For years while growing up, I resented my father, a second-generation Mexican-American named Juan José. He dedicated his life to teaching high school Spanish in our border town of Eagle Pass, Texas. My resentment was NOT because he and my mother, Margie, routinely smothered me with enough love to kill five cows for a carne asada. NOT because they provided my sister Dionni and me a life usually reserved for those people living in the “big city.” And definitely NOT because he refused to play ball with me outside. (Thankfully, I knew I was gay early on BEFORE trying on potential mitts, I mean, gloves! See, I saved myself the humiliation.) My unhappiness stemmed from Daddy’s decision to spell my name X-O-R-J-E. I mean, you know you’re fucked when your own Latino community struggles to pronounce an otherwise common name that’s typically spelled J-O-R-G-E. Since then, I’ve perfected the “wow, you’re really butchering my name there” grin and the “where did you get THAT sound from?” snicker. It’s a burden ANY child with an unusual name must bear. And, I did it because it meant a lot to my dad.
Whether it was a bold way to proudly display our heritage or a hilarious attempt at ruining my future job prospects, I now applaud him for giving me the opportunity, FROM BIRTH, to be different.
As a queer Latino Catholic millennial, I am unique. I can also tell you that I learned, quickly, how to stand out. How? First, in high school, I involved myself in every student organization possible. Next, at the University of Texas, Austin, as a student TV reporter/radio DJ. Then, at my first job as an ABC News digital contributor. And currently, as a SiriusXM radio personality/producer, freelance writer and NOW web series host. There isn’t another “me” out there.
Why? It’s all because of Juan José (and Margie, too.)
Their endless support, along with big sis Dionni, prepared me, the crazy kid with the X in his name, to enter the cacophonous media landscape and ignite conversations with like-minded individuals, each with their own brand of originality.
Lesson: diversity is power — mi gente! And now is NOT the time to shy away from making noise. We’re definitely going to need each other in this new America. It’s a nation where a reality TV host snags a U.S. presidential election. A win he grabbed, despite trash talking about a wide range of ethnic groups, including my own. And it’s a win highlighted by other deplorable acts, including, boasting about sexual assault. It’s a victory that also includes a running mate who is certain I have the ability to pray away my sexual orientation.
Let’s raise our voices together against this new administration and its mission to silence everyone it labels “other.” Right now, the only label we should care about is the one sewn into this commander-in-chief’s clothing: #MadeWhere?
Join me as I use this new platform to share my perspective on practically everything. The best part? It’s easy and only takes a click of your mouse and an enthusiastic, “Hey!”
Oh, and to be clear, it’s pronounced, “hey” as in Xor-je…