My Coming Out Story, Starring a Priest, an Animal Sacrifice and Ricky Martin
Convinced a demon was making me gay, my mother turned to exorcism. Years later, her pop idol finally helped her understand.
I knew I was in trouble by the way Mami said my name. For 14 years, she usually called me “Georgie” — anglicized with a thick Puerto Rican accent — but on that summer day in 1996, my mother pronounced it in Spanish. I followed her voice into my bedroom, where she told me to shut the door. And the instant I saw my unsent, unfolded note in her hands, I knew our relationship was about to change.
“¿Que es esto?”
I feigned having no idea what it was. But her unwavering glare convinced me to look again. Given that my native tongue had stunted seven years earlier when we left the Island of Enchantment, I stumbled over the vocabulary of a first-grader. “Solo una nota para Amaya.”
I was certain, with her limited English, she couldn’t understand what I’d written, which was about a boy in my school. Then she mentioned Ricky by name, inquiring why this note was insisting that I loved him. I couldn’t answer. I didn’t know how, in either language, at least not out loud. The words had only ever existed on paper, meant for the eyes of an open-minded friend — not for my mother, who stared as she waited for a response, nor my father, who stayed out of sight that evening, unable to look at me altogether.