Brian Pacheco is good-looking, smart, articulate and self-assured. But his confident demeanor comes after years of heartache as he struggled to reconcile his identity as a gay man in the Latino community. And his journey – which is characterized by the prevalence of negative stereotypes and cruel jokes made by family members mocking gay people – is the subject of a new documentary, “Gay Latino LA: Coming of Age.”
“Gay Latino LA” documents the lives of three young Latino gay men – Carlos, a gay gangster from South Los Angeles, Alex, an undocumented hipster and Brian, a recent graduate from East Hollywood – and how they each explore their sexuality and identity within the framework of the Latino community.
“I truly believe the documentary was put in my path so that I could realize my fullest potential,” says Pacheco, who now works as a media strategist at GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) in Los Angeles. “The world surrounding me taught me it wasn’t okay to be gay, and this made it hard to accept myself even years after having initially come out to myself.”
Pacheco learned about the casting call for the documentary through Facebook in 2009 shortly after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley. Suffering from what Pacheco calls “post-graduation blues” but willing to explore his insecurities, fears, doubts and resentments as a Salvadoran gay man, he decided to open up his life to filmmaker Jonathan Menendez.
“The cameras made me very, very nervous to the point where I thought no one would understand my story, when all I wanted was to be understood,” confesses Pacheco. And the physical presence of the camera forced Pacheco to be open about his sexual orientation to his family; something he had evaded to the point of painful secrecy. Even his mother, with whom now Pacheco has a very close relationship, had no idea of his sexuality.
“When I started filming I hadn’t yet come out to my mother, so I had to be evasive and come up with lies about where I was going,” explains the 24-year-old. “Even though I had wanted to come out to my mother for years, I didn’t due to my—frankly, irrational—fear of rejection, when I knew for a fact, and in my heart, that she would totally accept me.
The independent film has hit a chord with Angelenos, raising over $18,000 from the community as well as from a triple-digit number of independent businesses and organizations.
“This is a story that’s meant to be a positive, but accurate representation of what gay Latinos go through,” says Menendez, who recalled his own coming out experience as deeply traumatic and painful. “If I can help our society with this film, then I’ve achieved what I dreamed of.”
“Gay Latino LA” was recently screened in Mexico City to a crowd of about 40 people as part of Mexico City’s only LGBT film festival, to rave reviews, and will be screened Tuesday at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center. Pacheco hopes that the film will be picked up for distribution at the Sundance Film Festival — an opportunity that he says will allow him to realize his greatest purpose.
“The message I wanted to communicate to viewers of the film is that it is difficult to have courage when there is so much to fear,” says Pacheco.
“But courage is the only thing we have to make the world a better place for ourselves, our families, friends, brothers and sisters around the world.”