Immigrant Heritage Month: The Chance For Me To Celebrate My Mexican Heritage Through A Queer Lens

by Jose Soto

This post was written by HRC's Digital Media Manager Jose Soto, pictured above as a young child along with his older sister and cousin.

Immigrant Heritage Month coincides with Pride Month, presenting me with the opportunity to celebrate the most influential and empowering aspects of my collective identity.

During June, as a Mexican native who also identifies as gay and queer, I can acknowledge my personal struggles while confidently celebrating myself as an individual who helps comprise two prominent communities in the United States. It’s the unique chance to honor these two inextricable parts of myself that, in the past, I’ve grappled to accept.

Coincidentally, June is also the month my family and I made the permanent move from Mexico to the United States. My journey of self-discovery has always profoundly connected my sexual orientation and gender identity to that of my Mexican citizenship and heritage. Just like I knew that I was gay from very early in my childhood, I also knew that I was not American, and so began my interconnected struggle to assimilate both to heteronormative and hypermasculine societal expectations as well as to a way of life on the other side of the border. My arduous attempts to do so involved reading as many books as possible to improve my English while also monitoring my mannerisms as to not hint at my sexuality. I was not only trying to be as American as can be, but the quintessential “all-American boy”.

At school, I was a studious boy who excelled at subjects such as English, reading and science and who developed strong relationships with my teachers, counselors and librarians. At home, I spoke Spanish with my parents, translating work and government documents for my father who, unlike my mother, never learned English and listened to my grandmother’s stories of her youth in Chihuahua. We frequently spent the weekends visiting family back in Mexico. I was often told by my younger cousins that I was “too American” or “not Mexican enough” because I had prioritized learning one language over the other, even though I was and am fluent in both. Coupled with my endeavor to “act like one of the boys” by playing sports, acting tough (in Mexico, we call this being a “macho) and liking “normal boy things,” the constant demand I placed on myself to appear to be many things and not others at the same time was overwhelming.

Eventually, as a young adolescent, I put a stop to all of that and accepted myself as a Mexican living in the U.S. who identified as gay and queer. I also came out to my mother at age 13 and then again to everyone else at 18.

Since then, I’ve lived within the beautiful juxtaposition of knowing and utilizing both languages, celebrating both the culture and heritage of my native Mexico while integrating and honoring an American way of life. I also became comfortable in my own gay, queer skin and learned to celebrate that part of my identity as well. In doing so, I broke down so many self-imposed barriers and limitations and realized that I could simultaneously be so many things: bicultural, bilingual, transnational, gay and queer.

Un hombre homosexual, una persona luchando por la igualdad para la comunidad LGBT.

(A homosexual male, someone who is fighting for equality for the LGBTQ community.)

I celebrate all these things every single day now, allowing all aspects of my identity in a fluidity and consistency that doesn’t impose limits to any of them. I thrive professionally in English while singing along to Spanish songs, writing primarily in English while reading Spanish literature and watching Mexican television shows, all while being as gay and queer as I want to be, not only during Immigrant Heritage Month and Pride Month, but all year long.