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Reclaiming My Pride in Mexico
Written by: Kyle
Last Updated: July 19, 2021
Before I begin to tell you about my new life in the biggest city in the Americas, let me introduce myself and tell you a little bit about my background. I am originally from a little college town in Tennessee called Murfreesboro; population 146,900. Murfreesboro had its first pride parade in 2019 and it was super cute.
I came out when I was 14 and it was not the best situation. My family sent me to a (Christian) therapist to either change me or convince me that I was straight… I am not sure. I was cut off from socializing with my friends, getting on the computer, or leaving the house for an entire year unless it was for something school or church-related. I never really felt accepted by them but things are better now for sure. They have met former boyfriends, but they are not really interested in my life the way they are with my sister.
I left home after high school, in 2006, for college in Memphis. I studied music at the University of Memphis until 2011. While I was there, I saw Memphis’s first pride parade and although small, it was very enthusiastic. After college, I went to Europe to pursue my master's at a music school in Switzerland in an even smaller town called Lugano; population 62,615. They have no pride parades.
After I finished my master’s degree, I came back to Tennessee and started working in Nashville. Nashville had a vibrant gay life, but I did not really get involved in any of it. I completed my Online TEFL Course during the summer of 2018 and a few months later, got my teaching job in Mexico City. After moving to CDMX in July of 2019, I can say things are quite different. With a population of 21,804,515 in the greater metropolitan area, entire neighborhoods full of pride flags, and a pride parade with more than 350,000, my life has gotten a lot gayer.
From my experience living here and from what others have told me, Mexico is a very gay-friendly country, especially in the more urban areas. I have not felt uncomfortable or insecure about being myself since I moved here. I have however been warned that if I travel outside of CDMX, I should exercise some caution about holding hands or showing affection towards another man because homophobia exists in the smaller towns, especially ones that do not receive much tourism. I would suspect that in the areas where machismo is a common practice or concept, homophobia would be a concern as well, which I would say is something that we have to think about in every country. There are other places like Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta (super popular gay vacation destination), Oaxaca, and Cancun where many tourists visit and so these areas are much more open-minded and accepting. Since I have not traveled outside of Mexico City all that much, I cannot really talk too much about this.
In Mexico City, however, I feel like I have discovered my pride. When I arrived in 2019 the city was in pride mode and many restaurants, streets, and businesses had their flags on display; one of my favorite restaurants in centro historico had a pride flag on every table. The gay neighborhood downtown, called Zona Rosa, has pride flags everywhere including painted on the crosswalks (it is my dream to open a little coffee shop in this neighborhood). Everyone is out and open about who they are in this area, and I really love going there for a drink and seeing everyone. Unfortunately, I did not make it here in time for the parade, but I will go the next time it is on.
Around the city, you can sense that everyone is comfortable being themselves. In the metro, in parks, and even just strolling down the street, you will see gay and lesbian couples enjoying being out in public together. They are holding hands, hugging, kissing, and just living their lives as much as any straight couple does. When I have walked around holding hands or showing affection with my significant other, have felt totally safe and not worried about being harassed by anyone. At first, I would look around and think “Oh gosh, I wonder what people are thinking…” trying to catch some judgmental looks but to my surprise, none! Not one look. It is just a normal thing, and no one really cares. Even the people that walk around selling jewelry or trinkets start their pitch with “Are you guys friends or boyfriends? Boyfriends, oh how nice! Would you like to see some of the jewelry I’m selling?” Truly, everyone is very friendly.
As far as being gay in the workplace is concerned, I honestly do not remember when or if I told my employer that I am gay. To give some background, I found my job in a Facebook group for English teachers in Mexico. I posted that I was looking for a job in CDMX and I got a message from a woman that was here saying that the school where she worked was hiring and gave me the director’s email to send my resume. I was just casually asking her about what it is like living in CDMX, how she felt safety-wise (she is from Kazakhstan, so also a foreigner), and what not - the typical questions, and I may have mentioned during this time about my concerns with homophobia.
As it turns out, she was the director’s wife and HR for the language school, so if there were any issues, it never came up. I get along great with both her and her husband - my boss. Before the pandemic, we would often go out for wings and beer just to hang out and they have invited me to join them on vacation once, including the “bring whomever you want, a friend or whatever” line.
In the classroom, I tend to be a private person, but the students always have questions and I make it a policy to be open and honest. When you have a classroom with students as young as 12 you need to remember that you may very well be the first gay person they have ever met. I was a music teacher before moving to Mexico and have worked at summer camps since 2007, so being the first openly gay person that a child meets is not something unusual for me. I try to be the best representation that I can be.
We talk about pronouns and why they are important - this is usually when we start to open the door to conversations because the topic of pronouns comes early on in English class. The students have always been accepting and want to talk about their gay friends, their gay children, their trans friends, or that they are gay themselves. It may just be the students that are attracted to my school - but they are all very progressive and open-minded. They want to talk about what I think about Black Lives Matter and racism, women’s rights, and all the other social issues that we are experiencing in the world and how they are related to what is going on in their lives in Mexico. Overall, I feel like I can be more open in Mexico than I could in the US. They love sharing.
Overall, I have found my pride in the time I have spent in Mexico. In the US, I was never as open as I feel now. I never wanted to be involved in the gay culture, just because I never felt like I was a part of it. Sure, I had my group of gay friends and allies, but it just was not the same. I never had any rainbow things, never went to gay bars/clubs, or had the desire to go to parades. Here, on the other hand, it is a different environment. I want to go to Zona Rosa and have a beer (or three) in the bars, see everyone from the community out and enjoying themselves, and I want to go to a pride parade. I want to be seen. I love the visibility of pride here. I have a shirt with rainbow hearts, a rainbow wallet, and a pride flag hanging in my office, and as soon as I can get back to the classroom, I am going to hang a little flag in my classroom, too!
So, in conclusion, my life in Mexico is really gay and I love it. Not only has it transformed my pride, but also has helped to transform me. Because I want to go out and be seen I am becoming healthier by getting out and walking more, doing yoga every day, being more mindful of my feelings, taking care of my body (facials are amazing!), and overall just feeling happier. I focused less on what people may think about my “lifestyle” and more focused on my style of life. It is not only a time to celebrate LGBTQ+ pride but also about feeling proud of myself.
Additional LGBTQ+ Resources:
- ITA LGBTQ+ Video Library - Interviews and Instagram Takeovers from LGBTQ+ alumni sharing their experiences of teaching English abroad.
- ITA LGBTQ+ Blog Hub - Read stories, Q&A's, and more from LGBTQ+ alumni all around the world.
Kyle is a coffee advocate, afternoon tea enthusiast, musician, educator (EFL), and foodie in no particular order. He's originally from Tennessee but now lives in Mexico City teaching English.
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