Until we started working on his portrait I only knew Chris as a performer (and one of my favorites). Whether in plays, musicals, or show choir concerts, what came through for me was a confident leadership that enveloped his fellow performers in an almost invisible embrace that said, “I’m here for you, we’re going to give it our all, and we’re going to have a great time doing it.” After reading his words below, it all makes sense:
I come from a place where dreamers are advised not to dream, storytellers are told to stay silent, and hopes and dreams just seem too unrealistic. Where families disown members for small reasons, like a person’s sexual orientation or if someone decides that typical Hispanic gender norms won’t define their life.
I come from a city where children are no longer acting like children by the age of 9. Children become parents to their younger siblings or they become trapped working late-night shifts every night. They become the typical college dropouts, but not because all of the typical stereotypes. Some of these students from Lawrence have no choice but to drop out. They need to drop out because maybe their parents can’t come up with the monthly payments anymore and need some extra help to bring in money, so they take that part-time job and make it a full-time job. I know many people will look at this and think that the kids in these households need to just be kids and live their lives but that’s not possible. In Lawrence the life that your parents have is also your life, their baggage is your baggage. You will manage to tend and care for the family as long as it counts. We are more than the false accusations.
Lawrence is full of people who will fight for any possible chance they can get. Lawrence is filled with groups of people who are so damaged, but still try to find a piece of light in the darkest tunnel that is their life. There are young individuals who are constantly working and striving to make their goals seem a little closer to reach.
I am more than my past. I am more than the cuts on my body or the negativity in my brain. I am more than my bullies. I will not let someone who knows nothing about me but decides to take out their wrongful frustration on me define who I am, define who I will be.
I am more than my anxiety that rose from the fear of not being good enough, or not being worthy of anyone’s love. I am more than my depression that sometimes consumes my entire day and can drown me with thoughts that don’t feel like my own.
I am more than trying to be more.
I am myself. I am somebody who is trying to find their way and trying to escape years of living in toxins. I am somebody who can feel lost and struggle to stay on their own path, but I am also a survivor. A warrior against the million demons that live within my head and try to take over any thought this is being processed in my mind.
I will no longer hide behind my tears and pain, I will now embrace them and let them show for whoever. I am stronger than the backs turned, the dirty looks, and the broken smiles. I am Chris and I will begin to live my life for myself. I am a beautiful Latino male who expresses masculinity but also femininity. I am someone who is striving to make their dreams a reality. My dreams will always drive me forward and always push me to my goal. Any small step in the right direction is a step worth taking. Going through all of these bumps in the road helped me develop and morph into the best person I can be!
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