I’m From Aguada, Puerto Rico.

by Jesus Roberto Rivera

Satellite overhead image of Puerto Rico from Google Earth 2022

My town is 95 miles west of San Juan and if you are a fan of The Amazing Race, parts of my town were featured a couple of seasons ago. In hindsight, I had a happy childhood, but like every gay kid, I grew up thinking my parents hated me. As a child, it was obvious I was different and my parents could not help but notice. I was picked on in school, was called a faggot on a daily basis and sometimes was even hit. My parents tried to make me defend myself to no avail. In a certain way, they had their own growing up to do before they could help me. In high school, I was the class punching bag. I desperately wanted them to believe I was straight. I desperately wanted to believe I was straight. Gays don’t go to heaven!

When I finally accepted the fact I am gay at age 25, I did not tell them. I come from a conservative Catholic background and I was still convinced that they would not love me for who I was. Instead, I spent my time looking for things that would make them proud. I was accepted at a prestigious music school in Indiana, I sang successfully as an operatic tenor for a while, I won the Metropolitan Opera Competition in Puerto Rico (the first singer from my university to do so) and was named Outstanding Young Person by the Puertorrican Government in 1999. Even with all of this, I would not tell my parents about me being gay. I was convinced I was going to be cast out. I even had a name picked out for this circumstance. If my family rejected me I was going to take the name of a famous ancestor of mine: Roberto Ramirez de Arellano (Known in Puerto Rico as Pirata Cofresi).

Then it all came crashing down. My career as an opera singer was first. Two years later I lost the job that was keeping me living independently in Indiana. I called my father crying and he immediately started making plans for me to go back to Puerto Rico. The problem was that I was not willing to move back, but I would not tell them him the reason. It seems funny now, but he kept telling me he knew the reason why I was not going back and I kept telling him that he didn’t. He kept asking him to tell him and I kept hyperventilating and telling him that I couldn’t tell him. That’s when my father threw a life line and he (HE!) told me, “What you want to tell me is that you are gay. There, I said it!” There it was. I had been trying to hide it all along and my father had seen through all of it. The most surprising thing for me was that he was not cursing me out, but telling me that I was his pride and joy and that there was not a power in this earth that would make him stop loving me. How I ever doubted him I can not explain…

Get this…my father outed me to my mom. When she started talking about how the situation should be handled (talk about role reversals) he told her that if she thought she could not stand to be in the same house with me (it was decided I was going to take a vacation and visit my parents for a week to detox) she could pack up her things and go. All this happens 10 years ago. It seems like an eternity now. I was so naive and so blind.

So I guess this is a tribute to my father, my best friend, my hero. How could I doubt that he was incapable of unconditional love is beyond me. My life is much richer now, and I walk in with the pride of knowing that my father loves me for me.

There is a funny ending to this story. When I was in high school, I hid behind religion. I was one of the most conservative guys in school. Well, I recently reconnected with my high school friends through Facebook and now it is THEM who are turning into their parents. I had to laugh when one of them behaved in the same way he had criticized his mother in acting decades before because she was antiquated. He didn’t like me reminding him of his teenage peccadilloes and asking him if his kids knew about them.

Sharing your story can change someone's life. Interested in learning more?