Rebecca Gitana Torres Shares Her Story at Aviation High School

Coming out as bisexual has never been easy – bisexuals experience discrimination (and disbelief) from straight and gay peers alike. LGBTQ Latino teens in particular report having difficulty in finding acceptance from their families. So to support the teens at Aviation High School in Queens, Live Out Loud brought lifestyle & interior designer Rebecca Gitana Torres to share her journey of coming out as bisexual.

Through its partnership with Live Out Loud, the gay-straight alliance at Aviation High School has grown from about 4 consistent students to 18, with an increasing amount of young men – a rare accomplishment for a high school GSA. The growth has given students the opportunity to hear a wider range of viewpoints in the program segments that allow for personal sharing and discussion.

Rebecca Gitana Torres and the students immediately clicked. Her story resonated with the students, many of whom also identify as bisexual. Growing up in church and being the daughter of a Pastor, she was taught that “the Gays” were sinful and that any relationship other than a man and woman being together and in love was sinful. She hid her feelings for a very long time, thinking they were a shameful part of her she had to shed.

After forgiving her father in her 20s for verbal and physical abuse in her teens and for betraying her family by starting a relationship with another woman, Rebecca was ready to share her true life with him. She told him that if she was able to forgive him and still show him love, he should be able to accept her lifestyle and choices.

One source of strength for Rebecca was her younger brother Michael Torres, who participated in Live Out Loud programs in high school and won our Scholarship in 2011 for his LGBTQ activism. Once Michael came out, their bond grew stronger. Many students were shocked to hear that Rebecca had a gay brother, but they could relate to the importance of having a role model in one’s life.

After Rebecca shared her story, students discussed the importance of coming out. One student in particular related strongly to Rebecca’s story, saying she feels she can never come out as bisexual to her father. Another student shared her own coming out story, saying  she had to do so in an aggressive manner to gain her parents’ acceptance.

Some students expressed frustration at people who hold anti-LGBTQ beliefs, while other students attributed these beliefs to culture: “It doesn’t make them bad people–we all grow up a certain way with beliefs and values.” Rebecca and Alex LaCasse, Manager of Youth Programming, stressed to students that it takes time for older generations to understand what it means to be LGBTQ. “We have to give them the time they need as well,” Rebecca told students. “The same way we want our families to understand us we have to understand how they were raised and be respectful of their feelings. If we want love and understanding, we have to give love and understanding. Besides – as a teenager, we still have time to figure ourselves out and our sexuality shouldn’t be our only focus or our only way of defining who we are.”

Rebecca was impressed with Aviation students: “This particular group of students was so insightful and wise for their years. I also really enjoyed the warm-up session and love how we all built trust as a group so quickly.”

Aviation’s GSA advisor was also appreciative of LIve Out Loud’s partnership: “Having [Live Out Loud] there really allows the group to feel more cohesive and more like a group that is fighting for something important.  Rebecca was a wonderful person to bring to the group.  I think because she was so open about her own struggle, it allowed students to reciprocate with their own honesty.”

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