“I am gay” were the three most difficult words that I had to say in my entire life, but it was the best way to start my journey to reconnect to myself. My name is Antonio Rivadeneira, I was born and raised in a small town in the Coast of Ecuador and I am a proud gay man.
My journey started when I was a little kid; I always felt different from the other boys and my interests included hobbies that according to “social stereotypes” were not made for boys. Because I started being bullied for being “different”, I decided at an early age to lock the real me in the closet. Due to my religion, I denied for almost 20 years my sexual orientation and I was convinced that the only way to be happy was forcing myself to be straight and that being gay will stop me to find happiness.
I was still in the closet when I attended my first gay parade in Canada. It was very emotional to observe how the LGBT+ community was accepted, cheered and not judged; the best part of the parade was to see how young families brought their children to teach them about acceptance, diversity and to be happy for who they really are. The parade not only opened my eyes, also made me realize that being gay was not a curse, it was a blessing and that I could live a happy life as a gay man.
After being reconnected with myself, it was time to come out to my family and friends; my sister Nancy was the first one to know and as I expected, she was supportive and always said the perfect words to make me feel safe and proud of myself. My parents and brother were next; at the beginning it was very hard for them to accept the fact that I was gay but because they saw me as happy and proud, as I had never been, they do not only accepted me, they also started admiring my courage. Finally, my friends in Ecuador and Canada were the last one to know, they were also supportive and I am very glad to keep calling them friends.
It is almost 2020 and my journey still goes, however I am not alone anymore as I have a great man by my side me that I can proudly call him husband; Jim has became my main pillar and we are always there to cheer each other. My parents and siblings love him and proud it call him “brother”. We hope to be an example for the rest of the world and to show that LGBT+ couples can have a happy life.
I hope that by sharing my personal journey, I can encourage people to start loving for who they really are, to live without disguises and to live the happy life they deserve.