How to Come Out to Your Abuelita

How a Netflix series helped me come out to my Mexican grandma.

In 2017, my Abuelita was in the backyard of her home in Tijuana, doing laundry when she tripped and fell. She knocked out for a while and woke up with a bruised forehead, a black eye, and a broken arm.

I almost cried when I looked at her face. My tias had taken a picture of her and sent it to my family.

Two of her daughters live at home, but they were at work, and my cousins were at school. Once she got up, she called my tias, and they arrived home quickly to take her to a clinic.

She came out with a cast, but a day later, she realized she was in a lot more pain than she should’ve been. It turns out they’d placed her cast wrong, so she went to the hospital to get it fixed.

However, the damage was already done. Her healing process was worse than it should’ve been. To this day, her arm hasn’t completely healed.

My Abuelita struggles with depression, and when she doesn’t have something to take her mind of, well, her own mind, she struggles to get up and do anything all day.

So, when her arm broke, and she couldn’t stand without getting dizzy because of her forehead, the depression got worse. She felt useless, and without something to do, her mind was unstoppable.

My tias called my dad (we live just fifteen minutes away from the border) and asked us if we could go over and take care of my Abuelita while they were at work until she got better.

We packed and went right away. We had only one job: distract my Abuelita.

We played her favorite game Rummikub, talked endlessly, watched some movies, made too much food, and tried to make her laugh.

One day, my sisters and I decided to put on One Day at a Time (ODAAT) — a comedy-drama series we’d already watched about a Latinx family. We were sure my Abuelita would find it funny.

We were right. She loved the show, and it made her laugh a lot.

However, I was worried about one thing: Elena Alvarez, the fifteen-year-old lesbian character who, in that first season, questions her sexuality.

I wondered if my Abuelita would be bothered by her sexuality and the conversations about coming out.

I’d only come out to my parents as a lesbian a month before, and I wanted to come out to my Abulealita and my mom’s sisters. I didn’t want to hide anymore.

I didn’t know how my Abuelita would react to my news, so I got to, unexpectedly, use the show as a test. If she reacted negatively, I wouldn’t tell her.

The last episode of the first season of ODAAT is one that always makes me cry.

In the penultimate episode, Elena comes out to her father — who doesn’t live with them — while they’re practicing the father-daughter dance for Elena’s Quinceñera. Her dad was furious.

However, on the day of the Quinceñera, he surprises everyone by showing up. He seems fine until later in the episode, Elena comes out with a suit rather than a dress, and her dad is clearly angry.

When it’s time for the father-daughter dance, Elena waits in the middle of the dance floor, and there’s a heartbreaking scene where her mom lets her know her dad is gone. I haven’t met someone who didn’t cry during that scene.

It turns out that my Abuelita had a lot to say about it.

My grandma’s heart was broken over the scene too. When my tias got home, and we were all having dinner, she explained to them what happened and said she couldn’t believe it.

She didn’t understand how parents could throw their kids to the curb and push them away just because of their sexuality.

She had more to say than I’d expected, and it made me realize I could come out to her — and my tias, because they too agreed.

“Son gay, ¿y que? No tiene nada de malo,” one of them said. They’re gay — so what? There’s nothing wrong with that.

The day after, I decided to come out to my Abuelita. We were sitting in the living room, talking, when she brought up the show again. My heart was beating, and I knew it was my chance to say something.

I interrupted her and told her I had something to say to her. “Soy gay,” I said.

She cried, but not in a sad way. She told me she’d had an idea that I was, which is why she’d kept talking about the show, and she told me she didn’t care who I loved.

She still loved me.

I wouldn’t have been able to come out to her if it weren’t for some Netflix series that had the guts to tackle an LGBTQIA+ storyline, especially with Latinx characters and actors.

Homophobia is deeply ingrained in the people in Mexico. Just last year, they aired a novela with two lesbian characters for the first time.

While my Abuelita accepts me unconditionally, she doesn’t say the word lesbian. She says, “Eso,” which means “that.”

She doesn’t say it with disgust in her voice. She just can’t say “lesbiana” because it’s not a normal word. It’s dirty — just as it still is here in the U.S. because men in media have oversexualized it.

I knew I was a lesbian, but I used to say I was gay because the word lesbian sounded wrong. It made me uncomfortable.

Film and tv shows and even commercials have a significant impact on our lives. When people in the media and entertainment industry have the guts to put queer characters in their art and represent them as three-dimensional characters with as beautiful as a storyline as their straight characters, it helps change the stigma around the queer community.

It helps people like me own our truths, come out, and live as we deserve: as ourselves.

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