Hi, my name is Gabe Lopez and I’m from Los Angeles, California.
I grew up in a pretty traditional Catholic family, and I remember as a kid, when my mom would go shopping for me, she would sometimes buy clothes and have us try things on. When she brought jeans home for me that looked more fitted and I tried them on and I found that I liked them, she would say, “Well, I think I’m going to return those. I don’t… I don’t really like those for you. They make you look gay.” That was kind of how I figured out that being gay or being bi wasn’t okay.
So I started exploring that more in college in New York, and it was a time in which I was able to kind of figure out who I was outside of family expectations. Everything in New York felt new. It felt like I was meeting people for the first time and so they didn’t know anything about me. And one of the biggest ways in which that felt different was people started calling me Gabe. So I grew up as Gabriel, but after a while, it sort of grew on me and I felt like it was a tangible symbolization of a more authentic version of myself.
In my senior year of college, I was dating a guy in New York. He was a producer and had a condo in LA and we decided that we wanted to meet up in LA. At this point, I realized that my identity wasn’t this abstract concept anymore, but it was this real thing. I had a boyfriend. And I decided to come out to my parents.
So when I was home for Christmas break, my dad took me for a haircut and we drove back. We parked in the driveway. I said, “Dad, I – there’s something I need to tell you. I’m attracted to women, but I’m also attracted to men.”
And his first reaction was, “Well, how do you know? Have you slept with a man? Have you slept with a woman?” And so I answered those questions. Then he asked me how long I knew. And I told him that I knew that I was bi for the past two or three years.
His response was “Well, if you were able to hold it in that long, I wish you could have held it in much longer.”
We decided that he would be the one to tell my mom. And they were going out to dinner immediately after that, so I went back in. And when they got back, I walked out of my room and immediately wanted to get her reaction. And I just noticed that my mom was just crying and bawling and she didn’t acknowledge me, didn’t really talk to me. The only thing she would say was “This is the worst day of my life.”
So I went back after Christmas break and I finished out my semester. And throughout that semester, my dad had a few different moments of kind of shifting perspective. There was a time I was in my college dorm and it was an evening and I was kind of ready to wind down for the night and he called me and he said, “You know, I’ve had some time to think about it and I love you and you’re still my son. And it’s okay if you end up dating a guy, but I don’t want you publicizing it.”
A couple of weeks later, he called me and he said, “You know, your sister’s really struggling. She’s not doing well. I just don’t understand where we went wrong. We just had kids who were such overachievers and look at you both now, I just don’t understand what happened.”
So I asked him, “What… what is it that you mean?”
And he said, “Well, that thing, you know, the thing that you told us.” I got really defensive and really upset, hung up on him. He called me back about 10 minutes later and he apologized and said that he regretted it and he didn’t really mean that, it was just a thought.
I finished out my senior year and I moved home after that and kind of put my identity in a box. And I found a job at Apple and I started working there. And as a part of my first training, I was in this giant hotel conference room with all the new hires. And one of the managers was talking about some of the benefits that Apple offers and she was talking about, you know, “If my fiancée and I, one day decide to have kids, both of us can take maternity leave.”
And I remember going up to her afterwards and thanking her because it gave me an understanding that I could be myself at work. And so I was able to take my identity out of this box at work. And whenever I was talking on the phone with friends from New York, I could talk to them about, you know, the guys that I was dating that I couldn’t tell my parents about.
And at this point I had met someone, a mutual friend, we were coworkers, who’s now one of my best friends. And, he was and is openly gay. And I remember one day we were at his house and my parents were calling me and telling me that, you know, it was time for me to come home. It was like 11 o’clock on a Friday night.
And he said, “You know, I’ve noticed that you really cater to your parents’ expectations. What would happen if you didn’t come home right away just because they said so? You’re 24. And what would happen if you were more open about dating guys?”
When my friend pointed that out to me, that was kind of a time in which I realized, like, I don’t have to feel shame about these experiences. I don’t have to let my parents… my parents’ expectations stop me from being able to have a good time.
So I decided to reach out for therapy because I felt like I was kind of ready to dive into all this and figure out what life as Gabe in LA would look like. But I realized in therapy that I had accepted my identity, but I was never really proud of it. So I started making little changes and one of them was switching my voicemail greeting to Gabe.
My mom said, “You know, I don’t know why you changed your voicemail. Your name is Gabriel. And it’s not Gabe.” And I defended it.
That was a moment that I kind of realized I could make changes and they might not like them, but it doesn’t mean that this cataclysmic event was going to happen.
And I’ve seen progress with my parents. There was a time in which we were in the kitchen and my mom, I was talking to my sister and I as she was cooking about what would happen when we ended up married and she looked at my sister and she said, “You know, when you find a husband…” And then she kind of turned to me and she said, “…when you find a partner…” and then kind of just moved on with the sentence. I realized then that while it doesn’t make up for the past pains or things that they’ve said or done, it’s a possible sign of progress.
As cliche as it sounds, things do become easier. And it’s important to live your life for you and the way you want it. And there will be people in your life who not only support you and embrace you for doing that, but are proud of you and respect you for doing that as well.