I loved to swim in the ocean when I was in Guam and I always felt envious of the life in the sea. They were colorful, beautiful creatures, and they didn’t have to worry about being accepted or hiding who they were; as a young gay boy, this was all I ever wanted. Life on the island was all I know growing up as a Chamorro. I was born and raised on Guam, a small island in the pacific which has been a US territory since 1898. Natives from the island are called Chamorros, which is also the name of our language.
Everyone is happier when they can show their true colors. Photo courtesy of Public Domain Pictures.
Photo courtesy of Pixabay.
Since I was a small child, I knew I was different than the other people in my community. I was not sure exactly how I was different until I discovered that I was gay in middle school. I remember having a crush on this boy in middle school and I knew that this wasn’t exactly what most boys my age were experiencing. I felt flustered when he talked to me and I wanted to know everything about him. This was the first time I realized I was gay and it scared me. Now, with my outgoing sassiness and love of Rupaul’s Drag Race, you would think that I was always out and proud. However, back then I hid my true self away from the world.
Guam is was a predominantly Catholic place, and still is, but it is much different now. Same sex marriage was not legal when I was growing up, and I sensed the judgement towards same sex couples from classmates and some of my family members. The number one thing you are taught as a child in Guam is to show respect to your elders and to honor your family and your ancestors. Being gay was not respectful or honorable, and you could tell by the way my elders joked about homosexuality and the way they expressed their dislike towards it. I would sometimes be awake at night and wonder, “How do my ancestors feel about who I am?” or, “Would my family and friends accept me for who I am?” Later, I would see that showing the world who I was, would not be as bad as I thought it would be.
By 8th grade I came out to my friends and other people at school. It was through an assignment that was supposed to be a poster about us and our lives. I basically advertized that I was gay and who my boyfriend was. I remember being so scared to put my true self out there, but once I put it up it was so liberating! I thought I would be ridiculed and laughed out of class, but that wasn’t the reaction of most of my classmates. People commended me for being brave and were happy for me. I found myself gravitating towards friends who were like myself and soon most of my friends were Rainbow Brothers and Sisters. I came out to my friends before coming out to my family; this was mostly because I thought I didn’t know how my family was going to react to this news. I left a note on the table for my mom to find that read, “Mom, I am Gay, is that okay?” I was doing yard work outside when I heard my mom call my name in our native language. "Danet!" she yelled (pronounced Dah-ny-et). I was so scared, and I walked in expecting the worst. To my relief my mom and I had a heart-to-heart about how she would always support me and that she accepted me for who I am. I had grown up thinking that my sexuality would bring shame and disrespect to my family, but as I got older I realized that being gay is part of my identity. Despite my fears that my friends and family would reject me, I was lucky to have a community that supports who I am as a person.
Now that I was out, it was time to go and be gay! But life on Guam as a LGBTQ+ person had more challenges than I had anticipated. Because the island was so small, resources for a lot of communities were scarce, including resources for LGBTQ+ people. The community of people was small and so I was limited in the people whom I could date or even talk to about being part of the LGBTQ+ community. We had one gay bar, which I never got a chance to go into because it closed down before I was old enough to go in. The only other way to meet LGBTQ+ people was through MySpace.
As time went on, things got better. Currently, life on Guam as a LGBTQ+ Pacific Islander is easier. Same sex marriage was legalized and there are more resources and opportunities for LGBTQ+ people. The people of Guam have their arms and hearts open to brothers, sisters and nonbinary people of the Rainbow. We have drag shows, pride parades, LGBTQ+ political officials, and the fish in the ocean are still showing off their beautiful rainbow colors, refusing to hide who they are.