In Latin cultures, machismo is defined by pride, physical strength and power, but 22-year-old Abel Gomez Jr. takes pride in something else: his queer identity. It wasn’t always this way, Gomez kept his attraction to males a secret from his father until a couple of years ago.
This Friday, Gomez will be reciting a three-minute poem about his struggles with masculinity at the CockTales: Fathers and Sons event being held in the McKenna Theatre at 7 p.m. This is CockTales’ fourth year running, it is hosted by SF State’s The SAFE Place and was designed to provide a space where men could share their stories and wounds surrounding masculinity.
Gomez said that his father is the epitome of machismo, he loves to watch sports, play billiards and works out when he isn’t busy with his job at the cemeteries in Colma. Coming out to his father wasn’t easy, but in the end Gomez said it was worth it.
“It was scary, probably one of the scariest experiences of my life and at the same time I knew I had to do it, because I’m worth it,” Gomez said. “It felt amazing afterwards, it was such a relief to let go of something I have been holding onto my whole life.”
In his poem he will be performing at CockTales,”To My Father,” Gomez discusses what he calls transgenerational traumas, which are the wounds surrounding masculinity that have been passed down from one generation of his family to the next.
Gomez is determined that those traumas end with him. By using tools such as his spirituality, meditation and poetry he has learned how to express and overcome his wounds.
Although Gomez said that his relationship with his father is not ideal, he can still feel the love his father strives to give him. He doesn’t fully understand his son’s sexuality, but is learning to accept it.
“There is a side of him that’s so sweet and is unafraid to be vulnerable, which I think is actually a really fundamental step in healing our fragmented masculinity,” Gomez said.
Healing from and reexamining masculinity is the primary reason that CockTales was created by Ismael de Guzman, a prevention education specialist at SF State’s The SAFE Place. De Guzman has known Gomez for about a year now through other students and so he approached him and asked him to do a piece for the event.
“He has just an amazing energy about him and so from the perspective of creating male allyship, really honoring men’s stories and acknowledging all of our experiences, I felt like he was perfect for the show,” de Guzman said.
Gomez is one of 14 people who will be getting up and sharing their experiences of their fathers and fatherhood through poetry and song. Other performers include a transgender male who will be sharing his experience of changing from a mother to a father, one female performer and her relationship with her parents and 23-year-old Bay Area community performer and poet, Yosimar Reyes.
Reyes will be performing a piece at CockTales for the second year in a row. This year he will be reading a poem he wrote about his grandfather who raised him. For Reyes, having a space where issues of masculinity and patriarchy are discussed is really important for the community because he said that these characteristics of society lead to cycles of violence.
“Patriarchy is something that’s really rooted deep into the American consciousness, I feel that people need to start recognizing and acknowledging that it is a system of oppression,” Reyes said.
Reyes enjoyed CockTales last year because he said several audience members approached him after the event to thank him for sharing his story. He looks forward to getting up on stage again this year and performing a new piece.
This will be Gomez’s first year at CockTales. He is looking forward to performing his poem in front of an audience and his dad who is planning to be there. He believes that learning to accept the problems life gives you is a part of learning and growing as a person.
“It’s like the way pearls are made, the oyster gets a little piece of sand and instead of pushing it out, it takes it in absorbs it and then turns it into this beautiful product,” Gomez said. “I find that instead of pushing away these traumas and these things that are so scary we can step into them, embrace them, make love to them in a poetic sense and then they turn into pearls, an amazing blessing and gift.”