Free to Be Herself

1aBy Tamara Tindugan

Coming out was a freeing experience for College of Southern Nevada English Professor Patricia Vazquez.

When Vazquez was a young girl she considered herself a tomboy and was interested in things most girls her age were not. She flourished in her fantasy life of worldly travels and art. “I would post all kinds of pictures of where I wanted to go: Greece, France, Italy and Machu Picchu,” Vazquez said. “Every time I saw something in a magazine I would just post it on my wall.”

“My mom grew concerned because I did not have any pictures of boys, so she would go to the store and buy posters of John Travolta and Andy Gibb,” Vazquez said. “She would put them in my bedroom when I was away for camp, or if I was gone for a couple of days, and I would come back and my bedroom would be redecorated with the proper girl stuff that she wanted to see.”

Vazquez began to discover more about who she was and her sexuality while she was in a relationship with a longtime boyfriend.

“I was dating a boy for eight years,” Vazquez said. “We were engaged. I had already filled out the invitations in calligraphy so I felt like my life had been planned out and that I knew how it was going to end: Everything. He had been my high-school sweetheart and we were very compatible so I really did not have any idea. When I left him it had been a very difficult separation for the both of us.”

After the relationship ended she realized she was attracted to women.

“It became obvious that when I was dating boys I would think about women, but when I was with women I didn’t think about boys,” Vazquez said. “I thought it was just the excitement of the new and eventually it would just fade away but it became more intense.”

Vazquez received support from her siblings when she came out as a lesbian but got a different response from her mom.

“Growing up people always said stupid homophobic remarks, so you get a sense that it is not acceptable,” Vazquez said. “When I went home one day with a woman that was closer to my mother’s age than mine, she knew.”

Vazquez’ mother was in complete shock and did not take the news well. A decade later Vazquez’ mother still struggled with the news that her daughter would be with a woman and would not have children of her own.

Eventually her mother noticed how happy Vazquez was. That allowed her to come to terms with her homophobia, ultimately putting an end to their strained relationship.

Vazquez is now married and has a loving family. Her wife had children from a previous relationship, which has provided Vazquez the opportunity to be a mother. She finds richness in her personal life and professional life as a literature teacher at CSN.

She participated in CSN’s The Living Library event on April 19 where she shared her experiences as a Latina lesbian and first-generation American. Vazquez wanted to provide insight on her intersectional identities.

“I wanted to find individuals who would be able to show the true depth of human complexity to the people who came to the event and Patricia was perfect for that,” said Tavish Bell, librarian at CSN.

“Patricia has a bold personality and can always be counted on to provide honest feedback and views,” said Sondra Cosgrove, CSN history professor who works with Vazquez. “I appreciate knowing I will never have to guess what Patricia feels or thinks about any topic.”

Dr. Barbara Bird, international language professor at CSN, met Vazquez while taking an online course together. “Patricia is an authentic and engaged person,” Bird said. “She has an unquenchable thirst for knowledge, philosophy and for learning about the world. She loves to discuss ideas…because of how passionate she is about those ideas.”






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