Pride Month opened at the Central Library Tuesday evening as a panel of artists and performers described their personal experiences while first identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, and/or queer (LGBTQ).
Andrez Y’Barbo detailed to an audience of 50 people how gay and lesbian children are sometimes excluded from their families of origin.
“LGBT kids are pushed out of their homes and they have nowhere to go,” he said.
Y’Barbo works with Project Embrace. Their mission is to improve outcomes and enrich the lives for LGBTQ youth in and out of foster care. The project provides education and training to individuals within the community.
Joel Bangilan works for the Public Library in public services. He was the moderator for the discussion with local LGBTQ artists who have contributed to the diversity of the arts and humanities.
He intrigued the panel and the audience with his first request, “Tell us about your coming out.”
“My coming out process started early at age 16,” he said. “I was a musical theater person so getting dressed up was always a big thing.”
Revelation of his sexual identity put a lot of fear in his parents so he found that separate identities made it easier.
“I was a Christian boy at home and was out while at school,” he said. “My mother can meet with me now as an adult.”
Foxx had a message to youth who have yet to come out.
“I wish I could say it gets better; but for some, it doesn’t,” he said.
Tencha La Jefa is the drag queen persona for Jon M. Zamarripa. He came to San Antonio a generation ago as a teenager.
“I was 14 and didn’t know what gay was,” he said. “But at fourth grade, I knew I was different.
“I was afraid to tell my family everything. No one wants to be rejected,” he said.
But fears that his family would reject him were unfounded.
“I was afraid for nothing,” Zamarripa said. “My family was so supportive of me. I’m very lucky. I know other gays that were kicked out of their homes. As long as you have friends, you have a family.”
While the first two panelists were in full drag (one with a beard, the other with two-inch long eyelashes), Jade Esteban Estrada could be characterized as a self-described "pretty boy." This actor, singer and LGBTQ activist was called “the first gay Latin star” by Out Magazine.
Estrada said coming out is a continual process, beginning, for him, in 1987. “I came out to myself at 17 and everything changed,” he said.
His next coming out was in 1993. “A lot of people come out to their family when they fall in love,” he said.
In 1999, he released his first album of Latin Pop. “I did a gay pride concert against the advice of my record company,” he said. “The continuum of coming out never stops.”
Saakred grows past anger and ostracization through music. “Two years ago, my performance was avant-garde. Now it’s more traditional rock and roll.”
“I’m still in the midst of coming out,” Saakred said. “I had the first sense of sexuality in high school. When I first came out, it was nothing. Coming out as a trans is much harder.”
“My identity as Saakred has made it easier. I want to honor people who don’t come out. It’s different for everybody.”
Jenn Alva is known across the country as the bassist for Girl in a Coma, and is now working on her new Chicana punk project, Fea.
“I had crushes on girls in first grade,” she said. Alva said she told her friends in high school that she was lesbian but it was more difficult to come out to her parents. “Instead of coming out as a lesbian; I told my mom I was bi – which was a lie!”
She said her father has a son who is gay as well. “I had great friends and my family was cool,” she said. “When your family loves you, it helps.”
Bangilan asked the panel what was gained and what was lost in the coming out experience.
Foxx said, “I gained a feeling of freedom!”
Zamarripa said he gained a new family – a family of friends.
Estrada spoke of gains and losses. “I lost a lot of jobs (as a musician),” he said, “but I’ve done 220 Pride events.”
Saakred spoke of fear. “I don’t know if people want to kill me.”
Alva said some fans of Girl in a Coma might be turned off by her lifestyle.
“I have nothing to lose if some fans are judgmental,” she said. “Who wants fans like that?”
A round of applause went out for Saakred’s closing statement. “What somebody says is their identity is not to be challenged.”
These are words to live by during Pride Month and every day. Click here to see a list of more Pride Month activities in San Antonio.