Baylor student shares good and bad experiences as a member of LGBTQIA+ community

Andrea Perez shared her experiences with her LGBTQIA+ identity and how it has impacted herself and her relationships. Katy Mae Turner | Photographer

By Samantha Garza | News Writer

Coming out to family and friends is not always easy, Houston junior Andrea Perez said. Sometimes it takes courage and bravery, and other times, it requires sacrifice and luck.

Although she said she prefers to not label herself as of right now, Perez came out as gay to her immediate family a year ago. While some cultures have slowly progressed and evolved, others still hold very traditional and stigmatized beliefs regarding the LGBTQIA+ community.

The LGBTQIA+ community has been a steadfast growing group the past few years. Slowly, members of the community all over the world have tried to normalize the idea of homosexuality in different cultures, societies and religions.

“It was a little bit difficult [coming out], just coming from like a Mexican family and being the first one to come out,” Perez said. “Not all of my family knows; all of my immediate family knows, but the extended ones don’t really know. It’s not like I’m hiding it. It’s just keeping the peace.”

Since coming out, Perez said she and her mom have been working on their relationship and have come a long way.

“There’s a lot of homophobia within the culture and just like jokes within the culture that I think she just didn’t know any of the stereotypes,” Perez said.

She said it was tough to receive questions and comments from her parents such as “How are you gay? You’re just so feminine” and “You like masculine girls? Oh, you just like boys. You’re confused.”

“I’ve had to just understand that it’s just her not understanding and not knowing,” Perez said.

She said compared to some people, her coming out story was relatively easy. She said she has had friends who have been kicked out of their homes or shunned by their families.

“My parents just said, ‘We don’t agree with it, but like, we love you. It’s not your choice, and we get it,’” Perez said.

She said one of the reasons her mom changed her mind and began to give her more support was her girlfriend. She said that watching her girlfriend’s distress after coming out to her family was an eye-opener for her mom.

On the other hand, when coming out to her dad, Perez said there wasn’t much initial tension.

“Also, I don’t really poke at it because I don’t want to hear something that I don’t like and it affects our relationship,” Perez said. “We just have a mutual understanding that if they want to know something, they’ll ask. But I don’t want to be the one to bring it up.”

Perez said the list of people she has not come out to in her own family include her grandparents — something requested by her mom.

“It hurts to hear your mom say, ‘Don’t say that yet,’ but it’s just one of those things where you have to pick your battles,” Perez said.

She said growing up in the Mexican culture and being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community has forced her to develop a thick skin. Since she was little, her mom has always taught her that not everyone is going to agree with her, but that does not mean she has to change who she is.

“I’m just accepting that one day, one of the happiest days of somebody’s life — which is getting married — I might not have all my family there,” Perez said. “I might not have all of my friends there, just because they don’t agree with it.”

Although Baylor is Christian and has had controversial views on gay marriage in the past, Perez said it had always been her dream school.

As a first-generation American and first-generation student, Perez said she had a lot to prove not only to herself but also to her parents. Despite knowing Baylor has a small LGBTQIA+ community, she said she wanted to be able to say that she got into Baylor, is getting good grades and is persevering.

“I liked the fact that I was going to be able to learn how to be in an environment where not everyone agrees with me,” Perez said.

Perez said because she is “straight passing,” she has never personally experienced any hate comments or negativity from anyone in the Baylor community. However, she said she has heard homophobic comments from other Baylor students about the LGBTQIA+ community.

“People will say things, and they don’t assume like ‘Oh this person might have a girlfriend,’ or they don’t assume ‘Oh this person might be part of the LGBT community,’ because that’s just not the first thought that people go to,” Perez said.

On campus, Perez serves as the social chair for PRISM — an LGBTQIA+ friendly and inclusive group.

“I have friends here at Baylor that say, ‘My extended family will never know because my life will be in danger if I tell them,’ so they have to hide who they are,” Perez said. “PRISM has been a really good place for them to just go to.”

Perez said even though Baylor has made progress in becoming more inclusive — such as by allowing organizations like PRISM to be chartered — there is still a long way to go.

“The fact that whenever we take pictures and we say, ‘Oh and by the way, this might be posted,’ and then people might not want to get their picture taken anymore, just makes me sad,” Perez said.

Perez said she was excited to join PRISM because she wanted to show Baylor that people like her exist on campus and need their voices to be heard too.

“Life’s tough, but what somebody thinks of you does not mean that you are that,” Perez said. “And if somebody has something bad to say and they are coming from a point of faith, just know that Jesus loved everybody, and your relationship with God and Jesus has nothing to do with what other people have to say.”