’80s and ’90s. My earliest visits to gay clubs in the city were clandestine operations, and let me tell you, it is difficult to be undercover-gay while dressing appropriately for a night out with the boys. On a trip to Parliament House or the gay night at Firestone, I’d be petrified that one of my friends from church or my Christian school might recognize me, and word would somehow filter back to my family. It seemed fortunate that the clubs I visited were, for the most part, cloistered away from the party district downtown where my straight friends might be dancing. I’ve never been to Pulse, which opened years after I moved away from Orlando, but even at my most closeted moment, I might have risked dressing for the disco on that tucked-away corner of South Orange Ave.
My gay friends from that time and place in my life have similar stories — we’re children of immigrants, once closeted and fearful of how our families would react when they found out. I can’t stop thinking about the possibility that someone like us was hurt or murdered at Pulse on Sunday morning, outed in the very worst way, in a phone call every family dreads. For some parents, such a call would be a double heartbreak.
I have no idea whether it happened, but the mere potential that it might is wrenching. A New York Times story about the 49 people who died on Sunday tells the story of one young man whose parents in Mexico don’t know about his boyfriend of roughly three years. He escaped the massacre, but his boyfriend did not.
I have many queer friends whose American roots are generations deep, but who struggled as much as my friends and I did to reveal themselves to their families. Yet I’ve found this experience most common among those friends of mine who were also born to immigrants. [Continue reading…]