Growing up in Florida, with roots in Puerto Rico and Nicaragua, Edgar Gomez was confronted very early in his life by a culture of machismo—a glorified, aggressive masculine pride. Within such a culture, “men must marry, spawn children, and head their households.” If it weren’t for his queerness, Gomez writes, “which made many of the benefits awarded to men who uphold machismo unappealing, I would have likely accepted them without question.” With alternating notes of gut-wrenching emotion and humor, High-Risk Homosexual chronicles not only Gomez’s coming-of-age and coming out, but also his choppy navigation of a culture and family that refused to accept him.
Much of Gomez’s memoir recounts his struggles to find guides to help him growing up, gay and Latinx in a world that often violently rejected gay men. His mother and stepfather couldn’t live with the thought that Gomez was gay. His uncles tried to “reform” him by setting him up with a woman one night after a cockfight. Along the way, Gomez found solace in conversations with trans women in Nicaragua, with people in the Castro District in San Francisco and with drag queens at gay clubs in Miami and Orlando—including at Pulse, before the shootings that killed 49 people and wounded 53.
It was when he visited his college health clinic that he was dubbed a “high-risk homosexual” for sleeping with more than two sexual partners a week—a label he knew would not be applied to people who had a similar number of opposite-sex partners per week—and given pills to mitigate HIV. When he learned that taking the pills might be more dangerous than the disease, he dumped them down the toilet and vowed to “live a life that acknowledges [AIDS] as a possible outcome.” Gomez concludes that “what you do when you’re not afraid anymore is the same thing you do when you are: keep going.”
In High-Risk Homosexual, Gomez’s incandescent prose flickers with an intensity that illuminates his insecurities, his disappointments and his courage.