We have all heard how gay life at Yale is so much easier than in “the real world,” and how the experiences of gay people at Yale don’t compare to what we will have to deal with when we leave school. From my point of view, the difference is even more shocking than most Yalies can imagine. If you compare gay life here to that of my hometown, Monterrey, Mexico, you’d finally get an accurate idea of how remarkably easy it is to be gay at Yale.
Going back home implies reminding myself, first, that I cannot come out to my Catholic parents without losing college funding, housing and my teeth; second, that kissing in public with a guy is a complete no-no, unless I want to lose worse things than my teeth to a homophobic Mexican; and finally, that no matter how hard I try to inject gay-friendliness into those around me, it will take much more than arguments to challenge the fundamental ideas that impede my society from accepting homosexuality the way others, like Yale’s, do.
Being gay is too much of a threat to the macho culture to be openly tolerated in Monterrey. And I’m not talking about a little village in the middle of rural Mexico; Monterrey is the richest, second-largest city in the country.
Yet we only have a small gay organization that runs AIDS fund-raisers and publishes underground gay guides, and that absolutely no one has ever heard of unless they are, of course, gay.
As far as gay life for teens goes, an event at one of the city’s universities is quite illustrating. The university — which will remain unnamed — is, like Yale, among the top three in the country, not to mention one of the richest and, as considered by its directors, one of the most liberal.
There is, however, no gay “co-op,” or anything that might even resemble it. A friend was once brave enough to request funding from the university to establish a gay organization, but was blatantly denied because the school claimed they had no money. All that gay people are left with is a community of closeted kids who are out only among themselves. University officials have no tolerance for anything that might even seem gay; they offer no gay courses or subjects or anything similar. The students themselves are highly intolerant of homosexuality.
For some brave kids that come out to relatives or straight friends, the experiences are generally difficult. A couple of years ago, a then-closeted friend decided to take his boyfriend to the high school prom. I can still remember the shocked expressions on everyone’s face, including my own. In the few days that followed, his parents kicked him out of the house, his friends stopped speaking to him, and last September he moved to Canada. No joke.
My own experiences back home contrast sharply with the differences with gay life at Yale. When I first came out to a friend in Monterrey it took me about five hours — and two months preparation — actually to say “I’m gay,” and it caused tears, questions and sadness. In other cases it even cost me a friendship or two. At Yale, I first came out over pizza at Yorkside; my two friends listened to me stammer over what I had to say, replied with a dry “oh” to my triumphant “I’m gay,” and continued to eat.
I felt like I had entered the twilight zone. What? No questions on whether I have AIDS? No crying and asking me to reconsider my sexuality? No condemning my soul to the fires of hell?
In more day-to-day life, Yale is so much easier than Monterrey. Even gay nightlife seems so much easier here.
I’ve heard that there is a “gay night” at a local straight bar. There are about three gay clubs in Monterrey, all of them very far from the straight nightlife centers of town. The cops make regular visits to ensure that no one underage has been admitted or all the people in the club would probably be arrested, or at least have their pictures taken for the front pages of the local Sunday papers.
I am sure that for some gay kids back home, the situation does not seem so bad, especially when they compare it to gay life in smaller Mexican communities. But once you’ve seen how “rosy” gay life can be, it is hard not to look with concern and even sadness upon the situation that exists in Mexico. It is even harder not to worry myself, as I’m sure many others here do, about what will happen when I leave Yale and have to face what being gay is really like.
The idea of turning a “gay-switch” from off to on every few months is very unappealing. The idea of finding the pampered gay life of Yale elsewhere seems implausible. The only thing I can resolve now is to continue to bask in the freedom that I have here, trying not to think about what “the real world” will be like. That seems to be the choice that most of us here take.
Jorge Tenreiro is a junior in Ezra Stiles College.