MIAMI, Florida –
Being certain of your sexuality and comfortable in your own skin isn’t always as easy as waking up and starting your day. Especially when the pressure mounts, and you feel like you have to follow a well-defined mold and be straight as a ruler – pun intended – even when that couldn’t be further from the truth of who you are. Often, boy-meets-girl, boy-and-girl marry is the storyline one is expected to carry out. But for Audrey, a young woman in her twenties with Catholic upbringing, destiny had a different storyline for her.
In the early 80s, Audrey was born in Miami, Florida to a typical Cuban family, where Spanish was the sole language in the household and her grandparents played a crucial role in how she was raised. Audrey’s mother was in the church choir, and attending Sunday mass was a part of the family’s regular routine. Everybody was expected to abide by Catholic norms and live life as a good heterosexual child of God.
As early as kindergarten, Audrey remembers that she had a crush on the “nicest and most beautiful girl” in class, with long dark hair and gorgeous blue eyes. What to others might have been shocking, to her was simply natural and nothing that required much thought of.
“I definitely always had feelings for girls but I never equated it with a word or a type of person,” she explains. “I honestly believed it was perfectly normal.”
But sometime in junior high, during a long heart-to-heart talk with her dad about why her parents divorced – her father revealed he was gay – it was then that she realized what the word meant and slowly began to piece the concept of homosexuality. Something she could now identify with.
From the age of four until she graduated high school, Audrey attended Catholic schools. A couple of religion teachers used to tell her, “God loves the sinners but he disapproves of the sin.” This led to an internal conflict of sorts, and soon Audrey began to turn to all the wrong places for love and acceptance. She’d hang out with friends, and while they were checking out the cutest boy, she found herself admiring a girl. Being gay instantly a secret she had to hide.
Sometime in her junior year (11th grade) of high school everything began to change. Audrey fell in love – with a female.
“We never dated, we were great friends. But, I loved her with all I had to give,” she says.
Feeling confident about her feelings was a great boost to Audrey’s self-esteem, however, mustering the courage to come out to her parents was a different story. Telling her father she was gay wasn’t so bad, but opening up to her mother was definitely hard.
“I had all this pent up anxiety it was crazy,” she explains. How was I going to tell the woman whose man of her dreams left because he was gay… that her daughter is gay… I finally said, ‘Mami, I am in a relationship’ she cut me off, “I know, and you are living with her. Just be careful with how you tell your grandparents. Start with Papi, he’ll smooth Abuela over.’ That was that.”
With those who don’t personally know her, however, is where discrimination has been at its strongest. From a previous employer who said she should keep her sexuality a secret in order to advance in her career to Audrey’s own gay community who has sometimes regarded her as not “lesbian or butch enough.”
She also experienced some level of discrimination while recently working in El Salvador, but it is in the U.S. she has felt it from every angle.
“I think I used to be proud to be American – now, especially when I travel, it is kind of shameful since we discriminate so much more than anything else,” she reflects. “As a country, we have been through a lot. Slavery, the civil war, the great depression, 9/11. This time (since 9/11) we have NOT chosen to rise above and I am ashamed of that.”
But she still has great faith that things at home can quickly take a turn for the better, if people simply open their eyes and start thinking with their hearts.
“I believe that if we introduced ourselves solely by our names and let those around us get to know the person, our essence, then others would be more open to change in our own country. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good pride parade and wear my read shirt at gay days, but I am Audrey every day, not Audrey the lesbian.”
Since coming out to her parents in her teens, Audrey has relied on a precious piece of advice, personally handed down by her father: Don’t be a liar. Just live your life, if they ask then you tell.
Six years ago, Audrey fell in love with her present-day partner, a woman named Lisa. A woman who continues to enrich her life every day. The two now have a home together and recently became engaged. And it is with this loving yet refreshing attitude of “live and let live” that Audrey has been able to embrace her life to the fullest and be her own person. Whether you agree with it or not. Because as she put it, “It’s wonderful to live life honestly. While the actual coming out is terrifying, it is truly so very liberating to live life unabashedly.”
Gay Rights –
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