I never really came out to tio Chicho. I always felt like it was an open family secret that I was pretty gay. Lo que se ve no se pregunta. The plan always was, in my mind at least, that as soon as I got my papers, I’d simply go back to Ensenada and have a heart-to-heart with him. Perhaps collaborate on an art project together where I sit him down and interview him. Ask him about the 90s L.A. gay scene. Pointers on dating men. Was going back to Mexico really the best choice for him.
And is not like I didn’t have a chance to come out to him. I used to go to doctor’s appointments with him to help translate when he was still living here. Silent car rides from Long Beach to Hollywood in his blue Ford Taurus with the rainbow sticker by the license plate. But I was barely out of high school. Figuring out my own shit. Even after coming out to my mom, I still didn’t have the words to share this part of my life with him, a fellow gay.
He wasn’t the most approachable man either. Very secretive about his life. One night, during the month my mom, my sister, and I were living with him in his East Hollywood studio apartment while my dad was trying to make up his mind about moving to the U.S. permanently, he showed up badly beat up. Mom tended to his bloody face. He told my mom that someone jumped him and never talked about it again. That was to Chicho. Secretive. Always busy. Off to a party. Or a meeting. Or whatever.
But in his own way, he was the family queer trailblazer I was blessed with. Aside from my parents and sister, I never really had to call for an extended family meeting so I could come out. The fact that I wasn’t able to visit a lot of my extended family in Mexico also helped avoid that family conversation. Which makes sense why he left them in the first place when he moved to the U.S. in the early 90s. Still, he made it okay in my family for me to be my gay self without any explanations. My version of being my gay self of course meant posting gay shit en Español on my Facebook feed that my tios and tias without a visa could see.
The last few years that he spent in the U.S. feel like a blur. By then, I started doing stuff on my own. I’d made my own gay friends on the internet, started going to my own gay parties all over South Central and Hollywood, always afraid that I’d bump into him and have the conversation. But that never happened. Even in the few phone conversations we had after he went back to Ensenada, it was always a quick hi and how you doing, and take care of yourself tio.
Sometimes he visits me in my dreams and I can’t bring myself to come out. I wonder if it’s his way of telling me to chill the fuck out and just enjoy living my gay ass life. Although we never had that conversation, he left behind these video and photo moments. I’ve been figuring out what to do with that and re-imagine what that conversation would have looked like.