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Catholic parents learn to love their queer child

Jonny Sweets is a 24-year-old, nonbinary, queer, Latinx from Los Angeles. Growing up Catholic, his Mexican parents taught him modesty and chastity. However, today Sweets prioritizes his own happiness.

“As a queer nonbinary Latino, it throws off your parents when you start wearing makeup and acrylic nails to go out with your friends,” he said. ”It’s taken them a while to realize being queer is not a phase.”

Sweets came out to his parents for the first time when he was 16 and they responded with acceptance, but their acceptance came with conditions.

Once, after a trip to New York, Sweets tried giving his father a keychain he’d bought as a souvenir.

“He refused my gift because I was handing it to him with long, blue, acrylic nails,” Sweets said. “This was last year.”

Femininity, make-up and overt gayness offended his parents while he was under their roof, so Sweets obeyed.

One Sunday, his First Communion teacher inadvertently eased Sweets’ anxiety about coming out.

She told their class that “no matter what anyone else tells you, even if the Bible may say one thing, there is no reason to treat certain people badly for who they are.”

Sweets said he felt comforted then.

“I knew I wasn’t stealing, killing or being a bad human, so why would I go to hell if I’m being the kindest person I can be?” Sweets said. “Some straight people are terrible, why do they get guaranteed into heaven?”

When he was 16, his Catholic godparents talked to Sweets’ parents about his coming out, hoping to ease them into accepting him.

“They asked my parents if they had ever thought about how I felt or what I was going through,” he said. “Just because my godparents are religious it didn’t mean they were going to spread hate.”

This eased tension in the family and set a new rule: “The whole family knew by then and so my parents made it clear to them: if they said anything offensive, my parents would defend me in an instant.”

Sweets acknowledged his privilege of having a loving, accepting family as many LGBTQ+ youth do not. But times are changing, and so is the Latinx culture.

“As homosexuality is normalized in Latin America, a lot of Latinos feel more at ease with gay people. You have influencers, celebrities and even famous actors who have come out,” Sweets said. “Being gay isn’t such a strange thing anymore.”

Sweets said he is hopeful that his blossoming and flourishing as a person will continue to inspire his family.

“I broke some generational curse, like a pattern of homophobia in my family and now they’re accepting and slowly leaving behind their old ways of thinking,” he said. “They know I’m the same person I’ve always been, I’m just attracted to men.”

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