I have tender memories of cuddling with my father as a child. We would take naps together and I would feel his body tower over mine like a lighthouse watching over its city in the ebony of night. His musky scent coming back from work still lingers in my thoughts, those powerful arms that would wrap me into a cocoon of sleep. I felt so safe… so loved. In Hindsight, that wasn’t very common for a father to do but little did I know that he was teaching me the hermeneutics of love & affection.
I would head to work with him in West Hollywood- back when Melrose Avenue had antique shops and not Alexander McQueen or Marc Jacobs’ stores in every corner. During school holidays my mom would give me permission to stay with my dad and I proudly claimed to be his little assistant at work. He worked with his hands. I would watch, as he would repair rugs centuries old- he was so graceful and skilled.
I also noticed the roles he played whenever his bosses were around- that slight bow from my father these men felt entitled to when entering the room and my father’s struggle to speak a language coerced upon him at the hands of U.S. imperialism.
These arrogant performances were enough for me to understand, even as a child, that I would grow up one day and take my father away from all of this. His bosses also objectified him with that self-entitled sexual gaze. This was the gay culture my father was exposed to—white gay male privilege; owners of antique shops right on Melrose Avenue. These white men failed to recognize the power dynamics of class, race, and citizenship. To them he was just a hot Latino piece of ass they could ogle over as he did his work. It didn’t matter to them that he was a refugee from a violent civil war in El Salvador. No, he was just a fantasy of their imaginations from pre-conceived notions rooted from go-go dancers in Andrew Christian underwear dancing for their miserable dollars at The Abbey.
Even as a child it occurred to me that his bosses sexually racialized him for viewing pleasure. I imagine, rather empathize, with the disrespect he must have felt from their intrusive gaze—a gaze I now know all too well walking down the streets of Castro, West Hollywood, Boystown, Chelsea, et cetera- it’s all the same shit anyways. I’m sure they would undress him with their eyes hungry for fantasies of abjection, thirsty for a night out filled with poppers, cheap well drinks, and Rohypnol. Yes, I imagine this was the case….
This didn’t help me later on when I made the decision to disclose my sexual identity to him. I took the opportunity to tell him my freshman year at college. He was silent all through the car ride back to my dorms. I remember thinking he might hit me for what I was about to confess but he is too tender for that. He only stayed quiet, containing the knot in his throat. He probably saw those men in me. I could only stare back wondering if our relationship was over, hoping he would still see me as magic.
He held contempt for several years… still does I think. He grew bitter and weak. We even stopped speaking for a brief period. To this day we hardly talk about it—we just make casual conversation to pass the time. I sometimes wish I still had him in my arms like I did before. It’s ironic how drastic our relationship changed. I sometimes wish I never shared my sexuality to him. Maybe then we could have had our queer relationship intact and everything would be as it once before.