I'm queer: Prominent Latina syndicated columnist Esther Cepeda shares her journey

Esther J. Cepeda is one of the country’s most prominent Latina columnists, part of a very small group that is nationally syndicated. Recently, in one of her columns, the award-winning journalist and married mother of two came out as a member of the LGBTQ community — specifically, as queer. She now identifies as queer/nonbinary/gender-nonconforming.

In a frank, wide-ranging interview with NBC News, Cepeda shared her thoughts around her momentous public announcement and what brought her to this moment.

Cepeda, a member of the Washington Post Writers Group — her byline appears twice weekly in newspapers across the country and internationally — wrote a column urging Americans to consider the mental health toll of coming out, especially for LGBTQ youth who experience high suicide rates, and to support efforts to help these youth.

She then wrote, “Over the past few months I’ve sought help for my own anxiety and depression, and to work through the challenges of being a married, middle-aged mom of two who has been coming out to my family, friends and co-workers as queer.”

“It has not gone well,” she added, citing her visit to a therapist that didn’t go well, saying that if it was hard for her, it’s a lot harder for younger, more vulnerable teens.

The response from readers, Cepeda says, has been mostly positive.

“I’ve gotten a lot of beautiful emails and notes from people I absolutely don’t know, and from people I’ve known for years, and everything in between,” she said. “I have gotten some people asking why they should care, but those are scattered, and pale in comparison to the amount of support.”

Taking stock, coming out

Cepeda’s coming out journey began at the beginning of this year, when she took stock of her life.

“I thought, I’m going to turn 45 this year, who am I? Where do I want to go, who do I want to be? It brought me to this idea that I need to explore those parts of myself that I had buried and put on the back burner for at least the 23 years of being with my husband,” she said. “With my children grown, it seemed like a safe time to explore.”

In a recent column, Esther J. Cepeda, a nationally syndicated columnist with the Washington Post Writers Group, came out as queer.Courtesy of Esther J. Cepeda

The Chicago native does not see her coming out as changing her journalism. She’s been covering LGBTQ issues since 2007, she said, and having more of a connection to those topics will enable her to write about them better.

Cepeda is currently in a relationship with a transgender woman. “I’ve found someone who I care for. My husband gave me the latitude to do that; I am not leaving my husband. I am not sure what the future holds. I am just trying to figure this out, and I have his support.”

Although June is Pride Month, Cepeda did not time her personal revelation to that celebration. She wanted to write about the struggles that young LGBTQ people experience in accessing mental health care.

In their 2019 national survey of LGBTQ youth mental health, for example, The Trevor Project found that 39 percent of LGBTQ youth considered suicide in the past 12 months, and that 71 percent reported feeling sad or hopeless for at least two weeks in the past year.

Statistics like these convinced Cepeda that there would be value in sharing her own battle with depression and anxiety.

“People have told me that my coming out is brave and courageous, but I am so privileged; I have a family and parents who love me, income, I have a support system in place. If you can, though, imagine what it is like for a young person struggling with their sexuality or gender identity — it is much worse for them. I want people to understand that those needs are there, and that they are important.”

source: nbcnews.com