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The way must be tried, for future generations
I have taken strength and pride in the challenges and obstacles that my emerging identities have provided me. Being the firstborn of the next generation of an extremely young family in Canada, born to two first-born parents’, the pressure for performance has always been there – directly or indirectly. As a Catholic queer man with an invisible disability, contradictions have always been a fact of my existence. Without turning this into self-pity party, I do want to mention that talking about the diversity of our experiences in academic discussions unites people in the struggle to greater knowledge. It's absolutely essential to talk about academic subjects with the realization and taking the time to discuss the intersectionality about different queer experiences.
Through the discipline of intersectionality, I think a lot of people can use it to help to find acceptance in the complicated and overlapping identities in a meaningful way. Intersectionality provides a lens that gives us the language to explain and create pathways for describing what it is to be in the middle but in an academic way. I will use the theories and concepts taught by Professor Shirin Shahrokni from Glendon Campus, York University to deconstruct the effect my identities have had on myself. The acknowledgment that this analysis cannot represent an entire community, and should not be used defame the progress of the Portuguese and the Catholic communities have made to change.
As a Portuguese-Canadian, I have had the greatest privilege of being in a country which encourages its citizens to retain their heritage and traditional practices within the Canadian context. This is a huge work in progress in Canada and not all communities are treated the same; this is an essential fact that is to be duly noted when talking about second generation migrants in Canada. Joane Nagel’s theory of “symbolic ethnicity”- throws out the necessity of defining your ethnicity solely based on geographical location- and how it is specifically important in analyzing myself as a second-generation immigrant in Canada. Symbolic ethnicity provides for a great launch point to understanding Canadian identity. As a Canadian, we are taught to believe at an early age or told when coming to this country, that our cultures, languages, and traditions are accepted as a part our Canadian identity.
The Portuguese community here in Toronto is a strong and tight-knit ethnic group, which have remained steadfast to their cultural and Catholic values. Despite the benefits of keeping the heritage of the Portuguese community, some still continue to retain their assumptions and prejudice about queer folk. In contrast, I want to recognize that there is much work to be done in Canada to further protect queer folk and the multiplicity of the people who self-identify as a part of the spectrum. Anecdotally, speaking my experience with this has been less than great. My parents who are both Portuguese have done and sacrificed so much to provide my sister and I with more than an optimal life. But when it came to me coming out as a gay man, it was another story. My parents and I are practicing Catholics, my extended family is all practicing Catholics, it is the principal religion in Portugal, and is held extremely close to the nationalistic heart of many Portuguese people, especially those from the islands of the Azores.
Reaching grade eleven and twelve was overshadowed with the heavy conversations of how I was to act inside the home, with family, and friends. My grade twelve summer I spent mostly at friends of friends and sleeping over with friends, to avoid being at home. The consistent attempts to change behaviors, creating decision making processes as to fueling the perception of being a “straight guy,” “acting like a regular man,” doing football in grade nine because I needed to do some “strenuous sports.” The strong male gender role (aka toxic masculinity) in Azorean society has perpetuated these stereotypes of trying to act straight, heterosexual or completely hiding my true self in the name of my family’s wishes.
Over these past five years, as I was told the night I came out, dishonor and a hard life was the only thing for me to expect in this family and world. I have reinvented and persuaded all my extended and immediate family otherwise, that this fact is absurd, and is no different than any other form of discrimination. As I have persuaded my parents, grandparents, and with the support of my aunts and godfather, to convince the key figures in the family that being queer is not a threat or stain to our family. Rather, it’s a benefit to this family as it provides a unique perspective of the world for our family to understand and accept. This pressure at times has made me realize that I cannot make decisions for myself or just in the name of myself. Coming out to my grandmother was not only a personal decision but a strategic decision for this family. It opened a dialogue to have difficult discussions on values, morals, religion, and where this all fits in on the topic of ‘whom we may love’. I never needed to come out to her, but I understood that it was a necessary step towards breaking the constructed falsehoods perpetuated by the Catholic Church in the Azores. It was years of silence and lack of exposure to the variety of ideas that led to a narrow-mindedness such as this. This experience has led me to constantly reanalyze my day-to-day decisions, the way I talk, and how I dress. When my family looks at me, I’m don’t solely represent just one individual but rather a community.
To provide background context, I’m the first male from both sides of my family to never have gone to a rehabilitation center or having any drinking problem. Thus, the pressure of both sides beating the odds and representing the queer community in their eyes, has impacted my decision processes in life.
After coming out, I have had to continuously prove my masculinity in my own individual way, while fighting the mainstream assumptions about queer folk while redefining how masculinity can come in every shape, size, and flavor. After the anger and frustration subsided, realizing that these emotions were distracting me from pursuing my goals, I decided I had to make being queer in a Catholic Portuguese family a constructive exercise. I decided that the prescribed gender roles from society were to narrow and that I had to redefine them in our family. shattering the gender roles and learning a variety of tasks and skills from both ends that I eventually would be viewed as a presentable grandson. Most importantly I hope that my younger cousins can see the little glimmers and hopes that their identity has no boundaries, and cannot be restrained by the rigid thoughts of others. I want my cousins to realize that they have always been in my thoughts, thou the decision of coming out made was a individual decision i hope that this helped just a little bit in breaking the glass ceiling of what may have limited their identity and exploration later on in life. My biggest hope is that they have a path to walk on already knowing that their family supports them.