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Carlos MitchellBeating the Odds
Muscular Dystrophy Can't Stop This Latino From Living A Productive Life.
By Alfredo Ortiz

Carlos Mitchell is a first generation Chicano, born and raised in Los Angeles, California. He was brought into this world by a mother who he has never met, a mother who at the time of his birth was struggling to keep food on the table and survive each passing day. Carlos was born with muscular dystrophy and needed special care—care she could not afford.

Because she could not properly take care of her newborn son, her other children, and manage her household, and as heart-broken as she might have felt, she decided to put Carlos up for adoption, which he says was probably the best thing for her to do, considering her options.

After being in a foster home until he was 5 years old, Carlos was finally adopted by his current family, who have two other disabled children.

Though his parents are Caucasian and of the Mormon faith, they never denied him his heritage—his culture that was left behind by his birth mother. His adopted mother, whom he considers his real mother, would take him to various Mexican-American communities in Los Angeles such as East Los Angles and the historic Olvera Street to show him the sites and monuments and talk to him about his Mexican culture. She taught him to embrace both his American culture and his Latino heritage and to be proud of being a Chicano—a Mexican-American.

When I met with Carlos at Olvera Street for this article, we made our way down the pebble-laid sidewalks, looked at the murals on walls, listened to the Mariachis, and talked about his experiences as a QV, Latino, disabled Mormon.

We started off by talking about being QV. Carlos recalls that at age 12, he went with his family on a trip to San Francisco. It was on this trip that he realized that he was QV or bi-sexual—or something like that. During the trip, he remembers his father making a comment that there were “a lot of homos in San Francisco.” Though the comment was harsh, it made Carlos think about himself. Soon, he began to realize his own feelings, or as he puts it, “What I was missing, so to speak.” Carlos started to realize that he, himself, was QV.

By the time he reached high school, Carlos had made many friends, mostly female friends. But he couldn’t help but feel there was something different about him. He had feelings that he could not explain.

He began to share his feelings and emotions with his best friend who was very supportive of him. With his friend’s support, he says his adventure into the QV life began.

He started going online and joining chat rooms. Through the internet, he was able to talk to other QV people and discover a world that he never knew existed—a world that was now right there on his computer screen.

After he graduated from high school, Carlos decided that it was time for him to move out on his own. Through his upbringing, Carlos and his siblings had been raised by their father as if they were not handicap, but equal to one another. They were taught to live independently and to learn how to grow within themselves. So the independent Carlos packed his stuff up and moved into a small apartment in the South Bay area of Los Angeles.

By the time Carlos turned 23, he had become so comfortable with his sexuality, that he felt it was time to dig up the courage to come out to his family. When he told his mother, she took it hard, crying and questioning his coming out. But as time has passed, she has come to accept his homosexuality more and more.

His father, a strict Mormon, had a much harsher reaction towards it. He refused to accept Carlos and didn’t speak to him for quite some time. To this date, he still refuses to accept his homosexuality as he sees it as if Carlos was doing something bad, like taking drugs. Nevertheless, Carlos says his dad is learning to deal with it, since Carlos is his son.

Once out of the house, and out of the closet, Carlos enrolled at West Los Angeles College, where he became involved in many social, political, QV and student organizations. He received an associate’s degree in travel and is currently working on a bachelor’s degree. He hopes to start a travel business catering to the QV community as well as disabled people. He is currently looking to work part time within the community so that he can be a part of a society that sees him for his accomplishments and education and not his handicap or sexual orientation.

Carlos himself has never seen his handicap as an obstacle, but rather a tool that he can use to educate others, not only about being disabled, but about being QV and Latino. Carlos says he wants to be involved in all of “his communities” as he puts it, meaning the QV, Latino, handicap and also the Mormon communities, where he is a member of “Affirmation”, a national QV & Lesbian Mormon organization (www.affirmation.org).

When I ask him about his friends, Carlos says that he cherishes his friendships. He explains, “With QV people and straight as well, the most valuable thing in life that we carry in our hearts is our friends because in a QV society, they become our family. Friendships are based on emotion, support and love which are very important to me!”

One of the things Carlos likes to do with his friends is going clubbing and dancing—yes, dancing! Recently I met up with Carlos at a local club and we danced the night away, talked with friends, and made new ones, as well.

Carlos says, “It’s hard for me to go out because of transportation— sometimes it’s hard to get a ride or to take the bus, so I use a transportation service to go to clubs or QV prides like Latin Pride in Los Angeles. It’s there that I feel as if I belong, with my brothers and sisters, my family who are the QV community!”

Carlos is currently single and hoping to meet a special someone in the near future. He has never been in a relationship.

He explains, “Being QV and disabled has its issues. The only thing that stops me is my wheelchair, but I can walk, using a walker. I can love someone, just as they can love me. I am handicapped, not dead. I can do everything everyone else does sexually!”

Realizing what he has just said about his last comment, a gleam comes to his eye and a sincere laughter abounds—one that would make anyone join in.

Carlos’ words for other people, who see him around is, “People see my wheelchair and not me. Some people are afraid to talk to me or to approach me because they are afraid to ask the wrong question. There are no wrong questions, just the right approach. It’s not really that hard to say hello or smile. I’m just in a wheelchair, I don’t bite. All you have to do is just talk and listen. I know it’s hard for people to talk to me at clubs. Some just pass by me or look oddly at me. Others smile or say hi, and really, that is all it takes—a smile or a simple hello.”

Carlos, furthermore, adds, “I am not perfect, but whatever I lack physically, I make up for it in personality and education. People have many problems—with their jobs, with their families—and I laugh when people say they have so many problems. I say to them, ‘Try and live my life!’ (Laughs).”

When I ask him what he would say to other QV disabled men, he thinks for a moment, then replies, “I would say you are not alone—there are others out there. It’s not an easy path, nor will it ever be, but it’s worth it. You’ll be happier in the end. Of course, it’s not easy coming out, but when you do, your life will be so much more beautiful. Just remember to always take the loving approach, because abandonment of your feelings will only make your life miserable.”

Carlos, who is now 26 years old, is truly an inspiring individual who we all can learn from. There is nothing more rewarding than meeting someone, from our own Latino community, who can touch your life like Carlos can. Meeting him has opened up my eyes and has renewed my soul. If he can achieve all that he has achieved with his education, his independence, his spiritual growth, his determination, and other things, then what is stopping us from following his example.


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