Sam Gabriel comes from an Iraqi-Hispanic background, and reflects on a defining turning point in his life during childhood when he and his mother escaped from his father in the middle of the night. He credits his courageous mother as his inspiration in shaping his identity. As a gay man, he hopes his story is helpful to share with people who may feel that they are alone. The stigmatized aspects of what defines him have taught him the importance of love, and to foster hope during tough times.

This story was recorded in partnership with MALA and StoryCorps.

 

“I think my story begins with my childhood when I was about 4 or 5 years old. My mother and I ran away from, I shouldn’t say run away, but escaped my father. He’s Middle Eastern and was not the nicest man in the world to us. So, in the middle of the night, we made a run for it to a shelter for women with my mom where we stayed for about a year. I think, I mention that because that was such a defining moment for my character even though I didn’t realize it at the time. I was so young; I didn’t really know what was happening. I just knew that we were all together as a family and then we weren’t, and then we were with all these other woman and all these other children and not really understanding what that meant, until I became a teenager and until I became an adult, and really understood the ramifications of what my mother had done and why she did what she did. I think seeing that and seeing her struggle shaped me into every ounce of the person I am today because of her.

She raised me as a single mom from that point, until I was eighteen and I moved out; she is a very strong and very independent woman, and it taught me how to be strong and independent within my own sphere of identity and that’s where that begins. It begins with her; she’s my inspiration. My mother is truly someone I look up to quite a bit. I don’t give her enough credit. I don’t say this enough to her face because you know, you don’t want to tell your mom, but she’s everything and she’s amazing. She’s an artist and I’m also an artist because of her, although it’s not my nine to five my love for art, my love for people, and my empathy for people all comes from her. So, she is who I am and I am who she is, for sure. I mean, because I am a minority in so many respects, it’s hard to not have that part of my story define who I am.

I’ve never had to struggle in terms of my upbringing with acceptance. I was fortunate enough to have my mom who did not care that I was gay. I think she actually preferred it. And I never, outside of school bullying, in my adult years had to deal with too much in the way of racism, at least nothing overt. But, I recognize that these facets of who I am matter to people, not necessarily people I’m close to but there are people for people who care you know. There are people who care that I’m gay. There are people who care that I’m gay or that I happen to be Middle Eastern, or happen to be Hispanic and that is hard to reconcile sometimes when you talk to people and they don’t fully listen to you, or they automatically are suspicious of you, or they question your intentions, or they’re scared of what you may do simply because of what you are, where you were born as something that no things you chose, and you’re being judged on it. I think that, not to sound completely cliché, but we all need to learn how to love a little better. I mean that from both sides of the fence.

There’s so much hate going around, and I see my friends who are so hurt and I see the other side who wants change, and we need to figure out how to be better. Be better people, be better together, work together, and love together. I think this is a phenomenal country, and I think we have so much potential but it’s hard right now and it’s scary but I’m hopeful. I think if nothing else, being Middle Eastern, being Hispanic, and being LGBT, if I can come out of that and still be hopeful as I am, then we can all be a little more hopeful. I think it’s possible. That’s what I’m definitely trying to take away out of everything that’s happened within my life, and everything that’s happened within our lives as America. Hope and be better.”

 

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