Being friends with my 18-year-old nephew on Facebook has meant getting used to things like status updates that start with the word “um,” self-portraits taken in his private studio – also known as his bathroom – and YouTube links that make his aunt marvel over our youth’s usage of free time.
That’s why I flinched last week when he showed up in my news feed, mentioning President Barack Obama. Considering the background, however, it made perfect sense. Alejandro will vote for the first time this year. Not just because he’s of age, but because he has a cause.
Watching him grow up has been anything but typical. The adults are supposed to know more than the children in the family. But, when you know something as intimate as their sexuality before they do, it makes time a highly sensitive matter. Would he realize it this year? Would his peers? How would he come out and when?
Here’s how the timeline of Alejandro’s sexual orientation and President Obama’s political career led to one pivotal moment for both of them last week.
■ Alejandro is born in 1993, the same year President Bill Clinton enacts “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and a year after Barack Obama graduates from Harvard Law.
■ The year Obama begins a failed run for Congress, 1999, Alejandro starts kindergarten. His playmates all have one thing in common: pigtails.
■ In 2003, Obama begins a run for U.S. Senate and Alejandro takes to clicking around the house in his mother’s high heels.
■ Obama delivers the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 and is later elected to the Senate. In September, he’s asked about gay marriage and says, “I do believe that tradition, and my religious beliefs say that marriage is something sanctified between a man and a woman.” Around the same time, Alejandro decides the boys on the playground are too aggressive for him and resumes playing house with the girls at recess.
■ By the sixth grade, in 2006, Alejandro finds himself attracted to a Nickelodeon kid on TV and thinks nothing of it. In October of that year, Obama contemplates a run for the presidency.
■ Seventh grade proves a difficult time for Alejandro in 2007. Kids start teasing him, calling him a girl. He goes through a four-month period where he tells himself he’s gay one day and straight the next. Politicians call this flip-flopping.
■ In 2008, Obama becomes president and Alejandro comes to terms with his sexuality. His mom discovers as much through the social media site myYearbook.com. She confronts her son and he casually says, “Yeah, um, I’m gay.” She replies, “I know.” The Garza family collectively exhales. In April, President Obama is quoted as saying “I’m not in favor of gay marriage, but I’m in favor of a very strong civil union.”
■ Alejandro gets his first boyfriend in 2009, the same year kids introduce him to a new “F” word.
■ He looks at high school as a fresh start. In 2010, he gets a radical hairdo that resembles the shape and color of peacock feathers. He later calls it an attempt to be known as the “kid with the crazy hair” instead of the “gay kid.” Similar to Alejandro’s hair, President Obama says in December that his feelings on gay marriage are “a struggle” and “constantly evolving.”
■ In 2011, his junior year of high school, Alejandro auditions for and makes his school’s dance team. His hair tames. He looks and feels like himself.
■ In February of 2012, Alejandro posts Jason Castro’s cover of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” to Facebook and writes, “I want this song to be sung at my wedding.” On May 9, President Obama makes history when he says on national TV, “I think same-sex couples should be able to get married.” Later that day, Alejandro updates his status: “I love you even more Obama.”
And, that’s how an 18-year-old kid in 2012 takes an interest in politics. Alejandro graduates from high school in two weeks and starts college in the fall. He will major in mathematics and minor in engineering.
He has the next 10 or so years of his timeline all figured out.
“Around my late 20s or early 30s, I see myself living in a nice apartment with one or two kids,” he says. “And an awesome husband.”
Contact columnist Xazmin Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0477.
Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.