If you were to creep on my facebook you would notice that it says I am “In a Relationship”. And, like my neighbors here in Guatemala who recently found and added me on facebook, you might bring it to my attention that I have a boyfriend I seem to be hiding from everyone. And normally I would laugh and explain to you that my facebook boyfriend is my good friend AJ, who I fell in love with in college and who does happen to take me on dates when we’re in the same city and tell me how pretty I am and, also, happens to be gay with an actual boyfriend (who is also lovely). It’s not a typical relationship, but is quite functional (minus that whole having sex part) and we’re happily nearing our 4 year anniversary.
And you would probably tell me that it’s a little strange that I have a gay boyfriend and that I am basically lying on the internet to all my very good facebook friends and I would laugh and we’d eventually move on. Except if you are my Guatemalan neighbors, it’s not quite so easy.
Do I just play along and tell them that, yeah, I’m taken? (which would probably help me avoid awkward situations in which they try to set me up with someone in their family or one of their friends…)
Do I tell them that I guess he is my boyfriend but also kind of isn’t my boyfriend? (How do you even translate that into spanish?! And how would I stop that from seeming slutty?)
Do I broach the subject of him being homosexual? Will it change the dynamic of our friendship if I do? How do I respond if their reaction is negative?
I didn’t feel like lying on this particular evening. Mainly because I’ve been feeling a little bit fed up lately with all the things I feel like I have had to change or keep hidden since coming here. I miss my facial piercings and I don’t particularly like that I have to keep my occasional alcohol consumption on the down low, as if it were some kind of crime. If that weren’t enough, the language barrier still inhibits me. I can’t make jokes like I would back home and I can’t always offer my opinions clearly or fully. I constantly feel that the people here are only getting the glossed over version of me, a quieter more boring version of me. And I understand that the changes needed to be made (I can’t help this community if they shun me from the get go because of my lip ring!) and that eventually I’ll be able to communicate in a way that doesn’t leave me feeling quite so stifled, but it’s still tiring to not feel like I can truly, fully be me.
Anyway, I was tired of the charades and this issue was not something I wanted to brush under the rug. I like to consider myself an advocate of the LGBT community and, damn it, I want to be able to do what Dennis encouraged me to on my last post:
So, I did my best to explain. Yes, he’s my boyfriend but not in traditional terms seeing as how he is gay. I told them about how great our relationship is and how great of a person he is and how it doesn’t affect his relationship with his boyfriend and that, no, I have no intentions of changing my facebook relationship status.
They were, understandably confused and I could feel awkwardness permeate the situation. Homosexuality is definitely taboo and I don’t think I’ve met one “out” Guatemalan in my entire year here. And then their younger brother burst out in laughter and said something along the lines of “HAHA, YOU’RE FRIENDS WITH GAYS!” (Except using a derogatory term, of course.) His older sister shushed him (which deserves some credit, the males present certainly didn’t seem inclined to) and I turned to him with a big smile, figuring I might as well go for broke, and said, “I have many homosexual friends. They are some of the most successful people I know and are some of my best friends in the world.”
It was tense, but everyone seemed to digest this statement and move on. Was that the end of it? Of course not, later someone made a comment about all my gay “amigas”, insinuating that homosexual males are all effeminate or less than male and should be referred to using only feminine word forms. To which I responded, “Gay men are still men. And they are my amigOs.”
Normal conversation resumed. Was that the end of it? Of course not. Someone wanted to come back to my gay boyfriend issue and asked “What would happen if you were actually dating someone for four years and then found out they were gay? What would you do? Would you be mad?” I considered this progress since they were no longer putting down homosexuals. I explained that I might be sad, but that’s the way they are and that I would accept it and gain a new friend. (I would have added that that situation wouldn’t surprise me in the least given my track record for falling in love with men that bat for the other team… but I couldn’t figure out how to translate that.)
And the person that asked the question and his brother seemed incredulous, but the other male present backed me up and even said “She can’t change them, what’s the use in getting mad?”
So, was that the end of it? For that night, yes. We finished eating our carnival snacks and headed home and my friendship with my neighbors doesn’t seem permanently damaged. But, in the grander scheme of things it’s definitely not the end. That little boy is still impressionable and there’s no telling if he’ll adopt the openmindedness of his sister’s husband or the homophobic ideas of his cousins. It’s a wake-up call for me, showing me another avenue in which I can “change the world”. Again, it’s not solving world hunger or saving babies from deadly diseases, but if it means one less person saying that my wonderful gay friends are somehow less than because of their sexual preference, well, that means a lot to me.