Saturday, January 15, 2022

HIGH-RISK HOMOSEXUAL, trigger warning for laughter, joy, middle finger for toxic masculinity


Soft Skull Press
$16.95 trade paper, available now


Rating: 4.5* of five

The Publisher Says: Gomez’s witty memoir follows a touching and often hilarious spiralic path to embracing his gay, Latinx identity against a culture of machismo—from his uncle’s cockfighting ring in Nicaragua to cities across the U.S.—and the bath houses, night clubs, and drag queens who helped him redefine pride.

I’ve always found the definition of machismo to be ironic, considering that pride is a word almost unanimously associated with queer people, the enemy of machistas . . . In a world desperate to erase us, queer Latinx men must find ways to hold on to pride for survival, but excessive male pride is often what we are battling, both in ourselves and in others.

A debut memoir about coming of age as a gay, Latinx man, High-Risk Homosexual opens in the ultimate anti-gay space: Edgar Gomez’s uncle’s cockfighting ring in Nicaragua, where he was sent at thirteen years old to become a man. Readers follow Gomez through the queer spaces where he learned to love being gay and Latinx, including Pulse nightclub in Orlando, a drag queen convention in Los Angeles, and the doctor’s office where he was diagnosed a “high-risk homosexual.”

With vulnerability, humor, and quick-witted insights into racial, sexual, familial, and professional power dynamics, Gomez shares a hard-won path to taking pride in the parts of himself he was taught to keep hidden. His story is a scintillating, beautiful reminder of the importance of leaving space for joy.


My Review
: What makes a memoir worth reading? This is not an idle question: I don't read many memoirs because, when I ask myself what makes *this* memoir worth expending some of my ever-shrinking supply of eyeblinks on, the answer is "not this" more often than not. Coming-of-age novels get the same call and readerly response. I, too, was a tacky young I need to know how that felt to you?

Turns out I do. This time.

We meet young Edgar in the back seat of a taxi in Nicaragua, riding along to wave his mother goodbye as she flies back to Orlando, where he is from. He's thirteen. He's clearly figured out he's queer, even if the details are...a bit hazy. But what isn't hazy, at all, is the rage and loathing that "being queer" will subject the young man to, so he does what so many do: He shuts himself, his full authentic real self, into a sealed, invisible space and just powers through whatever bullshit awaits him.

Think about that. Just stop posturing and sit with the reality that you, either through homophobic action or indifferent inaction, are requiring children, teenagers, vulnerable dependents unable to save themselves, to endure the mental-health-destroying reality of sealing away a part of themselves simply in order to survive in this world they did not make. (Yes, you did and do make the world, you adult about to click away, every time you say or silent agree with some asshole's homophobic crap.)

Edgar Gomez survived by making his sealed prison an egg, a seed, where his flamboyantly feathered and exuberantly sexual self could gestate and form. How many whose strength isn't as adamantine as his fail at this? What's the suicide rate among teens? Those are closely linked. And thankfully less often, what are the rates at which the fagbashing culture produces mass murderers? Omar Mateen? He could have, given a different amount of strength, been Edgar Gomez. The similarities between the upbringings of the two disturbs Gomez, he says explicitly.

About explicitness...the title of this memoir probably makes many of y'all wince and cringe. Now...imagine that title is instead A DIAGNOSIS and applies to you when you seek PReP meds like Truvada, potentially life-saving means of not contracting HIV. The way not to die? Be officially sick...this is the world that laughing at fag jokes and failing to challenge laws that don't apply to you because you don't much like the people they *do* apply to leads to. Failing to vote for politicians whose mandate included equal civil rights for all has led us to a place where court-mandated rights are under threat because the scumbags have finally got their pet judges, the ones who let idiotic laws like the Texas Bounty Hunter Enabling one stand, onto the Supreme Court. This is the world that a title like this one, its in-your-face "this is my reality and you no longer get to pretend you didn't know" like some 1930s German, has urgency and necessity multiplying the force of its legitimate demand for your eyeblinks and dollars.

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