Staying in the closet robbed PAC graduate of meeting new people

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Ronda Calvillo, PAC and University of Texas at San Antonio graduate, told her coming-out story at Dave and Busters Sept. 28. Calvillo hid her sexual orientation from her family until the age of 19, but did not fully come out to friends until she was 25.  Photo Pam Paz

Ronda Calvillo, PAC and University of Texas at San Antonio graduate, told her coming-out story at Dave and Busters Sept. 28. Calvillo hid her sexual orientation from her family until the age of 19, but did not fully come out to friends until she was 25. Photo Pam Paz

The Human Rights Campaign offers resources to people who need help coming out.

By Pam Paz

ppaz2@student.alamo.edu

People have different preferences: chocolate to vanilla, rock music to country and day to night.

Ronda Calvillo, who earned an associate of art from Palo Alto College in 2002 and a bachelor of art in psychology from the University of Texas at San Antonio in 2006, prefers women to men.

At 5-years old she realized she was attracted to the same sex, but knew it was not socially accepted. A physical education teacher at Calvillo’s Catholic school saw her kissing girls at recess and called her mother because she was concerned, she said during an interview Sept. 28.

“My mom had a talk with me, sat me down and told me what the teacher said, and I said, ‘I did, we were playing,’ but I knew by the look on her face, by her tone, that she though it wasn’t right,” said Calvillo, a 35-year -old operations manager for the local retailer HEB.

Calvillo told her twin sister about her sexuality for the first time when she was 13 years old.

Though her twin kept her secret, Calvillo said the stress of hiding her sexuality was difficult during high school.

“I put up fronts, had boyfriends and went on dates just so my friends wouldn’t speculate,” she said.

It was not until 1999 when she was 19 that she came out to her family. She said she felt a sense of relief when she told them because they were supportive and she was finally able to introduce girlfriends to her family.

However, she still hid it from her friends, causing her anxiety.

“I had a lot of anxiety because I was dating women and hiding it,” Calvillo said.

There was an unspoken rule between her and the women she dated that she would keep it a secret.

“I would make it known that I wasn’t out, and so the women I’d date were forced back in the closet, even though they were already out,” she said. “That was depressing in itself because it never worked out.”

Calvillo said if someone asked about girlfriends, she became defensive.

“People have this stigma about gay people … that we don’t have any standards and we’ll chase anyone,” she said.

When she finally came out at 25, she said,“It was like being cured of cancer, I think at some point, I just allowed people to assume I was gay because I was who I was, and it became the norm.”

She said “being in the closet” robbed her of opportunities and fear kept her from being happy.

“It’s like I didn’t develop my wings till I jumped,” she said.

Though social norms are changing, it’s still difficult for some to accept difficulties, Calvillo said.

Calvillo said young people often seek her advice on coming out. She said the experience of coming out gets gradually better and easier, but people should only do it when they are ready.

“I would never encourage anyone to come out until they are ready,” she said.

Suppressing sexual orientation can lead to losing who you are, she said.

The Human Rights Campaign,  is the largest national civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans.

The organization represents a force of more than 1.5 million members and supporters nationwide — all committed to making HRC’s vision a reality, according to their website.

Calvillo said people who identify as gay or lesbian should feel encouraged by how far the gay community has come in recent years.

Though gay marriage is still not legal in Texas, Calvillo said she feels optimistic about the future.

She said she wants her future family to have the same health, retirement , and death benefits, for example, as straight families.

Her biggest regret is denying herself happiness, wasting time by hiding who she was and not giving herself the opportunity to find the right person.

“Here I am at 35, and I’m still single,” she said.

Though she is not in a relationship, she said if the right person came along, she would be willing to take a chance.

Visit www.hrc.org/campaigns/coming-out-center.

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