How ‘Steven Universe’ Helped My Family Accept Me & the LGBTI+ Community

Carlos Rivera
Animated Series TV
Animated Series TV

Picture This: A very religious Latin-American family in a semi-rural area of Caracas, Venezuela. A place where all men live true to the “macho” standard and the only sexual identity was that of straight or heterosexual. Well, that’s my family, and that’s where my story starts.

I grew up in a place where ambitions were simple and people lived easy and simple lives. Think of any rural cliché town in a comedy movie and you will get a good idea of where I lived. Since I was a little kid, I always felt a certain degree of attraction to both genders. However, this was considered a deviation from the “norm”, so I couldn’t speak to anyone about it without getting shushed or punished in some way.

''Sailor Moon' is for girls', they told me.

I tried my best to deal with it in silence, but anytime I tried anything remotely considered to be feminine I got phrases like “Sailor Moon is for girls. If you want to watch it, we’ll have you use heels and a ballet tutu,” and “Boys don’t cry; if you cry, you are a girl.” They didn’t treat me wrong, they just raised me the same way their parents raised them.

Flash-forward to my college years – I was 21 years old and had three little cousins who felt more like sisters to me, and I lived in another town where I got to experience my sexuality in a more open way.

As I lived in a different town, I travelled weekly to visit my family and one of our rituals was to watch whatever series or cartoons were trending at the time with my cousins.

At first, I didn't think I would like 'Steven Universe'. I was wrong.

It was just around that time where a new cartoon was being transmitted on Cartoon Network L.A called Steven Universe, truth be told I didn’t like it at first, I thought it was going to be like the show Clarence, so I ignored it completely.

A couple weeks later, one of my friends told me I had to see it. So, I ended up binge-watching it and fell utterly and totally in love with it.

But that was just the start of my Steven Universe odyssey. By the time season 1 was almost finished, my family and I were fans of the show and religiously watched every weekly episode. My cousins and I even created a WhatsApp group where we spoke about the villains, their motivations, what possible fusions we could expect in future seasons and so on.

steven_universe ruby sapphire kiss
This kiss may have completely changed my life.

During one of those conversations, the topic of Ruby and Sapphire’s kiss came up, and I didn’t know how to explain it without my family going crazy about it. To my surprise, my 15-year-old cousin took the bullet for me and explained how families with “two dads or two moms” existed in other countries and it was normal.

I was shocked. Sex Ed where we live isn’t very good, and themes like sexuality and gender roles are scandalous, to say the least. So, I asked her in a private chat where did she learned about it and she told me:

When they kissed I started reading about it online because I wanted to know if they were a lesbian couple, and they actually were! So I started to read more and more online, and I can’t even begin to know what you have endured during all these years before moving on your own, I think they [my family] owe you an apology”.

I was on the verge of tears. One of my dearest family members was telling me how she accepted me, my sexuality, and the entire LGBTI+ community all in one simple chat session.

The weekend after that, my family spoke with me. Turns out that my eldest cousin, Cira, had been showing the others what she had found online and had explained what she learned. Thanks to that, she slowly changed how my family approached any LGBTI+ topics. For the first time in 21 years, they hugged me and told me that whatever I decided to be, they were going to be fine with it.

I’m 24 years old now, I live in a different country with my husband, and we share a Skype video call with my family every weekend. My family love him and have accepted him as one of their own. And it all started with a kiss from Ruby and Sapphire on Steven Universe.

I don’t want to say anything cheesy like “Rebecca Sugar changed my life” or “Steven Universe is the best show ever,” but the truth is Rebecca Sugar and her team are doing something great for most of us out there, and I couldn’t be more grateful to her.

Carlos Rivera
If I'm not working or playing on my 3DS, I'm binge watching shows on netflix with my dog-daughter while eating pizza. I'm the bastard son of Murphy and Nicki Minaj is my spirit Guide.
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