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Félix Garmendía

Félix Garmendía

"I was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in the 60s. Living in Puerto Rico, and growing up there was a bumpy process. I was very aware of my homosexual identity at a very early age, so fighting the stigma was a very intense journey in my native island.

I love art. The Ponce Art Museum was my shelter since I was in high school. As my first job ever, I guided bilingual tours for locals and tourists from all over the world.

In high school, I was introduced to music and theater, after that, I chose to pursue a B.A. in theater at the U.P.R. ( University of Puerto Rico ). Rio Piedras campus.

In college, I discovered many things about myself. My sexual identity became established, my religious beliefs changed dramatically and my awareness of my role in society became the first and biggest challenge of my life. I became a proud gay man, an atheist and an activist. The political climate in Puerto Rico was very far away from recognizing any kind of gay rights so I knew that I needed a community that I could call my own, and be myself. After several years in Puerto Rico, in my twenties, I moved to N.Y.C. to pursue a Master’s Degree in Art Education and Art Criticism at New York University. I decided to stay in Manhattan. Here I found myself. I discovered my passions, causes to fight for, and the strong community that I always dreamed of. I became a passionate man with strong convictions.

After graduation I became a N.Y.C. school teacher. I taught art in the South Bronx, Spanish Harlem and Upper Manhattan for 15 years.

Sometime in my twenties, I was exposed to HIV. I tested HIV-positive and after a serious depression, came out strong and victorious. I became an AIDS activist. My passions in life became the gears that fed energy into my existence.

Very early in my N.Y.C. years, I became a staunch liberal. All my causes were related. I was trying to survive in a world where not everybody cared if I did or not. Politics made clear who cared for me as a human being.

That’s why I’m very vocal about my postings. Not because I want to convince anybody, but I do it for those who, like me, once needed some direction in life. I want to share the "real" me with those friends with similar beliefs or at least respect for my beliefs.

Today, I still live in Manhattan. I’m legally married to my husband Denis Beale and I’m disabled. My life is not easy, I have several health related conditions that are a real challenge these days. This bring me to another one of my causes. From personal experience, I believe in the legalization of cannabis (marijuana). 

I consider myself a loving, compassionate and spiritual person. I have no patience for bigotry, especially the kind of sanctimonious bigotry that wraps itself in prayer and fake compassion.

This is a synopsis of who I am. It would be really helpful to start introducing myself with my favorite warning. Warning: I’m human, far from perfect, passionate about life, the pursue of difficult answers, and the conviction that we are all equal."

Felix has been featured in The Huffington Post’s Queer Voices; see the piece here.

You can follow Felix on Facebook here or here and on twitter @PozHeart.

  

Apr23

"Husband and husband"

Thursday, 23 April 2015 Written by // Félix Garmendía Categories // Activism, Gay Men, Living with HIV, Opinion Pieces, Félix Garmendía, Population Specific

New writer Felix Garmendia from New York City says the use of words like ”husband and husband” gives us the opportunity to educate people about gay rights and same sex marriage.

I just arrived home from the doctor’s office

On our way there, a shirt in a store window caught my attention. We decided to buy it but they were all too big for me.

A clerk came out of the store to help us. He barely spoke any English. It is my guess he was from the Caribbean, like me. Denis started asking some questions related to the shirt's sizes but he looked at me lost, so I decided to translate for him.

The store is located in a neighborhood mostly populated by Latinos. After living in Puerto Rico for 28 years, I learned that some Caribbean people can be a bit prejudiced against gay related issues.

This gentleman was very friendly. After he found the right shirt size for me he asked, “Is this your father”? He was referring to my husband Denis. I thought about it for a second, and without hesitation I answered, “No, he is my husband, we are married”. He looked at both of us and gave us a beautiful sincere smile. I felt very proud of the fact that the mere mention of a same sex marriage didn’t shock him at all. It was indeed a very uplifting moment that taught me a lesson.

 The new generations are becoming more at ease with the use of the term “husband” and “wife” in the context of a same sex marriage. Why am I sharing this story with you? Because I believe the LGBT community has in our hands a very important lesson to share with our heterosexual brothers and sisters

I believe this is important, and I realized this the day of our wedding two years ago. The lady that officiated our wedding in the city clerks office in The Bronx, N.Y.C., said “ I pronounce you now, husband and husband, you may kiss your husband now”. That moment was one of the most emotional moments in my life. I have a husband!, I said to myself. The feeling was incredibly beautiful. I felt free, respected, recognized and validated. After 15 years in a relationship with Denis J Beale, I became a married man.

From then on I rejected the term “partner”. I was not a partner anymore, I was a husband. A proud gay male that for the first time in my life was given the lawful right to call my long-time companion  a husband.

Denis and I talked about this incident over lunch. We both agreed that the LGBT community has a social responsibility - the responsibility to educate those who are still in the darkness about same sex marriage. The more we use the words husband and wife within the context of our marriages, the more people will learn about this reality, and fortunately we will see in the near future a society that will embrace our right to use these terms.

Let’s educate. Education is the cure for ignorance, and the use of the terms “husband and “wife” will give us our lawful right and place in North American contemporary society

About the author: “My name is Felix Garmendia. I was born in Ponce, Puerto Rico in 1961. Moved to New York City in 1988 and tested positive for HIV in 1989. I live with my husband Denis Beale in Manhattan. I taught art in the N.Y.C  public school system for fifteen years until a disability forced me to retire in 2005”

You can follow Felix on Facebook here. 

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