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Author discusses growing up queer and Latinx in Orlando, how it shaped their identity

Rachel Schwartz | Assistant Photo Editor
Gomez said they struggled with vulnerability after growing up in a culture of masculinity which they said conditioned them to push down their emotions.

An author spoke about writing their memoir about growing up as a queer person of Latin American decent Tuesday.

Author Edgar Gomez discussed their early life in Orlando, FL as a child from a Nicaraguan and Puerto Rican background and how it shaped their identity in their book, “High-Risk Homosexual.” The event was part of the ​​LatinXpression Series, an initiative of the Cisneros Hispanic Leadership Institute, which hosted the author online on National Coming Out Day. The GW Department of Romance, German & Slavic Languages & Literatures co-sponsored the event and moderated by Ofelia Montelongo, GW assistant professor of Latin American and Latinx Literary and Cultural Studies and Manuel Cuellar, GW assistant professor of Spanish Literature.

Gomez discussed how writing their memoir allowed, and even forced, them to be vulnerable while confronting their past, something they said they’ve struggled with due to a culture of masculinity in the environment of their upbringing.

“Writing forced me to sit down with whatever it is that I was trying to avoid, for hours a day, for a weeks, for, I mean, seven years,” Gomez said. “And so I really had to process everything. The vulnerability is what attracts me to writing because it offers me a safe space to do that.”

Gomez said they struggled with vulnerability after growing up in a culture of masculinity which they said conditioned them to push down their emotions. They said in their writing process, they began noticing their patterns of avoidance.

“I’m a very avoidant person,” Gomez said. “When something bad happens I kind of just keep it pushing. And a big reason for that is just that culture that I grew up in, where people who are perceived as boys aren’t allowed to be emotional. You can’t talk about your feelings. You have to man up. You have to be strong.”

Gomez said they were “traumatized” after the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, the gay bars in the city on “Latin Nights” were some of the first places they said they felt they were in a safe space for their identity. They said they started writing about the shooting right after it happened to make themselves feel better.

“I was writing about it both when it was a wound and I was writing about it when it was closer to being a scar,” Gomez said. “I don’t know if it ever will fully be a scar. Especially because after Pulse, it’s like every other day there’s another shooting and so there’s no opportunity for the wound to heal.”

Gomez said their memoir talks of tragedy and grief while intertwining humor and life between the stories.

“In my wildest dreams, a queer Latinx kid is going to pick up my book,” Gomez said. “I’m talking about a lot of depressing things and I don’t really want them to leave feeling depressed. At the same time, I also didn’t want to like sugarcoat anything or lie to them.”

Gomez said they wanted readers to feel hope, even when they read material in his book as challenging as the parts focusing on the Pulse shooting.

“For me, it was also just a subliminal way to let the reader know that even in the darkest scenes, I clearly made it out and far enough in my life, that I can look back and laugh,” Gomez said. “And so in that way, I was sort of trying to offer hope, like little trails of hope along the way.”

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