Steven holding hands with his grandma Graciela.
At evanhealy, we believe holistic health is a panorama of diversity and perspective. Just as the body, mind, heart, soul and spirit work together to define our health and happiness, so does the canopy of color, culture, identity, history and practice define our world.
We have been talking and thinking a lot lately about Sanctuary. So as we dive more deeply into the meaning of the word, we must go beyond the comfort and safety of our own skin. Last week our Marketing Manager, Ann Marie Sack sat down with our Order Desk Supervisor Steven Robles to discuss his story of self-acceptance and love.
What does pride mean to you?
I live it daily. Not just in June. To me Pride means being happy and comfortable knowing that I can do what I want on any given day without worrying about what other people think or about not doing it “the normal way.”
Pride is about self acceptance and self love- something that I think a lot of people can struggle with. I struggled with it for a while, for a pretty long time actually. It took me a while but it’s all about work and putting in that time to take care of yourself. Pride means being comfortable in your own skin and living your truth.
What was your journey growing up like?
From a very early age I always knew that I was different from the other people. I grew up in a traditional Hispanic home, so being different is kind of out of the question. There is a lot of macho energy and a lot of slurs thrown around when they shouldn’t be. So growing up I was picked on just because I was different.
In Elementary school I couldn’t really make sense of it because I was young, but I think it was when I got into high school that I really got to know myself, to find myself, and that’s when I started to know I liked men. But that I had to hide it because it wasn’t accepted, not just within my family but within society in general. So I never really brought anyone home, I did experiment here and there with a few guys but never anything serious until later in life.
Where did you find the confidence to come out?
I had this friend, we’re still really good friends, and he was dating somebody and he was always very secretive about who he was dating. One day he posted on facebook that he was dating a guy. And I kind of made a little mental note of that and just observed for a few weeks. I noticed that his friendshsips didn’t change, so that inspired me to open up to somebody.
I opened up to my two best friends: We were on our way to a party and we were in the parking lot of a gas station, and I was like, “Hey I need to talk to you guys before we go...” and they said “what’s going on?” And I said, “I’m gay.” And they were like “Okay.”
And through all of this I had such intense nerves and all these thoughts going through my head. I didn’t know how to process them and I didn’t know how I was going to process the outcome if it was bad. But then they just gave me the biggest hug and they brought me into their lives and their family’s lives. They were so accepting and so loving, and that was different from my family. My family has always been loving, but not always accepting.
After I came out to those first two friends, I came out to the rest of my friends. To some it was a surprise, and to some it wasn’t.
What was it like for you with your family?
I remember I used to babysit for my aunt’s kids in the summer, and one day I went over to her house to watch her kids. I said to my aunt, “Hey, I need to talk to you, can you ask the kids to go to their room.” So we were just sitting there in the living room, and again I had all these emotions and thoughts running through my head. I was just so ready to be me, authentically, And if that meant losing my family then so be it. It’s a hard topic because it’s something that a lot of people don’t realize, but it happens.
Coming out to my aunt was easy. My aunt has been my rock and my support system ever since we were little - we are 8 years apart. She, in a sense, always knew before I did that I was different. So it felt really really amazing to have her supporting me. After my aunt, I was scared to tell my mom and my grandparents.
I love my mom so much and my grandparents kind of raised me, so they are my biggest motivation aside from my little brother now. Coming out to my mom and my aunt was hard, but they both embraced me and gave me the biggest hug and the biggest kiss and held me so tight and assured me that nothing is different, nothing is going to change, and that they support me 100%.
Steven and his mom Rosa
After I came out to my mom and aunt, it pushed me over the edge to just be me. I was planning on telling my grandparents on my own time and my own terms, however that opportunity was robbed from me by another family member that I didn’t speak to at the time (We are on a little better terms now).
I’ve been out since a little after high school to my friends, but not completely until about 3 years ago. At that time I lived with my grandparents, and my grandfather had just come home from vacation after visiting this other family member. Apparently this other family member had outed me to my grandpa. He robbed me of the chance to tell my grandparents my truth. It’s not easy, so robbing somebody of that chance is horrible - you’re not ready and you’re not prepared. My life changed in an instant. Many people don’t know this, but when my family member told him, my grandpa kicked me out from his home.
And again, this stems back to that macho, masculine energy, and typically Hispanic culture - it hit his pride. When he came home from vacation, I was in my room, and I heard my grandpa angry, I heard him say some derogatory terms and I could tell that he was upset. I walked out of my room and I said “What’s going on?” And he said “[family member] just told me that you’re gay.” But he didn’t say gay, he used a slur, a very hurtful slur. At that moment I had to put myself first. The thought going through my head was, I either put myself and my happiness first, or my family. I said, “I am, and what?” He said, “You need to leave.” and my heart broke so bad, it shattered into a million pieces.
I called my best friend, she was out of town, and I told her what happened. I said I literally don’t know what to do and I have nowhere to go. She said, “What are you talking about, my door is always open for you. You know where my key is,” she said “Take your stuff and put it in my house and make yourself at home.”
I didn’t want to be there by myself so I called one of my other friends and I told them what happened too. I don’t think my grandpa was expecting me to get up and go that night, but within 20 minutes I had packed all of my stuff and put it in the trunk of my car. Then I called my mom and my aunt and they offered me their support, but I felt more comfortable with my friends for some reason.
My mom and aunt called my grandpa and they just let him have it. I think he just needed his time to process, because it’s kind of like mourning the person they thought you were going to be. Because everybody has this preconceived idea of who you are supposed to be, and what you’re going to do, and that’s never the case. You are your own person.
I ended up spending about 3 months living with my friend but the day after my grandpa kicked me out, he called me and he offered for me to go back. He said he was wrong and he shouldn’t have done that, but I just didn’t feel comfortable going back. I felt like I needed to give him space and I needed to take my space. So I didn’t see them for a while.
My grandma called me every day to check up on me. I feel like I am who I am because of my grandma, because she’s so strong and so loving, and she instilled so many good things in me and so many good values. So I just chose myself, and that’s when I first started to say, I am who I am and I don’t care who agrees with it and who doesn’t. If you want to be in my life then you’re more than welcome and if you don’t want to be in my life and accept who I am, there’s the door. That’s what pushed me to accept myself more. And once I put myself out there, I was fully out, I made peace with those demons and insecurities that I had, and I pushed them down where they belong, because I wasn’t going to let that dim my light.
You are such a role model to your brother, you inspire your co-workers and your friends. Can you share a story of how you’ve inspired your brother to be yourself?
I remember one time recently I was with one of my best friends, before covid. We were just hanging out at home. And I was just looking at my nails and I like to keep them a little bit long so it’s easier for me to type. I asked my friend “Do you have a clear coat?” And she said “I have glitter.” So I went to work with glittery nails the whole week. On Friday I got off of work and picked up my little brother, and took him to McDonalds to get a happy meal. And he’s 6 years old, too short to reach the fountain machine, so I filled up his drink. He looked up at my nails, and pulled my hand and said “Wait, why did you paint your nails, that’s only for girls.” And I said, “No bubby, anyone can’t paint their nails, it’s not just for girls and it’s not just for boys. Whoever wants to paint their nails can paint their nails.” He looked at me and said “My dad said that you’re dumb because you paint your nails.” And I said, “Don’t listen to your dad, who cares what he thinks.”
So then we got our food, and I think what we talked about hit him, and he said “So when I’m older I can paint my nails?” I said, “Yes, when you’re old enough to make your own decisions and when you’re comfortable to make your own decisions, of course. And then he said “And I don’t have to care what my dad says because it’s my life, right?” and I just looked at him in awe. I was so amazed that a 6 year old just looked at me and said I don’t care what my dad says, I don’t care what anybody says, it’s my life. And I said, “You’re absolutely right, you do whatever you want with your body, with your wardrobe, with your life. You do what makes you happy.” And he just looked at me then started to eat.
Steven and his little brother Vinny
For so long I didn’t feel accepted, so when I’m with my little brother, I remind him that he’s loved. He is probably so annoyed of that word because everytime I’m with him I’m like “Vinny I love you, Vinny I love you.” I feel like he looks up to me quite a lot and what’s been hurting me the most during the pandemic is not being able to see my little brother or my grandparents. I try to inspire him and be the best person that I can be for him.
You are living your truth, and at evanhealy we can have these conversations: It truly is about who you are, how who you are is enough, about making people comfortable, and you make people comfortable.
What advice would you give your brother or what advice would you have given yourself at age 10 and 16? What advice would you give yourself or others now?
I think the advice that I would give myself at 10 and all throughout, is I would remind myself that I’m loved, that I matter to somebody, and that I’m important. Because I think the lack of those feelings at times is what kept me from coming out to my grandparents sooner. Our relationship is super strong because of everything that we’ve gone through, but had I really believed that I matter and that I’m loved and that I’m important, I wouldn’t have had that fear of not being accepted and possibly losing the people that mean the most to me.
Going forward, the advice I try to live by now is to do me, to encourage others to live their life and to be comfortable with themselves. I feel like so often we get so caught up in the negative, and we forget that we are important and that we matter and that you need to love yourself first and foremost.
I often get messages from my friends and they tell me “I wish I was as accepting and loving as you are, and so confident” I’m a human, I have my moments of insecurities, but I have more better days than bad ones. I try to empower people to just be who you are. There’s no other way to put it.
Steven with his aunt Meriellen
In taking care of yourself, what’s your favorite evanhealy self-care ritual?
I love our Shea Butters, the Chilean Wild Rosehip Seed Oil is one of my favorites, I use it daily. The Neroli Frankincense Body Butter and Oil from our new Body Collection. Those are my favorite right now. I get home and take a dark shower: no music, no sound, no light and as I’m getting out I lather up my body with Oil and Butter and a bunch of HydroSoul of course! And I kind of just meditate with that and breathe it in. I can’t pinpoint one favorite because I have too many!
I love you, and who you are IS enough.
Who everyone is, is enough.
Happy Pride month! Today and always. Remember, work at your own pace, find yourself, answer to nobody except yourself, extend that love and support and be an ally.