“I have an incredibly easy capacity to detach immediately from any potential or perceived emotional situation. I literally had to remove so much crap out of my head and block so many negative messages out to get through each day while growing up.”
1. Where are you from and where do you live now?
Born and raised in NYC. Living in Seattle now.
2. Tell me a little bit about what you spend most of your days doing.
Most of my days I’m helping run TomboyX, a company I co-founded. We create clothing that helps people feel comfortable in their own skin by making underwear that is about what makes folks feel at peace with their own bodies. The rest of my time I’m spending much need down time with my wife and our sweet dog Maggie, planning our next adventure.
3. Give us a little insight into your backstory/upbringing…
I’m a first generation Cuban American. My parents came to the States a few years before Castro and settled into NYC. While they were raised Catholic in Cuba, my parents arrived in the US and felt like they wanted a different kind of church and a deeper form of religion. They found a little church in Queens that seemed to have all the answers where the pastor took the bible literally, the congregation spoke in tongues and the men ran the households. This was the Gentile church I was born into.
Women were taught to always serve and respect the men. If you were married, you did what your husband said. If you contradicted him or spoke your own opinion(s) you were rebuked and humiliated by the pastor in front of an entire congregation of approximately 600-900 people. Women couldn’t wear pants, cut their hair, wear make-up or pierce their ears because the bible was against it. Movies were out of the question because they enticed one to sin. Music, dancing and sex before marriage was also forbidden. Sex was drilled into our heads to be a dirty thing. Men were always being told by the pastor to control their women and not let them get out of hand. Because of this and the church’s overall attitude towards women, I always had the impression that we were somehow inferior to men.
“Women”, the bible said, “you shall not wear that which pertaineth to a man! All these women in the world wearing pants do so because they have a manly spirit upon them! They shall be judged!” the pastor screamed from the pulpit. I was 13 yo and while I had heard this same sermon at least a hundred times before, over the years I seemed to be hearing it for the first time. I recall thinking, these beliefs are crazy. These people are crazy. This archaic thinking suddenly triggered an intense anger inside me. I was suddenly sick and tired of being made to feel less than. Of being forced to listen to a man and take his word for gospel just because he said so and he was a man. Of watching as my dad made decisions for our family that made no sense but that my mother was powerless to stop because he was the ‘man of the house’.
At that moment, at 13 yo while taking in that oft heard sermon, I decided I would not be going back to church ever again. And I didn’t. It started WWIII at home but I gladly took that over being brainwashed. I found a job and bought my first pair of pants that I hid on the fire escape so my parents wouldn’t cut them up for being ‘inside’ the house.
At 15 yo I got my first haircut.
At 17 yo my brother outed me to my parents and they promptly kicked me out.
I was lucky enough to have a friend who let me crash on their bedroom floor for the summer until college started. I took it as an opportunity to have fun, party and enjoy not having my parents in the background telling me daily that the devil had possessed me.
I spent my 20’s really angry at them, angry at the normal childhood I felt I had been robbed of. Of never being allowed to do a sleep over, of not having been allowed to watch TV, of being forced to work at 13yo so I could buy my own clothes, of my mother telling me they wouldn’t support my going to college because I should just get married and let my husband take care of me. It took years to get over a high level of modesty from all the constant focus on women’s purity and most importantly, feeling like I did indeed have equal say with men.
In my 30’s I made my peace with them. Mostly.
Today, my parents are still in the religion and currently believe that God may spare me and my wife from hell because of their prayers and devotion.
4. What is your religious background?
5. On a scale of 1 – 5 how supportive was your family when you came out?
6. Do you have a message to kids out there who come out and might not have the support of their families/friends?
I’d say to them that the most important thing is to be true to yourself. Try as hard as you can to accept who you are and be forthright to the best of your situation. Everybody’s experience is going to be different so I don’t think there’s a ‘right’ response or answer but I do strongly believe lying to yourself or trying to live a false life will drive you to depression and utter misery. If your family won’t support you find a community and friends that will. They will carry you through until you’re strong enough to be ok with whatever your family decides.
7. Why do you feel that the simple message of the Promote Love Movement is important?
It’s so important to know you’re not alone. That you’re loved and that you are a creature of God. We all are. No matter what.
8. What kind of person do you want to be remembered as when you die?
Someone who made a difference in the lives of many, who gave back and lived a life of adventure.
9. Do you still attend church/religious gatherings?
10. How do you feel like growing up in church played a part in shaping who you are?
I think it helped me understand group think and how easy it is to bullshit the masses by using religion to control situations. Leaving church helped me be mentally stronger than many of my peers at the time. It made me less scared to take chances and be spontaneous. It made me not care what a lot of people think of me. These aspects have helped me be a better entrepreneur and I hope, a fun wife.
Negatively, I have an incredibly easy capacity to detach immediately from any potential or perceived emotional situation. My memory is crap and in some ways I think it’s because I literally had to remove so much crap out of my head and block so many negative messages out to get through each day while growing up.