When I first came out of the closet after being in a heteronormative marriage, my therapist gave me a book called “Ins & Outs of Gay Sex.” It contained practical information. Advice a newly out gay guy could find helpful about sex. Yes, sex is part of being queer but there are other aspects of being queer we need help navigating in a heterocentric world. I wanted a manual about all aspects of being queer, which is why I drew a flurry of exclamation points around a sentence in Edgar Gomez’s stunning memoir, “High-Risk Homosexual.” The sentence: “As I came of age, I longed for a guide to teach me how to navigate being a queer Latinx man.” This is a queer book for queer people. One we need no matter where we are in our queer journey. And it’s a powerful and entertaining resource to have.
“High-Risk Homosexual” reads briskly because of Gomez’s electric voice. He invites the reader to be witness to both the challenges and joys of being queer. From time to time, there is chatter about queer stories moving beyond the tragic aspects to only focus on queer joy. While I totally agree that we need queer stories that show the full experience of being queer, focusing only on the happy stories is another kind of erasure. Many queer people still need to hide for job, safety and/or family reasons. Gomez vividly paints scenes of his family’s attempts to banish his queerness, queer friends who distance themselves after rejecting their own queerness or Gomez’s femininity, and the violence directed at the queer community. Gomez grew up in Orlando. He frequented the Pulse nightclub but had moved to California before a gunman killed forty-nine people at the club. At one point, Gomez says, “That’s how I defined queerness: consequences.”
Gomez is a sensitive writer curious about other people, their motivations. How he does this with his mother, her resistance to his queerness, and the complexity of their relationship is a true highlight of the book. A less tender writer might have simply made her a villain.
Homophobia has not gone quietly into the night. Ignoring something, as mainstream media tends to do, doesn’t mean it’s gone. But as Gomez shows both the hardships and loveliness of queer life, he gives space for happiness, humor, beauty and sensuality throughout the book. He attends RuPaul’s Dragcon, and notices it’s the first time since the Pulse attack that he’d been to a place “surrounded by happy queer people, in a place where nothing bad had happened…” Gomez celebrates queerness and honors the queer people we’ve lost.
He ends the book, his wonderful narrative queer manual, with, “What you do when you’re not afraid anymore is the same thing you do when you are: keep going.”
Yes, let’s keep going.
By Edgar Gomez
Soft Skull, 304 pages
Bruce Owens Grimm is a queer ghost nerd based in Chicago. He’s the co-editor of Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives published in May 2021 by Jessica Kingsley Publishers. He attended the 2021 Tin House Winter Workshop. PEN America awarded him an emergency grant for writers whose income was impacted by COVID-19. He is a Pushcart nominee for his essay, “Inventory of a Haunted House, No.4” originally published by Sweet Lit and republished by Creative Nonfiction’s Sunday Short Reads. You can follow him on Twitter: @bruceowensgrimm.