Sunday, December 30, 2012

The BEST of Lifelube - "Gay + Latino + American Dream = ?" From Monday, August 25, 2008

Gay + Latino + American Dream = ?

Reflection by Julio Maldonado
Latino Health Specialist at Howard Brown Health Center

Wow… I almost forgot…all about it!

It’s been more than 11 years since I left my country maybe “looking for the American dream” as many people say. Is this true? Who knows…? But I know who knows… I am sure I know about it!

Many, if I can say thousands, of Hispanics left our countries because we wanted to experience for ourselves all that people say when they come back from “Los Estados Unidos.” No matter where in the US, the fact was that it sounded amazing, incredible, and had many opportunities. For me, there was one more thing: to be who I want to be. No more persecution, no more mistreatment, no more hiding who I am and “who I want to be in this life.”

I am a gay man.

Of course, this demands a sacrifice, sadness and questions…. But the final decision always brought us here – to the US.

That was exactly what happened to me. I decided to come to the United Stated, but I really wanted to do it good. So I said to myself, “I want to go, but I want to go to New York.” Well, that happened. A cold and tough winter was waiting for me while leaving the JFK airport. But, I was here…and that was all that mattered….

How we see big, huge, tall buildings, I am sure is not the same way that others see them. Many times, I almost fell because my sight was focused on those incredible buildings. I heard it called “the vertical city” once. It really is, especially when I crossed to Queens and I had all that skyline. We will never forget that… never….nunca….

But, we didn’t come only to see the buildings; we came because of “the American dream.” So, at first, we felt so different, like we needed to work a lot in order to fit in here. Culture, language, the city, the thousands of people walking on the sidewalks… but we were so happy to be here… very happy!

Identification with this new culture, language, city and people; comes with time. Its timely …it’s just time…

Now, what about …. “who I want to be in this life,” because we are here for that reason too…. So, we have our first time in a club-bar, a “gay life in Los Estados Unidos.” Just as the first look to the skyline, this moment is also unforgettable. To see all the gay community together with no feelings and fears about persecution, without being mistreated by anyone, no hiding who we are: gay men.

Gay men walking on the street holding hands, kissing each other, meeting other friends on the corner of Christopher St. and 7th Avenue. It was like we were living in another world, better than we had thought; just lovely; just inspirational and full of pride. “PROUD” is a word that is not really related to gay community in our countries. But here, you start feeling it and living it. That’s great!

Hispanics, Latinos: We don’t need too much time to meet and start talking with our community co-members. “Los gringos,” there we go, saying “Hi,” “How are you,” and we go even to “What’s up?” All of that because we want to be more part of this and “who I want to be in this life.”

Unfortunately, as with all our dreams, they have painful and bad parts. And when those come to the “American dream” I can still feel my eyes getting watery.

Just to mention a few: housing, work, partners, friends, health… and many, many more that make Hispanic-Latinos think about how life was in our countries. Which one is better in the end???

To have a house with food, warm and always waiting for us every day… or no house… just worried “I don’t know where I can stay at tonight.”

To have decent work … or wake up one morning somewhere and go to our pockets and not find anything, no money, no ID, no idea of what to do…. I don’t have work, I don’t have anything to eat and still, I can see all these people sitting at sidewalk cafes having delicious good-looking, warm food?

To just chill with old gay friends in your neighborhood in your country,… or a partner, who at one point told me “I love you,” now saying “you got to leave, now.”

To having the old gay friend and knowing you can always count on him/her… or a friend telling you that is the last day in his house because you are not productive and you are giving him/her problems. And that’s all.

To living with HIV, but still my mother can understand and still is giving me housing, food, and love as she can… or I don’t know what to do. Will I die here?Alone?

What happened to the “American dream?”

Well, I understood. That’s why I told myself, this cannot happen. I need to do something, I promised myself that I will do something.

I fill my soul and all of me with courage, love, compassion, understanding and I turn more Hispanic-Latino than ever. I will get together, I will knock on doors, I will touch base with people that I believe are still there, I will be a leader, I will do whatever I have to do… and remember myself as a morning prayer that “life is just one” and nothing is done if you don’t, at least, try.

If I can do that, I will give that gift from God to anyone who will be passing through the same, the same that I passed though more than 11 years ago.

Wow… I almost forgot… all about it!

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