By Edgar Gomez
The idea of Latinidad, or “Latinness,” is an unstable one. Meant to embody a mess of cultures, languages and experiences, it inevitably falls brief, as phrases typically do. Though contested, the time period a minimum of makes an attempt to place a reputation to a hazy assortment of norms and realities, the beautiful and the ugly that collectively represent a sure concept of self. It’s largely the ugly that “Excessive-Danger Gay” is worried with, and although typically heavy, Edgar Gomez’s debut can be a breath of recent air.
The memoir recounts Gomez’s life rising up queer within the literal enviornment of obligatory masculinity: The opening chapter takes place in his uncle’s cockfighting ring in Nicaragua. Scenes of the birds sparring, their beaks and talons affixed with blades, are interspersed with these of a 13-year-old Gomez in an Orlando nightclub. On this different, no much less deadly form of enviornment, his uncle pushes him towards intercourse with a woman, the person’s former housekeeper. It’s a compelling portrait of machismo: a surveilled, violent dance.
Gomez is one thing of an alien to those rites, an unwilling participant within the obligatory spectacle of being a person. As a author, he invitations us into the chasm between what he’s anticipated to do and what he’s able to, giving himself loads of room for emotion, self-deprecation and acerbic remark on the “machistas,” or sexists, who proliferate in Latin tradition.
That is as true within the early chapters, which see a younger Gomez underneath the thumb of varied authority figures like his uncle and his mom, as it’s within the second half of the ebook, after he’s out of the closet. The banner chapter, during which his physician labels him a “high-risk gay” and places him on PrEP, finds Gomez caught in an identical bramble. “I didn’t notably really feel high-risk, however given the historical past of H.I.V. amongst queers and the disproportionate charges that it affected Latinx individuals, I couldn’t precisely say I wasn’t,” Gomez writes. “I used to be caught.”
This time, he turns to the authority of smart elder queers he’s encountered in artwork and the media, who lived by the height of the AIDS disaster in the US. “Watch out, they stated. Intercourse can kill you. Look what it did to us.” Finally these elders assume a mirror position to his uncle’s: individuals who have Gomez’s greatest pursuits at coronary heart, however whose expectations he can’t meet.
And like his uncle, this older era poses the query that runs by the guts of the ebook: What occurs after you’ve tried and did not be the correct of man? Or on this case, the correct of homosexual man? Are you able to ever be an authority determine in your individual proper?
Gomez writes with a humor and readability that typically preserve the melodrama at bay, an absolute should in a memoir which may in any other case have been a laundry listing of painful experiences. In a relatable scene that can seemingly make queer readers squirm, the creator recollects a session together with his physician during which she asks, “‘Do you favor to offer or obtain?’ … as if the query weren’t about anal however my philosophy on Christmas.”
Ever dedicated to parsing its central themes of masculinity and queer identification, “Excessive-Danger Gay” does circle again on itself a bit, the chapters teetering on uniformity. Gomez’s voice is equal elements heat and acid wit, like a very good pal you’re barely afraid of, however there are occasions in the midst of a passage the place you’ll really feel what he’s going to say earlier than he says it.
These minor complaints do little to boring the shine of an thrilling debut from an creator with a uncommon standpoint. “Excessive-Danger Gay” offers with some titanic questions. What’s Latinidad? What’s machismo? What does it imply to be a person, by no means thoughts a queer man? By its personal admission, the ebook doesn’t have all of the solutions, but it surely makes a compelling case that they’ll come from the razor-sharp queers dwelling within the margins.