On Wednesday, November 5, José Roldan Jr. gave Boston College a taste of what it’s like to grow up gay in the Bronx.
José opened the show with an eccentric, highly masculine character, whom we soon found out was an exaggerated version of his cousin. He continued mapping his family story for us, impersonating his crazy witch doctor aunt, “Titi Bruja,” his tempestuous sister, and his humorous and protective mother.
After easing the audience in to his sense of humor and sense of family, José took things to a more serious note and acted out real and imaginary conversations with his father. The two had a contentious relationship throughout his childhood and young adult life, making it difficult to talk about the troubles he faced.
José also talked about the small world he inhabited: everything was within a few blocks. From school to shopping to family, he never had to go far from home, but he always imagined he would, citing the problems he felt that he caused his family, particularly the arguments between his parents.
After deciding to go to Lehman College in New York, José made a close friend named Xavier. They had a close relationship, and Xavier was the first person José came out to. “I’m gay,” José recalls telling his friend, “Yeah, I said it.” Through Xavier’s friendship and support, José was able to be more comfortable about his sexuality and eventually tell more people.
Talking to his younger sister was easy, he says; she immediately suggested they go check out guys together. Telling his mom, however, was the hardest. Despite their close relationship, she did not respond well. She came around, though, and today, even asks very personal questions about his relationships, which may be a little too close for comfort, José comments with a grin.
The biggest surprise came from José’s father. One day his dad casually started talking to José and told him that if he had never met his wife, he might still be with the man he was dating when he was younger. A shock to José, this confession helped ease a lifelong tension between the two.
José says his relationship with his family is much better now, and in fact they may
be a little too comfortable about it. Relatives often call him the “life of the party” and expect him to help decorate and be good at dancing, all in good fun of course.
Although José worried about what his Puerto Rican relatives would say, he found out that “those crazy Puerto Ricans wound up telling me.”
A collaboration between GLC, OLAA, and CASA, this show demonstrated the common ground between many different situations. Whether gay, straight, Latino or not, José showed that the need for friendship, acceptance and family are pertinent to creating a happy life.
Check out José’s upcoming shows on his website.