The ambulance was waiting when I arrived. Not having a clue how bad it would be, I arranged before leaving for Venezuela to have one standing by. I feared my mother would have a heart attack when she heard my news. Fernando lived in a really funky part of Porlamar on Margarita Island, which was just off the coast. He had married the most amazing woman, Mary, and they had one child by then. It was close to Christmas, so my mom was there for her. I wanted to talk to her face to face, and I wanted her to be the first person in my family I spoke to upon arrival.
Other than that one press report, which attempted to out me when I was with Sandra, I had successfully hidden my sexuality in Venezuela despite my popularity there. If my mom already knew, she had clearly respected me enough not to push me or ask me. She never said a word.
I went upstairs to the apartment and felt a little at ease when the smell of cooking hit me right away, welcoming me home. My mom made sweet bread, pan dulce. It had always been one of her favorite things. She grilled it and put butter and cheese on it. She must have made it for my brother because they loved it too. That smell, it made me feel safe.
Before even taking off my jacket or dropping my things, I told my mother to sit down, that we had to talk. We were in the living room. It was late, so my brother and his wife were already in their bedroom.
We sat down beside each other on the couch. It was dimly lit, the tree in the corner illuminating the room. I could have changed my mind, as I had so many times before. I was so nervous but determined. This time was different from all the times before when I’d only pretended to consider telling the truth. Being afraid wasn’t a good enough excuse. There was no way back and no other way to handle the situation.
So after taking a deep breath, I just said, “Mamá, it’s true. I am gay.” Those were the only words that came out.
There was silence inside the apartment, so for a moment I listened to what was outside, briefly wishing I were out there with it. I heard distant firecrackers, which were common at that time of the year. I waited for my mom to say something, listening to all the popping sounds instead, interrupted once by a car blasting loud, strong salsa music. The music faded in, then out, as the car passed. Then my mother broke the silence in the room as she started to cry. Panic set in. My mom, she didn’t express herself very much. She was a proud woman, stoic, so I wasn’t sure if she’d say anything, or if I’d ever even know what she was thinking at that moment, or how she felt about my news. Wayuu people don’t reveal themselves too much. Indigenous women, they are very quiet and shy. They don’t look you in the eye sometimes because they’re so shy. So when she finally did look up to speak, after a minute had passed, I knew it was a big thing for her.
“My poor daughter. I can only imagine how hard it must have been for you all these years—all these years trying to tell me something and not being able to do it,” she said as she held my hand.
I was overwhelmed by her peace and sense of calm, not to mention how giving and loving she was being at that moment. It was simply amazing. I was so moved by her words.
“I don’t understand, it’s true. I can’t tell you that I ever will,” she said. “It’s hard for me to understand that world, but I’m here for you and I love you.”
Cherished words. It must have been so difficult for her to say them, as a Latina woman, as an indigenous woman. I also vividly remember the happiness I felt when I looked down through the window from the sixth floor and the ambulance, as directed by a quick call on my part, pulled away, reminding me that things would be okay, that the truth was okay. What was funny was that I heard a gunshot when I looked out, as we often did there, and I told my mother to stay back away from the window, just in case. No point in her surviving my news only to get shot by a stray bullet from the streets.
Excerpted from Straight Walk: A Supermodel's Journey to Finding Her Truth by Patricia Velasquez.