I’m Cristhian Escobar, I’m from Nicaragua, raised in New York City. And for the first few years of my life, I was separated from my mom and my dad as a result of being born in a civil war.
Years later at the age of 5 I moved to New York with my grandmother, with my grandfather and I remember getting off the plane at JFK and my grandmother pointing to a woman, my grandfather pointing to a man, and then saying, “That’s your mom. That’s your dad.”
And me going like, “Okay. I don’t know these people. I guess they’re my parents?”
It felt awkward. It felt weird. And it was getting in the way of me nurturing a deeper, more loving relationship with this woman that I see at the airport that I call my mom. I run up to them and I hug them and we of course go home and we began our relationship in this country as immigrants with my mom and my dad and soon-to-be my little sister. But that awkwardness, that weirdness that I felt as I child seeing them at the airport, I think remained for a very long time with me. And I think it was really affirmed and I think amplified the more it became clearer to me that I was different, that I had something that I really couldn’t share with my mom.
Thirteen years ago, I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico, working on a movie. This was a lifelong dream after working in magazine publishing, and here I was working with a woman that was formerly in jail and was making a movie about the Independista movement in Puerto Rico. And here I am helping this woman work on something that was very important for her. She had a son right around the time she got arrested and sent to jail and never really forged a relationship with her son.
It’s a beautiful sunset and we’re scouting a scene for a shoot later on that weekend. And just like any other scouting for a scene, we’re looking around, we’re getting on top of things, we’re scouting out different angles. And as I’m immersing myself in this beautiful view, the ground beneath me falls apart and disintegrates. I can’t move. There was concrete everywhere. I felt like my legs were paralyzed and all I see is the person next to me, Dilcia, the woman who I was there working with, working on the movie for, with blood gushing out of her, the cinematographer all the way in the catacombs, and honestly all I could think of was, “I’m not out to my mom. I’m not out to my dad.”
I am trapped inside of a tomb and just the sight of death, the smell of death. After being on the cliff seeing something so beautiful, the contrast was just very, very intense. And so a lot of these thoughts about my family, here I am in another Latin American country. I haven’t really dealt with my Latin American heritage, I haven’t dealt with my sexuality, my mom doesn’t really know me. I don’t want to be buried alive without really knowing who I am and without sharing with others who I really am, especially my mom.
After I pulled myself out from the concrete, after I got myself out of the tomb, it was very, very clear that the movie was going to be in hiatus. It wasn’t going to happen. And so I called my mom that very night and I said, “Look. I have to come home. This movie is not going to happen. Can I move back home?”
And so I moved back home and so I knew that when I moved back home to New York about a week later, I was going to have to make efforts to be more honest with my mom. And so when I went back home to New York, I sat down with my mom, I sat down with my dad and it just came out. I just told them, “Look, I like men. I have always liked men. I don’t know if I like women anymore.”
And so my mom was very matter-of-fact. It was actually very easy coming out to her. She just looked at me, she leaned in, she’s like, “I love you. I don’t care. I already knew. No, I mean, seriously, I already knew.”
My dad was there and he’s like, “Whatever.”
When thinking of a young, Latin man in either the hood or in Latin America that may not have an environment where it’s safe possibly to come out, all I will say is that it’s a lot scarier to not live authentically than to live authentically. I didn’t need a near-death experience to realize that my mom was going to love me regardless. I was lucky. She did, but I tortured myself for far too long because of my own neuroses. So I would say, love yourself. It has to begin with you and your ability to respect yourself and take care of yourself.