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The story of a young girl
Patty Leon new

I once knew a young girl. She grew up in a Hispanic family. Although they didn’t go to church her parents were brought up as Catholics. Being Hispanic and raised as Catholics meant that being gay was not only unacceptable but it was also one of those “things” that is never spoken about.

As a young teenager, she realized she was attracted to woman. She was gay. 

Nearing the final weeks of her junior year in high school, this young girl decided to “come out” to her parents. That decision changed her life forever.

Her father didn’t say anything. The silence cut through her heart. Did he hate her now? Would he still love his daughter? Her mom, who always envisioned her daughter would be the perfect little Latin princess, later a bride and later give her grandchildren, lambasted the young girl. Hateful words spewed from her mouth letting her daughter know that not only did she not approve but it wasn’t going to be allowed under her roof.

Scared, confused and now feeling like an outsider in her own family, this young girl went into a deep depression. She was grounded and only allowed to go to school, and work and come directly home. She was cut away from her friends even though none of them were gay. She ran away from home but was soon picked up by the police and brought back.

She told the officer her mother didn’t accept her lifestyle. The officer replied she would have to abide by her parents’ house rules since she was only 17. Her depression worsened and she contemplated suicide more than once.

One night, without much thought, she packed as much as she could into her older model car and left her house in the dead of night. She went to the opposite side of town, a place where she stuck out like a sore thumb but also a place, she knew her parents wouldn’t think to search.

She found folks like her. Other gays. 

Most were also living in their cars, on the streets or from couch to couch. She made friends and survived as much as she could. But the feeling of being unwanted and unloved be her own family constantly ate at her heart. She numbed the pain by partying as often as possible, drinking heavily and became addicted to cocaine, a popular drug of the 1980s. 

She lived the street life and hung out with thugs and drug dealers at times.

She watched as many of her male friends died from HIV/AIDS when it first swept the nation during that era. She attended many more funerals from friends who couldn’t take it anymore and took their own lives. She wondered if she would be next and wondered if her parents even attempted to search for her. Cell phones were rare back then, only the rich people had them in their cars, and they were the size of a shoe box.

Occasionally, she used a pay phone to call home. Her mom or dad would answer, and she would swiftly hang up.  Not once did she say hello. She still feared being rejected.

During this time, she would venture in and out of depression, but she also grew more comfortable with who she was. She stopped hanging with the wrong crowd and stopped her cocaine habit. She got a steady job, bought her own car, got her own apartment managed and paid her own bills.

She went from being a possible statistic, to a thriving young woman. Yet she remained primarily “closeted” from most others and only “out” with her true circle of friends. It was a bit easier to deal with that way. Less rejection and hurt. Don’t ask, don’t tell, type of thing.

After five years of zero contact with her parents, she picked up the phone and called home. This time when her mom answered she spoke up and said, “Hello, mom it’s me.”

There was a brief silence, but within minutes she managed to hold an adult conversation with her mom and dad. Afterall, she was now 21 and an independent woman. But what was still missing was being connected to family. It no longer mattered whether they accepted her lifestyle or not because she was going to live her own life on her own terms going forward.

For many years she was consumed with guilt and hate for feeling thrown out, although she was the one who decided to leave. But it was time to heal and rebuild the family relationship, especially with her mon, whose words had cut the worst. 

It was me. I was that young girl, and this is part of my coming out story!

If you’ve had a similar experience just know you are not alone, and you are loved. If you ever need someone to listen to your story, I am here for you! And more on this to follow.

-Patty Leon

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