by Jorge Gutierrez
(this piece is part of our “Getting Free” conversation for December)
The past two years have been a journey, as I’ve unpacked, let go, healed, and redefined what love means and looks like to me. I am seeking a new kind of love.
Part of this journey has meant examining my first heartbreak under a microscope. I am re-examining this experience, dissecting, dissecting, and dissecting it some more. I backpedaled through 21 years of memories to revisit the site where it occurred.
I was six-years-old, playing with my best friend under a huge mango tree in front of our house when my father appeared, dragged me by my shirt, and slapped me. He screamed, “No seas maricon!” I didn’t know what to do. I stood still, looked at his eyes, watched as he turned around and walked away, offering no further explanation. I didn’t understand what had just taken place, but my heart and small body broke into pieces, falling to the ground like the leaves of the mango tree.
I traveled back to this first encounter with no love, insisting that I would not dwell on the pain, but recognize what my father’s harsh rejection and shaming had done to my queer spirit. It would take 21-years to recognize what happened to me, but this recognition was necessary in order to restore, re-arrange, and release the pain so I could seek a new kind of love.
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For years, I had been engaging in hurtful, unhealthy, and toxic relationships based on the misguided and self-destructive notion that these partners would somehow make up for the love my father had never given me. Of course they could never give me that kind of love; they are not my father. I have left some lovers, while others have left me, but every time a relationship ended, I began the same process over again. This vicious cycle had to end; my wellness, my survival, and the joy of my heart depended on it.
I had to understand that I had nothing to do with what my father had done to me. I couldn’t take responsibility for him. I had to release that responsibility and that pain – I had to forgive him. I couldn’t do it without first acknowledging that he too is fighting his own battle, dealing with his own fears and heartache.
I had to forgive him.
I did, and it required seeing him not as my father, but as a man – an imperfect man. I could no longer allow him to be a source of shame, guilt, and rancor because it had become a burden that I carried and it had become too heavy. The weight of it closed me off; it misguided my intentions and did not allow me to experience relationships in a deep and meaningful way. It was like being frozen in time, with each romantic encounter taking me back to that moment under the mango tree, except now I was no longer capable of being vulnerable for love or willing to endure the pain that could result from letting go.
Now, here I am all of these years later and I am choosing to love. I am learning to recycle the energy I invested in relationships that were hurtful, painful, and destructive and instead, using that energy to open my heart. Not knowing how to love or be loved made me deeply jaded, but going back to that precise moment where my heart broke for the first time was necessary. I am no longer willing to be closed off, seeking the kind of relationships that could never be fulfilling; the kind that only resulted in pain.
I am here. Everyday I must remind myself of my intentions to strengthen my relationship with myself and seek out relationships with others that present meaningful opportunities to feel, taste, and live. I must ensure my actions and choices are not based on false premises, but guided by truth, respect, and compassion. This new way of seeking is not limited to sexual or romantic relationships; it is inclusive of my family and friends. My new awareness allows for my relationships around me to intensify and reach new levels.
There’s much internal work I must do and this process of unfolding and unpacking might take a lifetime, but I am okay with that. Placing my reality as a brown queer under a lens is complex, messy, and painful. There is no set of instructions to follow. All I know is you need to hold onto to yourself and be willing to “go there”, go where it is dark. You have to be ready to acknowledge what you know in your bones, see the things you’ve been carrying and hiding for years. It’s a different process for all of us, but this is where my process has brought me. It has placed a mirror in front of me, but I’m no longer scared of what I see.
I am here. I am open. I am seeking a new kind of love.
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