GABRIEL J. MARTIN, Author of the book “QUIERETE MUCHO, MARICON” (“Love Yourself, Queer”), a fundamental piece and reference of contemporary literature in Spanish-speaking gay psychology.
By Daniel Portela (from Madrid, Spain). Photography courtesy of Gabriel J. Martin.
Special thanks to Fernando Rosales for making possible this interview.
GAYPV: Hello Gabriel, it is a great honor for us GayPV to be able to carry out this interview with you from the beautiful city of Barcelona, Spain where you are currently living, and for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, and to the world, and talk with you about your interesting life and your excellent book, which has helped so many people to understand and accept themselves, and better understand the world around us especially being gay. We know that in addition to being a gay man, you also define yourself as an intersex person. Could you comment for our readers what this term means?
GABRIEL J. MARTIN: Hello! Rather than defining myself, I have to describe myself as a person who was born with intersex genitalia. This is something that is part of me from the moment I was born and therefore is included in my definition of person or of what I am, such as being born in Spain or being gay. This is something that you discover over time and that they finally describe to you, not so much that I use to define myself but rather what my circumstances have been. A person with intersex genitalia is a person who at birth has genitalia that may appear to be fairly standard genitalia, but the karyotype, the chromosomes, may differ from the standard model of the usual, and people who are born with this condition, which we do not consider to be an orientation or an identity and, of course, it is not a pathology, we always call it a condition. People who are born with this condition have genitalia that do not correspond to either of the two usual extremes that they usually present at the time of birth, but rather graduate in different variations with respect to those more standard genitalia. And that’s why the ‘inter’ for being between the usual male or female genitalia.
During your childhood, do you remember how you started to feel that you were different?
Well, the truth is that I have never thought that I was the same as the others because since I can remember I acted in a very different way than what was expected of me. I was born with intersex genitalia that had a feminine appearance but only on the external, since inside I had my prostate in its ordinary place, the testicles were lodged in the groins, I had seminal vesicles and well, I was born with hypospadias instead of vagina. This, for example, my Wikipedia page is explained quite well (I don’t know who did it, but it is explained quite well) (laughs). And well, with this type of genitalia that I was born with, doctors thought I was a girl and raised me as a girl because apparently I was physically a girl, but my behavior was what at that time was considered masculine (and here we could go into defining what is masculine and what is feminine), but the fact is that I felt much more comfortable playing with boys and things that were then ‘boys’s things’, than things that were then’ girls’ things’, that it is not so much as we see it now that we already see everything androgynous, but that in the 70s the thing was quite different and the role by gender was very marked. I don’t recall having a sense of normality and then ceasing to be ‘normal’. Maybe I remember a time when I was 9 years old and we moved to the neighborhood. In the neighborhood where I lived, everyone was used to the fact that I would play the things that I played with the other boys and they were no longer surprised, but when that new neighborhood arrived, it was very marked, and arrived at school something very similar also happened, it was very marked that I did not behave like other girls. It was that first moment when I realized that I was very different from the others.
Can you tell us about the rejection you suffered during your childhood and adolescence because of your intersex condition?
The rejection that I suffered during my childhood and adolescence was not because I was an intersex person because no one knew, I did not know either. The rejection was because I contravened gender stereotypes. I suffered a lot of insults, great rejections, I hardly had any friends and the only friend I had was a friend who also had a lot of problems and was also rejected by the others, so two of us who were rejected in the class got together and made mutual company, and this happened to me for many years because the vast majority did not allow me to interact with them, they attacked and insulted me, and they did everything possible and even impossible to hurt me, to harass me and to make me feel bad. For some strange reason it seemed very important for many people to stress that I did things differently – and I say it with some irony – quite important to enjoy and stress that I was different from the others.
This rejection was very cruel, they subjected me to all kinds of harassment, they made all kinds of insults, by all means they tried to hurt me, they hit me, I suffered all kinds of verbal and physical assaults, they insulted me in classes, in the hallways, they beat me on the patio, they beat me on the street… I spent my life receiving harassment.
How would you advise that we could detect and help a child or young person who suffers from bullying due to these causes?
Detecting that someone is bullying because they are intersex is difficult because it is a condition that is revealed when you go to the doctor and they do some explorations. Knowing that someone suffers from bullying is because they generally have very shy, very withdrawn, highly sensitive, generally lonely, depressed, sad, or sometimes on the contrary very anxious, even aggressive behaviors, perhaps a bit extreme emotional behavior in any of the directions, depressed or aggressive, can help us realize that something is wrong. Or the fact of always being separated from other children, isolated, which is easy to happen when others make comments with bad intention towards you. And how to help? Well, you are opening an important issue that is how we stop bullying in schools. There are many programs that try it differently, for example, with education, training boys and girls and even adolescents in sexual-affective diversity, so that they know the different realities and that they realize that we are all part of that we call ‘normality’ because humans are very diverse and that diversity must be shown. Others do this in a variety of ways, including seeking to make bullies think about what they are doing, including protecting victims. There are some models where students can choose who they want to sit with and who they don’t and who were bullies received a penalty. There are different programs and methods.
How do you think things have changed in this aspect from the time of the 70s and 80s of the last century, to the current time?
Since that time, visibility has changed a lot, especially LGBT people are already part of the landscape. Many, many boys and girls already know what is a homosexual person, a bisexual person, a transsexual person, and they know how to identify a gay boy or a lesbian girl perfectly and they are even quite sensitized to trans issues and there are already many schools where there are trans boys and girls and they are well integrated in their centers, that is, the effort that has been made to make visible and the effort that has been made to naturalize the LGBT community within the educational community has changed greatly. There is still much to do yet, there are still many attacks, too many. I wish there were none, but it is true that the situation is very different from what it was in the 80s. Before the 80s in Spain, anything that had something to do with sexual diversity generated a lot of rejection and this no longer occurs today, luckily.
What did it mean to you to finally discover that there were other people like you, and that you were not alone? Could you tell us how was this important moment in your life?
For me, realizing what was happening to me was something that had a name and that there were other people like me that was a tremendous relief. Suddenly, curiously, a diagnosis for me was a great relief that meant that I already had a direction and above all, I already had other people with whom I could comment on what was happening to me and feel accompanied. Because the feeling of loneliness and feeling that you are the only one who has this condition is tremendous because you feel totally unprotected, you lack references, you do not know how to act and in many occasions problems or difficulties happen in human and romantic and sexual relationships, you have no one to turn to for help. So knowing that there are other people and knowing that I could learn from these people was really very important to me.
What could you advise people who are suffering from some type of similar condition, feeling different or in conflict with their gender identity, but who do not seek help out of shame or fear of rejection?
Well, there are people who feel ashamed or who are afraid to talk about this condition with other people, the only thing I can advise them is to overcome that fear as soon as possible and, even if it is anonymous, try to contact some group or some association, it is very important that we contact and overcome this difficulty because it is truly tremendously positive for anyone to be able to connect with others and know that there is someone to turn to. That is fundamental, the connection between us and help each other. Mutual aid groups, for example. So someone who has this condition is very convenient to do it because otherwise will feel lonely and totally helpless for a long time. In addition, in a group of people like him or her will not feel rejection, on the contrary, that person will feel total inclusion, which is very important.
Could you briefly tell us how was that process in which you were finally able to assume your true gender identity and go from being Patricia to being Gabriel, as well as the physical and mental (and even legal) process you had to go through to achieve it?
The process of the legal change you refer to was fairly straightforward. The physical process was not a problem because I changed naturally, that is, when I reached puberty I virilized like any other boy, my beard and hair on my chest started to come out and everything else and well, not there nothing had to be done although it is true that when I was 18 years old I had my testicles removed and I had to take the supplemental testosterone, but it was the testosterone that my body used to make and now it doesn’t. They removed them because they thought at the time that they could become tumoral and decided to act like that, if not, it would not have been necessary, I naturally virilized and my testicles were fully functional. And going back to the legal process topic, I had to start a procedure but it was quite simple because intersex cases were already contemplated in the legislation as it has been happening throughout the history of humanity, since it was known and the Spanish Civil Registry Law I seem to remember that it was the year 55, it already includes these situations and the only thing I had to do was file a lawsuit requesting rectification in the Civil Registry and it was 2 years because the procedures take a long time, but the only thing I had to do was present that resource with an attorney to rectify my seat in the Civil Registry.
And during all this difficult process, how did you discover that you were also a gay man?
Well, I discovered that I was gay later, once I was clear about my sexual identity, I began to see more and more clearly that I liked men. Even when I was little I had liked a boy in the class, but it is also true that some girl has seemed pretty to me, I even had a girlfriend, but the truth when I first fell in love with a man I understood that it was very different, that I had loved her in a very platonic way. It was a very long process, for me it was like starting again, a whole process of discovery, acceptance, coming out of the closet, etc. I had simply always been homosexual, but it had been very difficult for me to understand it with everything that was happening to me. I discovered it because I was always attracted to men a lot, I masturbated thinking about men, I needed to watch men’s porn and because I fell in love with a man.
How was your approach to Psychology and why?
For me, Psychology was a very early vocation. At 15 years old, I already knew that I wanted to be a psychologist, it had nothing to do with what had happened to me, nor did I think about finding solutions for myself. I have always been fascinated by mental phenomena, the way we behave as human beings, psychology is a wonderful science because it helps us understand human beings and for me it is fundamental. I have always been curious to know others. It was a vocation that was always with me.
How did the project of writing a book finally come into your life?
Well, the book comes because I started to write in a gay magazine. I have been working in a consultation with gay men for a few years and started writing articles about it, such as HIV, internalized homophobia, relationships, and the articles worked very well, many people read them, and I became known with this work. Then the publisher came and asked me about the idea of making a book and in that book I recapitulated everything I knew about gay affirmative psychology and it was that simple. I had started writing and in fact I already had my YouTube channel at that time and they know me for that reason.
Your book ‘Quiérete Mucho, Maricón’ (‘Love Yourself, Queer’) has become a reference in Spanish-speaking gay literature, in which you deal with such important topics as homosexuality, homophobia, coming out of the closet, gay sex, gender identity, bareback, HIV, prejudice, gay love, etc. Could you tell us a little more about the book, and who should read it?
I am very proud of ‘Quiérete Mucho Maricón’ because it has been a wonderful job for many years and it has also been the summary of everything I have learned so far and it has been absolutely wonderful. I am happy that it is on its 10th edition and I am never grateful enough. It seems incredible to me. The book is structured in several thematic areas, it is intended as a way to talk to someone gay, no matter what stage you are in, it doesn’t matter, because surely I have something to tell you because I have spoken with many men in my practice , and begins by making it very clear what homosexuality is, why we are homosexual, and eliminating myths about homosexuality. It goes on to explain what the process of accepting homosexuality is like and how we can improve that process so that we are even more comfortable and feel better about who we are and, above all, so that we establish better relationships with others. I work a lot everything that has to do with relationships and the fact of coming out of the closet, because it is impossible to have authentic relationships with other people if you are hiding what you really are, this must be worked on because also if we do not have authentic relationships then we will always feel very alone.
On the book I also talk about homophobia and the impact it has on us. I’m talking about internalized homophobia. I speak of the consequences of homophobic bullying from anxiety problems, affective problems that are manifested therefore in relationships. There is a very long block in which I talk about all this. Then there is a fifth block that was removed from the express version because it is a block where the different areas are, which I have later expanded on in other books, for example there is a chapter on affective relationships, there is a chapter on sexuality, there is a chapter on sexual health, there is a chapter on family relationships, there is a chapter on our rights, there are many topics that are covered there in a quite extensive way, although obviously it is much more developed in later books. And finally there is a kind of booklet or last block where I offer solutions and explain techniques that can be put into practice to leave behind internalized homophobia, the effects of anxiety and everything that I have been explaining in previous chapters.
Is the book currently available in physical format in Mexico and Latin America? And where can we buy it online, for all those who do not know it yet?
In Mexico it was published and they told me that it had been sold out, I do not know if they will launch it again and there it was titled “Quiérete y Mucho!”, the word ‘Maricón’ (meaning ‘queer’ or ‘fagot’) was removed from the cover because for Mexico it has a very different burden, a very different connotation to the one that has in Spain and they preferred to eliminate it, but the content is exactly the same, there is even a chapter in which I explain why I use the word Maricón in my texts and in my way of speaking. Electronically it can be obtained on any e-book platform and I know that they also sell it in Ghandi bookstores, and obviously on Amazon. Amazon takes you wherever you want, there is no problem with that.
Are you currently in a relationship? Do you consider that it is more difficult for LGBT people to maintain a loving relationship than for heterosexual people, and that it is correct to imitate the heterosexual couple model, or should it work in a different way for us?
Currently I am not in any relationship and considering the difficulties that heterosexual people are also having to have a partner, I would not dare to say that it is easier. I think it is difficult, but for different reasons. For heterosexual couples, the new definition of gender roles is dislodging many people, and it is also true that marriages from previous generations were based mainly on resistance, mainly for women. Today luckily a woman does not need it, they are more financially independent from a husband and they are freer to decide if want to be in a relationship that makes her unhappy or not. That it is also true that many men prefer to be able to live single without having to develop a family project, but it was before that it seemed that if you were not a father of family you were not a respectable man, and that has also changed a lot. But heterosexual relationships are different. For us it is more difficult because sometimes we are much more isolated, in a minority, in many cases you find people with problems from the lack of acceptance of themselves due to an internalized homophobia or difficulties to establish intimate relationships as a consequence of the harassment that has suffered. So they are also difficult, but because we have issues to solve. This does not mean that a gay man cannot have a sentimentally satisfactory relationship, more and more gay men have absolutely satisfactory, wonderful, lasting couple relationships, who marry, live together and are as happy as they can be, because happiness is not something permanent either; that of “And they lived happily ever after” is well for the fairy tales, but the daily real life has its ups and downs. But with such things and those ups and downs, many gay men who have left all these consequences and those burdens, they can have relationships as satisfactory as anyone else can have.
Regarding the heterosexual model, I always answer with the same answer: the heterosexual model is no longer useful even for heterosexuals, and we are not talking about a heterosexual model but rather a model of past centuries that currently no longer exists and heterosexual couples are no longer ruled by this model, so much less those who are not heterosexual. The fact that homosexual couples were not seen before, does not mean that they were not there. They were hidden, but there were a few that followed the same pattern. There were a lot of couples of lesbian women who went unnoticed because in the past they passed like women who had remained single, and they had a tremendously classic relationship model. That happened in the past, as well as men who had romantic relationships with other men, even if they were maintaining his marriage with a woman and hiding it, but they also had a fairly classic model. What do I want to tell you? That the model of couples has changed for everyone and I no longer think that we should speak of the model of a heterosexual couple, we should speak of the model of previous centuries that applies to all couples. Right now we are talking about the 21st century model, which has changed, where we already have completely different situations, where we talk about open relationships, about successive monogamy that is when you just end a relationship and start another one. There are completely different models and they are for everyone, not just for us.
Have you ever visited Mexico, and in particular Puerto Vallarta? If so, what did you like the most about Puerto Vallarta and why?
I have not visited Mexico, I would love to visit Mexico, I love Mexico and I am crazy to visit it, but obviously I have not been to Puerto Vallarta either. The only thing I know about Puerto Vallarta here in Spain is from that US series ‘Love Boat’, which here was translated as “Vacation at the Sea” and in which they used to dock in Puerto Vallarta and was described as a wonderful place full of charms where everyone is happy, so when I listen to Puerto Vallarta I relate it in this way and always associate it with an idea of great happiness. I don’t know if it will be like that but this is how I have it stored in my memory and I would love to visit Puerto Vallarta. Hopefully soon!
What are your new or future projects? What other books have you written aimed at the LGBT community?
Among my new projects I have written a fourth book. I have written three more books. I wrote a book titled “El Ciclo del Amor Marica” (‘The Cycle of Queer Love’), which went on sale the following year of ‘Quiérete Mucho Maricón’, which is where I talk about couple relationships, precisely this that you asked me previously, about how the models have changed, that there are different models and about how homosexual relationships are, and all that cycle that we are living from knowing, as falling in love, strengthening the relationship, in some cases entering into coexistence, in some cases relationships deteriorate, in some cases relationships that end, and in many cases they start again. So I am talking about a cycle. I also talk about polyamorous relationships, I talk about intergenerational relationships, relationships at a distance, and well, it is a book where I dumped all my knowledge about relationships. Then I wrote another one with illustrations by Sebas Martín who is a gay cartoonist from Barcelona and was a bit of a joke that we do about the gay environment, especially the leisure circuit and everything that is related to the LGTB community, not only bars and clubs but also associations, topics and apps like Grindr, we make jokes about it as if it were a big country with regions, like Grinderburg, Fucknfield, etc. and we make lot of jokes about it. That was the third one and it was published in 2018 and now this year my new book “Gay Sex” is finally about to come out, which is a book dedicated to sexuality approached from every point of view you can imagine. It is a book that has been very extensive and this is my most recent project, which should had come out in April, but with the Coronavirus crisis it has not been possible, so if everything goes well, it will come out at the end of May. So my next project is to introduce everyone to this latest book on sex and I hope you like it very, very, very much.
Where could people who might need a consultation or psychological help from you can contact you in a more personalized way? Do you have any official website or social media for this purpose?
To contact me is very easy, you can contact me through my email, on my YouTube channel, on Instagram, on Twitter, I am very easy to locate and in all my profiles there is an email address, you can write me for what you need. In fact, I have had quite a few Mexican patients because I work by video conference and attend gay men from all over the world. Many people are getting to know me through the YouTube channel and the truth is that I am very happy with the response that both my books and this channel are having in the Latin American gay community. So I also take the opportunity to send a giant kiss to all the Mexican readers and followers because it makes me very happy to receive your comments, which are very much, you are wonderful!
Anything else you would like to add for all our GayPV readers?
The only thing I want to add is that we become aware that it is impossible to feel accompanied by others if you do not show yourself the way you are to others. If you relate to a false image, to something that you show but that is not your true person, it is impossible for others to love you as you are and to experience unconditional and authentic love. When we talk about being visible, accepting ourselves and making ourselves visible to others, what we are basically talking about is allowing ourselves to be loved unconditionally by others, and being able to experience what it really means, thanks to that. A deep and authentic relationship with others. It is the most important thing that I can advise to anyone.
Thank you very much Gabriel for sharing a little of your valuable time with us, and for the great work you do to help people in the LGBT community!