My name is Derek Mathew Gonzalez and I am a Graphic Designer in Los Angeles, CA. I recently graduated from Otis College of Art & Design with a Bachelor of Fine Arts and an emphasis in Graphic Design. I found your website through a friend and have become a constant reader and admirer. The stories I have read have inspired me to reach out to you and share my own.
As an artist and designer, I think it’s important to incorporate not just a part of myself in my work but everything I am. For my Senior Project at Otis, I wanted to focus on my experience of growing up Catholic and discovering my sexuality at an early age. Right away, I knew that making this project and getting the word out about it would encourage gay youth (that struggle with religion) to be brave and strong for themselves. I started collecting journal entries from when I was in middle school to the present and realized how far I’ve come in accepting myself for all that I am. There are so many stereotypes and pressures to look a certain way that I had to keep telling myself that being gay is not all that I am and that I was worthy of so much more than a label. That being said, being raised in a Catholic home became in itself, a label I had to carry. There was a duality of tension and guilt between a force telling me how to be and another telling me to live freely.
Moving forward with this project was not easy as I wanted it to encompass not only everything that I experienced in my past but everything I recently overcame at the time. The summer before my last semester at Otis, I stopped going to church entirely. I had been sleeping in purposely every Sunday because the last mass I had attended made me feel completely left out and depressed. During mass, the priest spoke out against homosexuality and gay marriage. I had heard other priests give their own opinions about it and forced myself to believe that maybe someday the Catholic Church might open it’s eyes. I had held the beliefs of Catholicism in the highest regard and ignored it’s views on homosexuality. But in this moment at church, when the priest dared to speak words of distaste, I was infinitely pissed off. I was so overwhelmed that I began to lose my breath as tears were being choked back. I looked at my family around me and felt alone. I quietly stepped back from the pew and walked to my car where I finally let the water pour from my eyes; I was done.
It’s extremely hard when major self-identifiers are from opposing viewpoints but I am living proof that it’s possible to decide what you want to believe in and the path you choose to live is yours alone. I won’t say that it has been easy but like the many youtube videos say: “It gets better,” because it really does. That being said, I would like to introduce my publications “COEXIST: Homosexuality & Catholicism” and “COEXIST: The Liberation” (which I collaborated with my beautiful boyfriend on). Previously stated, it is a project that focuses on my personal experiences with my Catholic upbringing as it relates to my sexual orientation. I intend to reveal the clashing of organized religion and free sexuality by sharing intimate truths about my own struggles and journey. I want to empower gay youth to reconcile their own beliefs with their sexual identity and allow themselves to live freely — by accepting both. I’m not selling Catholicism or Homosexuality but I’m pushing for individuality. It is simply my story and the story of many, living in a limbo of faith and sexuality.
Although these publications are currently not available for purchase, I have made them available for everyone to view and experience. You can view them on my blog or on issu.com. There is also a video on youtube: COEXIST
DG (x) Design
All the best,