Tell us about yourself! What do you do for a living? What are your interests? What are your pronouns/ how do you identify?
Hi! My name is Valerie Padilla (she/her). I’m a student studying politics & music business. I also act on the side. Some interests of mine include coffee, USWNT, the music industry, social justice, & LGBTQ+ books (follow me @gaynovels on IG!) haha.
About how old were you when you came out? How was the climate you grew up in?
I was about 17 years old when I came out, but I was about 13 or 14 when I was first figuring out my sexuality. I am Hispanic/Latinx so I grew up in an extremely strict religious household. I went to catholic church every Sunday, had a baptism, first communion, confirmation, the whole nine yards. My parents were immigrants from Mexico so to them it was never a thing to talk about our sexuality, they just assumed me and my older sister were straight and pushed that narrative on us. When I came out my mother had a bit of trouble coming to terms with it, but with a bit of time and some more knowledge, she eventually came around.
Did you make career choices that allowed you to feel comfortable being open about your sexuality? (Are you out or feel comfortable being out at your workplace?)
This is something I am still working on. I used to worry about getting fired for making someone uncomfortable with my sexuality, but I am extremely grateful for growing up in California where my rights are protected in the workplace because I know in many other states it is not the same situation. I also tend to gravitate towards work fields that proudly support lgbtq+ issues, so I have that sense of comfort knowing I won’t be judged.
If you could tell your younger self something about yourself that you are proud of today, what would it be?
You’re going to learn to live life freely and not care about others’ perceptions of you. You’ll learn to be unapologetically yourself and be comfortable not having all the answers. It will take some rough patches and hard times but it’s going to feel so liberating, trust me.
Have you tried to surround yourself with like-minded peers/colleagues? If so, how?
Always. I learned that there are so many people out there with similar life experiences as me, not exactly the same path, but enough to where we can bond over similar themes. Social media is a huge source for finding like-minded people, of course, be careful but you truly find the best individuals once you put yourself out there.
Who were your role models growing up? What tv shows/movies allowed you to feel seen?
Growing up, I didn’t have a lot of exposure to LGBTQ+ role models. I heard about Brittany and Santana on Glee, but I didn’t feel comfortable watching them on the TV at home. As I grew older and started exploring myself more, I began to look up to people like Demi Lovato, Hayley Kiyoko, Lady Gaga, etc. and found solace in a plethora of LGBTQ+ YouTubers. Some of the first films I saw where I felt seen were, Carol, Imagine Me & You, Blue is the Warmest Color and Skam. The first book I read was Annie on my Mind by Nancy Garden (highly recommend)
If I knew that I would be proud to be completely honest with myself and open about my sexuality back when I was first figuring myself out, I would tell my younger self that it’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to not have all the answers, life isn’t linear. It’s perfectly okay to question everything and never feel ashamed for wanting to know more about anything. Seek out the people who you want to be like or you connect with. You’re going to learn so much from others. You’re going to be so proud of the fearless person you are today.