I have a tattoo that says “Made In Puerto Rico.” I’m proud of being Puerto Rican. For one thing, the island is progressive when it comes to acceptance of the LGBTQI community. My family had no problem accepting the fact that I was gay. Some of the kids that I’ve hung out with that come from El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala—their parents all think being gay is a mental disorder.
I recently came to D.C. to make a fresh start. I’m twenty-five and I’d been in Kissimmee, Florida, pretty much my whole life. I was just sick and tired of it. I wanted to go somewhere and make new memories, meet new people, and just start everything brand new. D.C. has a lot of universities, so I figured it would be a prime place for me to go to school, as compared to central Florida. I want to study biology and then go to medical school.
The first time I moved out on my own I was nineteen, and basically everything that could go wrong did. I mean, my car broke down. I didn’t have money. I was living off noodles. I was diagnosed with HIV and was in the hospital for a while. Everything went horribly. And when I came back home, my mom said, “I told you so.” But when it came to moving to D.C., I was just like, “Well if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it.” So I did.
If you look at all the young people who are having sex, I would be willing to bet over ninety percent of them have at some point engaged in unprotected sex. So I haven’t done anything different than most of my peers. It’s just that there’s a higher percentage of HIV in the gay community, which put me at a higher risk. A white girl in South Dakota might sleep with twenty guys and get chlamydia. However, because I live in a more populated area in Florida—which is the state with the third-highest HIV rates—I could sleep with two people and one of those two might end up being HIV-positive.
I always felt like I was swimming against the current of life, that life was full of hardships and I was being pushed back. But since I’ve been to D.C., even though my life is sometimes a chaotic mess, I feel like I’m in the right place, at the right time.