When Emily Estefan came out to her mom, Gloria Estefan, it seemed to be a simple and happy story. Afterall, Gloria is a vivid champion of LGBTQ+ rights. Unfortunately, as with most coming out stories, Emily had to go through a complex journey full of hardship and anxiety. Now, in an episode of “Real Table Talk: The Estefans,” she and her mother are sharing their story as a source of inspiration to others.
In 2017, Emily announced publicly that she had a same sex relationship, and while her mother was a “fierce supporter of the LGBTQ+ community,” as Emily told Entertainment Weekly, she was extremely anxious to come out due to “complex emotions involved.”
These complex emotions derived from Emily’s conservative maternal grandmother, Gloria Fajardo.
“I was like, ‘Hey, I’m in love with this girl.’ The first thing she said was ‘If you tell your grandma and she dies, her blood is on your hands.’”
Although it is traumatic, family members disapproval is the reality for so many people in the LGBTQ+ community when they come out of the closet. In fact, according to a 2012 study conducted by the Williams Institute at UCLA Law, “46 percent of homeless LGBT youths ran away because of family rejection of their sexual orientation or gender identity; 43 percent were forced out by parents, and 32 percent faced physical, emotional or sexual abuse at home.”
“I just wasn't ready for that,” said Emily. “I understand my grandma was old, but it already made it feel like, whatever it is, hide it. It’s not OK. So that’s where my hurt started. I’m never going to forget that.” In response, Gloria said she was trying to protect both her daughter and her mother, and she didn't realize how much her words had hurt her daughter. She didn’t realize that words can seriously damage those who are already nervous to seek acceptance by their loved ones. In turn, Emily felt suicidal after coming out, which highlights the degree to which her mother’s response impacted her.
Overall, Emily was able to grow from this experience and learn a few lessons.
"[Whether she knew] is one of my biggest unanswered questions that I will live the rest of my life with," she told Entertainment Weekly. "Many of the people around me that love me have told me they knew. But in my heart, my grandmother and I were so close but I'm really not sure. But that's part of life too -- you don't get every answer that you want. I'm also learning that regrets are a waste of time. But I'm still on that journey. A few years ago, I would've never imagined that we'd be talking about this as I'm about to release an episode where I say things I've not even told family members of mine. I'm still growing and learning."
Emily is hoping her own experience will teach other families about how to have open and transparent conversations.
"People don't realize that me and my mom are two generations apart. Generationally, we're split more than some parents and their kids are. I know there will be people who will resonate with her side of it, and for that I am thankful. The same way that there are little gay kids that need to hear my side, there are parents who love their kids to death and they just don't understand what they need at that moment," she said. "I hope this episode helps them just as much. And if we lose anybody along the way, that's also part of the process. But I think mom is going to be a beacon for people in this situation. Parents sometimes think they're protecting their kids, and they're hurting them."
Coming out is extremely difficult. That’s why if you have a family member or a friend who is coming out, it is vital that you have conversations with them in a loving and supportive way, while always reminding them that you still love them for who they are. Moreover, if you are not out, make sure you come out at the right time and to the right people. Stay proud!