Louie: So where’d ya grow up?
Emmanuel: I grew up in Jersey, I moved to Philly when I was 21. I think I was really attracted to Philly because I was looking for peers like myself, young people who were “out”, and they wanted to find other places to hang out. I was looking for comradely or a brotherhood type of thing.
Louie: You found in it in Philly?
Emmanuel: Yes. I love Philly.
Louie: Philly is amazing. I may have to move soon and I am so afraid. One thing that is interesting is that in Philly the word “Queer” means different things to different people. How do you feel about the word “Queer?”
Emmanuel: I like the word queer. I don’t have an issue with it. I think that its encompassing of a lot of things, I think for me its like a celebratory kind of word. It speaks to a sense of community. And I love being Puerto Rican and Queer. Our culture is multifaceted and there is such a diaspora of colors, experiences and love.
Louie: When did you start feeling confident about yourself and identity?
Emmanuel: I came out when I was 14, my freshmen year in high school and I was going through a lot. My father had just passed away, he passed away because of HIV, and it was a very hard time for me in my life. Being young and being closeted, going into my freshmen year in high school, I felt so much pressure to like conform to the “norm” of people might expect. I didn’t want to deal with any of that pressure, I didn’t want to hide myself or try to be something that I wasn’t. I wanted to live in my truth and have the freedom to be who I am and not necessarily letting being gay define me because it is only one element of who I am.
Emmanuel Claudio, He/Him/His
Interviewed & Photographed by: Louie A. Ortiz-Fonseca