'one day at a time' is telling my story as a latino gay man in america

the voice and vision of a new generation
Image credit: Netflix

'one day at a time' is telling my story as a latino gay man in america

April 4, 2019

Growing up, it was difficult to relate to my identity. Spanish was my first language, but I never saw my story in Spanish-language media—whether it was in telenovelas, news reports, or talk shows. As a Honduran-American gay man from Miami, I wanted to see people like me on the big screen portrayed positively. I was fortunate to learn English and hope that I was being represented in English-language media.

One Day at a Time changed that. Although the show centers around a Cuban-American family, I found I could relate to it because of my experience of growing up in a Hispanic household in a Cuban populated city. From the Latin flavor in the opening song to the Spanish lingo from Lydia (Rita Moreno), I felt connected.

But what made the show so special to me was Elena’s (Isabella Gomez)coming out story in season one. This was a lesbian teenage girl coming out to her Latinx family and dealing with the possible repercussions that came with that. Elena’s coming out story brought me back to when I came out to my mom. There was a lot of shame, disappointment, and self-hate prior to me coming out. When I came out to my mom, I did not get the same reaction that Elena’s mom, Penelope (Justina Machado), gave her.

I was hurt that my mom wasn’t able to look at me in the face and say that she loves me no matter what. It took her time to finally accept it, but I knew it was difficult because of the way she was raised. I had to act more masculine, hang out with the boys, play sports—anything that would consider me “not gay” or seen as feminine. Machismo was enforced in my household and unfortunately I had to play two different roles at home and in school to cover my true identity.

I knew exactly how Elena felt during her quinceñera when her father decided to miss the traditional father-daughter dance—it was difficult for her father to accept that she is a lesbian. It’s hard to be yourself and come out to a Hispanic family because of the misunderstanding, lack of education, and the way the LGBTQ+ community is portrayed in Spanish-language media. In the United States, many Hispanic families are first or second generation immigrants.

As the show goes on, you see Elena thriving and being unconditionally herself without the support of her father. Although it still hurts that her father does not accept her, she finds ways to educate her supportivefamily on what being a Latinx lesbian woman in America is like.

Netflix recently announced the cancellation of the show because “not enough people watched to justify another season”. However, when I am watching One Day at a Time, I am thinking about the Latinx child who is watching it, he child who is lost and afraid. The child who is getting bullied in school and thinks that it won’t get better, or who is going through anxiety or depression and does not know how to cope with it. The child who is thinking about giving up their own life because they have lost all hope. To the next generation, One Day at a Time is that hope—hope that more networks will pick up shows like this that inform and educate an audience about a marginalized community. As their GLAAD Media Award Nominations prove, shows like these make a real impact in the lives of LGBTQ people and families. 

Each season of the show has managed to push boundaries and initiate conversations that Latinx people are afraid to speak on—homophobia, immigration issues, mental health care, financial issues, alcoholism, and much more. This show has started a conversation that I don’t think should end. If Netflix were to push the promotion of the show the way they push “Fuller House,” I think the numbers would play out differently.

One Day at a Time deserves more praise for allowing a Latinx family into our homes and opening their hearts to us. I can’t imagine a life without Lydia opening her curtain door with telenovela drama realness. I don’t want another show with Latinx representation to go away. Our story deserves to be seen and heard. ¡Viva Latin America!

Harold Daniel is a GLAAD Campus Ambassador and senior at Florida International University studying broadcast journalism. He currently serves as an intern for Good Morning America on ABC.

the voice and vision of a new generation