original remarks by Brahiam Villanueva, Pride Foundation scholar, given at the 2016 Seattle Scholarship Celebration in Seattle on May 25
Thank you so much for being here tonight and showing your support for LGBTQ+ students.
My name is Brahiam, I am going into my junior year at Gonzaga University where I study history and English on the Pre-law track.
I was sent from Mexico to the United States thirteen years ago to reunite with my parents. Growing up, we lived comfortably difficult lives, made possible by my mother’s frugal spending habits. Learning the English language was my biggest obstacle in my early childhood, when in memory my sexuality went unnoticed by everyone around me.
I recall an early youth of wonder at the world I observed, wonder of planets, of dinosaurs and wonder of my tendencies to find our neighbor’s sons attractive, rather than daughters; boys made me feel attractive—but I could never admit that, not even after I met the first person in my life to identify as gay.
My early youth of wonder was interrupted by my reality of being undocumented in America, and at the age of twelve I worked in the fields for the first time, my mother injured herself at work for the first time, and exploration of my sexuality was placed on the back burner.
My father was an alcoholic, my mother’s body was too damaged for her to leave her bed, and I was the oldest of my brothers; therefore, the parent figure in the absence of our parents.
Endless field work, morbid visits to hospitals and jail cells, alcoholism, drugs, and eventually the death of my father filled my youth with many moments when my parents could not be present. But when my mother’s health was normal, and my father put the bottle down, we were a good family—we were a very a happy family.
Even as my dad spent the last days of his life in a Spokane Hospital during my senior year in high school, I earned GPA’s above a 3.9, because I had the naïve misconception that many of our problems stemmed from my lack of contributions to our family. The conscious life I shared with my dad, I contributed fabricated masculinity as a member of our family because I believed THAT would hold us together better than the stigmas of being ANOTHER gay Mexican.
Being gay meant initial rejection by my mother and her church community, which forced me to excel at Gonzaga, as exemplified by my experience in mock trial: being promoted from C-team to A-team, and finally winning a nomination to serve on their executive board—all in one year. My mom’s church community now looks to me for guidance in higher education related matters, and many members of her community outwardly respect and praise my accomplishments and my sexuality as essential to their drive to discover their individuality in our strictly conservative community.
Life as a gay Mexican American has been harsh, and I have seen too often how life tore apart the hopes of those I shared my youth with. As a history major, I think I can speak to the fact that Mexican American history is littered with inopportune heroes.
As a human who has experienced what it means to belong to communities who face tremendous prejudice and bigotry, I have learned that I can despise life for the hardships of my obstacles, or understand life as essential to continue loving the presence of other humans around me simply because our coherent existence as human beings at this very moment is so unexplainable. Thank you, for showing me that being gay means being powerful, in community with one another, and prepared to love the world around us despite its own shortcomings, these are lessons learned that I hope to be able to apply in my near future as an attorney and maybe someday as a federal judge. Thank you so much for contributing to dreams.
The 2017 Scholarship Application is open until January 13. Apply today!