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The clothes we wear can say a lot about us. They can also astonish your grandmother.
On a family visit in Pasco, Washington, my shirt did just that.
Although these trips center on my family, I always make sure to visit the local Mexican bakery to buy a copious supply of churros. While I rallied my family together to accompany me, I witnessed my grandmother’s normally jovial face shift to a disgusted one when she saw my shirt. I paused in doubt, questioning her glare, until the realization dawned on me.
Printed on my shirt, given to me at a pride parade, were the words, “Gay & Black is beautiful.” Although I do not identify as gay or Black, my Mexican-American parents have raised me to take pride in being a person of color and to accept those with diverse sexual orientations. They taught me to exalt natural features that many cultures abhor. By doing this, they hoped to combat any negative self-perceptions I might hold.
Still thinking of cinnamon and sugar, I initially ignored her reaction. However, my grandma stopped me before I could step out the door. With family watching, she sternly said to me, “Andy, you need to change your shirt. You are going to start trouble.”
Clearly not hearing the response she anticipated, my grandma declared in an austere tone, “You will not leave this house unless you change.”
I was shocked. I never expected that my shirt would disturb my grandmother so profoundly that she would not be seen with me wearing it in public. My family was already showing signs of impatience. Reluctantly, I changed my shirt. After doing this my grandma acted normally, but for the rest of that day, I was not in the mood for anything sweet.
The pain at the recognition that she waited to call me out in front of my family was palatable on my lips. She knew that I would succumb to her and my family’s combined pressure. In that moment, I felt a deeper feeling of weakness that I gave into. However, it was more important for me to spend time with them knowing I only get to see my family a handful of times a year. I chose to appease my grandmother rather than defend my message. Seeing my grandmother act this way opened my eyes to the prevalence of homophobia in my own family’s culture. This inspired me to take action to change it. I understand that my grandmother is not a bad person, but she does hold homophobic views that I cannot condone.
I do condone the teaching of love and acceptance to young people in and out of my family. Regarding my younger teammates on my cross country team in particular, I speak up against unacceptable comments to combat the prevalence of racism and homophobia. I will not forsake my friends and especially not my family. I love them.
More than all the churros in the world.
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