Jesús Alvarado remembers the day he knew he was different. His family would get together for dinner and watch telenovelas. One day when he was about seven years old, his father commented on how beautiful an actress was.
"In my mind as a kid I could remember I would always say I don't find them attractive, but they're not ugly," Alvarado said. "I found the men attractive. Why don't we talk about that?"
Alvarado, a USC graduate student majoring in journalism, came out to his family on June 26, 2015—the same day the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage. He said he came out that day because he felt inspired.
Today marks the 30th anniversary of National Coming Out Day for the LGBT community in the United States. While this day is celebrated in the U.S. with a national day, many countries around the world make it hard for members of the LGBTQ community to come out publicly.
There are 71 countries where homosexual activity and same-sex marriage is still illegal, according to Equaldex, on data regarding the LGBT community. Most of these countries are in the Middle East, Africa and Asia.
In an article by Archer Magazine, Asiel Adan Sanchez writes about the "whiteness" of coming out and how non-white communities do not often benefit from this idea.
"When so much of queer visibility is grounded in white history – white bodies and white gatekeepers – we have to question who benefits from coming out," Sanchez writes, referring to the mainstream queer narrative around the late Harvey Milk and the gay liberation movement of the '70s.
Alvarado always agreed with this idea. As a gay brown man, he said that he never saw a narrative that talks to queer people of color or the queer people of color who were part of the gay liberation movement, such as Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera – two trans women of color who were instrumental to the birth of the gay civil rights movement.
He witnessed this erasure when he went to his first pride event in 2017 in San Francisco.
"All of the people that I saw were white," he said. "I felt like I didn't belong even though I wanted to be a part of this community."
Michael Gorse, Center Supervisor at the LGBT Resource Center at USC, said that one of the reasons many international LGBT students come to the U.S. is to live their lives to the fullest extent.
"In their home countries they might not have always been able to express themselves because of religious [and] governmental prosecution [because] it's still illegal to be LGBT," Gorse said. "Sometimes it's punishable even by death. [They] come here to escape that prosecution."
Amanda Liaw, a USC international student from Singapore, said that she feels more free to express her queerness in the United States.
"The U.S. is a place that I've come to love a lot more because freedom of speech is respected here and part of the constitution," Liaw said. "Not something I'm used to."
Queerness and sexual orientation continue to be taboo in Singapore, Liaw said.
In Singapore there is law Section 377A, a provision that criminalizes public and private consensual sex between men. Activists in Singapore are fighting to repeal the law after seeing India strike down a similar law in September.
This culture of homophobia is a reason queer people from communities of color within the U.S. can feel isolated. In the Latinx community, some families—specifically religious ones—often view queerness as diabolic.
Alvarado said he was afraid to come out to his parents because he knew it would disappoint them. As the first son in the family, he said he felt the pressure to reflect his father's masculinity.
His intersectionality as a gay brown man has influenced what National Coming Out Day means to him. This day represents the visibility that the whole global LGBT community has, he said.
It's also a reminder for those who haven't come out yet that they are not alone.
"[We] shouldn't see this day as a pressure to come out," he said."So take it slowly, don't rush. It happens when it happens."