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Life Is More Complex Than One Coming Out Speech
Pride has never looked like this before. Parades are canceled. Gatherings are a public health concern. But that hardly means that Pride is canceled. This month, Esquire is examining what Pride means now, beyond the parade and for the next 50 years—whether it’s advocating for justice over Zoom, discovering the intersectionality too often missing from Pride, or simply existing as a trans father. The protest continues.
We have asked four figures from popular culture to be Pride guest editors during the month of June. This week, Julio Torres—comedian and writer of Los Espookys on HBO—joined Esquire for a discussion about the importance of individuality and how it’s important to see beyond what’s familiar.
In my comedy, I put things through a lens that is very specific to me. I never, never want to claim to speak for anybody else’s experience. I am not here representing immigrants. I am not here representing Salvadorians or Hispanics or gay people. I can only share what’s in me and that may or may not ring true with people, but I have never wanted to use any of those things as a calling card.
I wasn’t really out in El Savador. It was more like a soft launch. I think a lot of people can relate to that. The coming out narrative isn’t always “a conversation in your mother’s bedroom,” you know? There isn’t always a speech.
I think that we are trained to celebrate stories that we recognize. Everything needs to have an elevator pitch. I blame the “Three Act Structure” for colonizing or Disney-fying the queer experience. We need a scene where there is a speech, and the speech ends either with a hug or just someone pointing at the door. Life is certainly more complicated than that. I have friends where the tension between their sexuality and their parents will be ongoing for the rest of their lives and will never really be resolved and that’s just that, really.
I was raised in an upbringing where I was celebrated—an upbringing where I was never made to feel like I should be anything other than myself. I’m lucky that I never felt a pressure to be what anybody’s idea of what a cisgender gay man is supposed to be, but I definitely recognize it. Something that I’ve been thinking about a little bit is that now, with the mainstream-ification of the young cis gay man experience, it feels like young kids are going to feel that pressure more.
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In the same way, for generations and generations and generations, girls have been told they have to look a certain way because those are the bodies that you see in media. Now is every little cisgender gay boy obsessed with having the body that they see in gay media? Probably. And all these shows about gay men… it’s always a sort of straight-passing, pretty boy that is thrown out there, which is a lot of people, but it’s not everyone.
I think that people that aren’t very thoughtful about [representation like that] just use activism to veil what is ultimately vanity. A statuesque cis gay boy with his statuesque cis gay boy boyfriend on Instagram—is that activism? They hired a photographer and live in a big empty house? I think that people should live their truth, and if that is who they are, then that’s wonderful. I never want people to police anyone, but for that to be the loudest voice from the community, I don’t think it’s a good thing.
For too long, people have been unable to see beyond the causes that don’t affect them, so it’s been very frustrating to see cis gay men not being able to go like a step beyond the Love, Simon of it all. It’s sort of a thing where when you feel like you’re drowning, you don’t have the time or the energy to look back and look at the people who are actually sinking, right? When you cross a gate, it’s not about just leaving it open. It’s about holding it open, and making sure that you acknowledge the luck or the privilege that you’ve had and you try to use that to unlock it.
My criticism about Pride, as I lived it last year, especially in a city like New York, is that it just felt like it was a bunch of events, all of which are prohibitively expensive to most people. You have these $85 a ticket parties and okay, have your $85 a ticket party. But to connect it to Pride, which is ultimately about social justice and progress? They’re tickets. It’s like what, what is this? What are these priorities?
I think and I hope that [movements like] Black Trans Lives Matter have gained a solidarity and momentum among queer people that aren’t necessarily Black. I think that’s a beautiful thing to see. I think that the fact that there are no events to go to or any of the sort of vapid Pride stuff, it’s making people reorganize their priorities and look a little deeper in terms of what it truly means to be there for each other and to recognize that. It feels so much deeper this year without a parade.
In the next 50 years, I hope we see more solidarity and activism. A less myopic idea of what Pride looks like. I think that parades are fine. I think that Bank of America putting up a rainbow flag is fine, but we need to get ahead of it. We need to look out for the people who seem like their voices haven’t been sufficiently amplified. We are so well connected amongst each other: the channels of communication amongst queer people are very open. By that I mean it’s truly a community. Let’s keep sharing social justice with the ease that we share an Ariana/Gaga meme.
Justin Kirkland is a writer for Esquire, where he focuses on entertainment, television, and pop culture.
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