On the road of honesty and openness




For years before coming out to his parents, Damian Torres-Botello fretted over how he would break the news to them.

“I read books on how to tell them, because in a way I knew I was crushing their dreams,” he said. “They expected grandkids and a wife and the whole deal. Yet, I was taking that from them.”

Torres-Botello, now a Jesuit living and working on the Detroit Mercy campus, was 21 at the time, on winter break from classes at Saint Mary College in Leavenworth, Kansas.

It was 2000, and he had known since 1992, when he was in sixth grade, that he was gay.

“It wasn’t until I saw a Ricki Lake episode where I was able to put words to what I was feeling,” he said.

He wasn’t able then to fully accept himself. He said he had enough to handle being a poor, overweight, brown-skinned kid attending a white, upper-class Kansas City, Missouri, Catholic grade school.

As a young boy, even though he knew what he felt, he wanted nothing more than for his feelings to go away.

“I prayed a novena to St. Jude, the patron saint of hopeless causes, to not make me gay,” he said. “I attempted to pray the gay away.”

It took four years before Torres-Botello came out in high school to his best friend.

“I didn’t want to add more fodder for bullying,” said Torres-Botello.

By 18, he felt confident enough to reveal himself emotionally.

“I wouldn’t say I was completely comfortable with who I was,” he added. “I was just tired of hiding and lying by changing pronouns and pretending to be someone my heart knew I clearly wasn’t.”

As he gained confidence, Torres-Botello wanted to tell his parents but he felt he needed to translate his outspoken lifestyle into one that they could more easily accept.

Torres-Botello shared his story of coming out at a campus Rainbow Task Force discussion Oct. 11 and a week later in an email interview with this Varsity News reporter, helping recreate his emotional journey of coming out to his very Catholic parents.

“My family is a wonderful family,” he said. “I just knew they wouldn’t understand, and I accepted that, because they were going to need a time of mourning.”

In preparation, Torres-Botello read books about how to tell his parents.

And then he ignored them.

“During winter break (from college), I walked up to my mom, and against (the advice of) every book I read, I said, ‘Mom, I’m gay.’ ”

The news shocked her and his father.

The revelation didn’t go well.

His parents kicked him out of the house. He stayed only until he could make other arrangements.

“I knew once my mom came around, so would my dad,” said Torres-Botello.

Over time, though, their relationship improved.

At the recent campus discussion, Torres-Botello said everyone hides something from others.

It might be about depression or sexuality, but all of us keep somethings to ourselves, he said.

It is our responsibility, he added, to create a community for those around us that helps them come out and be showered in love.

Torres-Botello has a background in theatre from his undergraduate studies at Saint Mary College, and has performed in and written numerous productions.

He also holds a master's degree in social philosophy from Loyola University in Chicago.

At Detroit Mercy, he coordinates audience outreach and development for the theatre company.

He entered the Jesuits in 2012, taking his first vows in 2014.

Though his parents still do not fully accept his being gay, his Catholic Order does.

Torres-Botello said he became the first to receive permission from his superiors to come out publicly.

“Receiving this permission from my order indicates the level of support and love they have for who I am,” he said.

In clarifying how his gay identity and Catholic identity coexist, Torres-Botello differentiated being gay from being homosexual.

“There is a misunderstanding in certain circles that saying ‘I am gay’ implies I am sexually active, which I am not,” he said. “Catholic religious men and women take three vows, one of which is a vow of chastity. In the conversation about identity, it is vital to know how someone identifies.”

While coming out has been important in Torres-Botello’s life, it isn’t what defines him, he said.

“I am many things and being gay is truly only one of those identities,” he said. “Every aspect of my being informs my faith, my life and what I love. I am a whole picture, not one puzzle piece.”


Note: This story has been revised. An earlier version incorrectly stated that Torres-Botello possessed a doctorate; this was an editing error. It also did not note that the conversation between him and a VN reporter took place by email.