Daniel Flores is a 41-year-old English teacher from Merida, Yucatan, Mexico. He recently sat down with Strong Family Alliance to talk about coming out to his parents, love, sexual health, and Valentine’s Day for the LGBTQ+ community.
How did your parents take it when you came out?
I think they were already expecting it. I was worried about my dad taking it badly in front of me, but he just said to take care of myself and to make sure and go to college. My mom didn’t talk to me for a week, she took it kind of hard.
I found out later that during that week they decided to visit a therapist to try to get help for me. I don’t know who the psychologist was but if I ever found out I would thank her because she told them “The ones who need help right now are the two of you.”
Did your parents have expectations about you getting married and having kids?
I don’t think my parents did, I think they always kind of knew. But I have a cousin who came out as a lesbian to my aunt and it destroyed my aunt’s world, she was imagining a big wedding, grandkids, etc. And we told my aunt that her daughter could still have kids and get married but my aunt was distraught.
My parents actually gave me a lot of freedom and they didn’t pressure me about their expectations for me. They let me and my sister follow our own paths and that helped me be a more independent and self-assured person. That also helped me to not feel like I ever had to really be “in” the closet, especially in middle and high school. I had a lot of friends who had to pretend to have girlfriends because they were scared to come out to their families.
What was Valentine’s Day like for you growing up?
Things have changed, it’s impressive to see the number of LGBTQ+ couples celebrating without any fear of rejection. It’s not like before. When I was in school. I wasn’t in the closet exactly but I also wasn’t exactly out, and my group of friends didn’t get involved in the student organizations that planned Valentine’s Day and other holidays.
These days, a lot of the student body presidents are LGBTQ+ and it’s not a big deal. It used to be the only thing people talked about but not anymore, now it’s just another part of their personality.
When I was younger I knew a lot of LGBTQ+ couples chose not to go out to eat at a restaurant or in a public space for fear of discrimination. It’s not a huge city, so they were also scared that they would see someone they knew and be inadvertently outed. Now you see more LGBTQ+ couples celebrating together openly.
Did your family have any Valentine’s traditions?
No, in Mexico it’s more something for younger people, my parents never did anything. I think it’s more of a gringo holiday. Here it’s also less about romance, we call it the day of love and friendship. My group of friends celebrated together because we were all single and queer.
In high school though they used to set up fake courthouses so that people could get “married” and it was always straight couples, or straight people pretending to be gay as a joke. They still do it now, I see it since I’m a teacher. But these days, there are all kinds of couples, two guys, two girls, etc.
What do you think about the expectations about romantic love, having a family, and getting married? Do you feel that pressure here as a gay man?
In my family when I was in my late twenties, early thirties my family did make comments about bringing a partner home, having a boyfriend, and asking me about it. But since I never brought anyone home, they eventually gave up.
My aunts were always asking about grandkids, not so much my mom, but yeah, some of my aunts were more worried about me having kids than a boyfriend or a husband (laughter).
Did you ever see yourself as a dad?
Definitely not, never, absolutely not.
Do you think that’s your personality or because you knew you weren’t really “allowed” to become a parent?
Honestly, I think it was probably more the latter. I knew that legally it would have been really hard to have kids so I think I blocked that part of me, the paternal feelings. I do have friends who have expressed the desire to become fathers but it’s really hard. You need an extremely good and stable job, and besides I’m not sure if it’s legal for a gay couple to adopt a child*. Maybe for individuals but not for couples I don’t think.
I do remember when I was a kid and hearing about same-sex couples who lived together, especially women, and were raising kids together. It was usually their niece or nephew, and a very informal kind of adoption within the family. It wasn’t legal but it did happen.
Did your parents talk to you about sex?
When I came out to them was the only time they mentioned it. They just said “Use protection,” but they didn’t give me condoms or anything.
Has being HIV-positive affected your romantic relationships?
I think so. I found out when I was 24 or 25, and I think it has limited me in terms of love. Not so much affecting me personally, I was doing okay and some days I even forgot about it. But I did have thoughts like “No one is going to love me because of this, I shouldn’t date, etc.” But later I got over it and realized well if they’re going to love me they’ll have to love all of me.
It was hard to tell my partners though. Usually, they were the ones to tell me first. Thankfully it’s not a death sentence anymore. But it did affect me, thinking it’s better to just walk away than get involved with someone.
It’s hard for those of us who remember when our friends were dying from HIV/AIDs. Some of the younger generation treat it more casually because they don’t have those memories.
When did you find out?
When I was 24 or 25. It was scary because at the hospital I was going to there were patients with AIDS and I saw how the illness and the medicine were affecting their bodies. Honestly, I ran away from that scene, it was just so sad.
After that, I didn’t see the doctor or take my medicine for a long time, but then in 2018, my partner at the time encouraged me to start again with him. Luckily there’s an amazing public health center here, such a big difference from what it was like before. The building is nice, the staff is great, it has changed so much. I even like going, it’s a good experience. They have mental health resources, therapy, medical staff, etc. They provide the medicine, which is expensive, at no cost for people who don’t have insurance. It’s amazing.
When I was younger, AIDS was a really scary thing for all of us, really terrifying. But these days I see young guys, in their early twenties, and it seems like they don’t care at all, they’re not worried. They don’t want to use condoms and they’re like “Oh well if I get it I’ll just get the medicine.” But what they don’t know is that if we overwhelm the health system it would collapse, these medicines are extremely expensive. That’s why I think it’s so important for parents to talk to their kids about these things, even if it’s awkward and difficult.
Do your parents know you’re HIV-positive?
Yes. And it was easier to tell them that than telling them I was gay. They were paying for my medical care at that time so they knew from the beginning. They worry, of course, my mom especially was worried when I went so long without taking my medicine. I honestly think I have some angels watching over me because nothing happened to me during that time. And now that I’m taking the medicine I’m healthy most of the time. I didn’t even get COVID.
Do you have any advice for parents of LGBTQ+ kids?
Communication is absolutely key.. I would also say that when your LGBTQ+ kid wants to tell you something, try not to let your true feelings show in front of your kid. Like if they say “Hey Mom I’m going out with a trans man,” or their partner doesn’t live up to the expectations you had for your child for whatever reason, try to hold it in and you can go and cry in your room later if you want (laughter).
But not in front of your kid. If they’re 15, 20, 25, once they see that reaction, the look on your face, if they feel any kind of rejection you’re going to break that connection and trust that you have with your child.
I’m telling you from personal experience because when I was younger I would tell my mom things about my life and I could tell by her face that she didn’t approve.
I wasn’t saying anything crazy, just “Hey my friends are doing this, two guys I know are dating, etc” but I could see it on her face, and her comments, like “Oh wow do their parents know,” after a while I just stopped telling her things.
It’s not like that anymore, we’ve both learned and now we’ve gotten that trust back. It takes time. But it would have been nice if she had hidden her true feelings a little bit and talked with someone else about her struggles.
I’m not saying you have to accept and approve everything, but take your time to process. Analyze the situation, don’t prejudge what’s happening. If you see red flags of course try to take action, but these are teenagers. If you tell them ‘No,” they’re just going to want to do the opposite.
Thanks for talking to us today Daniel.
You’re welcome. I’m happy to share, you never know how your story might help someone else.
*Note: As of the writing of this interview (Feb 2024), adoption by same-sex couples was legal in the majority of states in Mexico but not in Yucatan.