Kenneth Pabon, a beloved young gay Latino TikToker, sometimes goes back into the closet. Thankfully, the closet is literal and it’s actually a place for openness, self-love and candid conversation. He’s there on his own volition, interviewing some of his favorite people about sex and queerness for content that’s different from anything else on social media right now. Ironically, though, Pabon’s raunchiest and most illuminating conversations are not with sexperts or other queer people his own age. They’re with his mom, Patty.
The series is a culmination of the content 23-year-old Pabon has been posting since he first rose to TikTok fame at the height of the pandemic while he was quarantining in his parents’ Long Island home. That was the first time Pabon lived with his family since he had come out as gay at 19, and he seized it as an opportunity to forge a new type of relationship with his family based on honest communication and mutual respect, he said a few weeks ago, at a TikTok Visionary Voices event for Hispanic Heritage Month in New York City.
The unfortunate reality is that when parents have a queer child, they’re often in complete denial or become an offensive trope, asking all sorts of invasive questions about their intimate lives. Pabon flipped the script and asked his parents about their sex lives, which gave him permission to talk about his own. The videos were a hit.
Scrolling through Pabon’s page, you see the progression of how those conversations clear a path for the type of humor that resounds throughout his content. The first time I saw Pabon on my “For You” page, he and his mom were on a treadmill wearing dresses and black stilettos while holding martini glasses, dishing motivational dating advice of the “dump his ass” variety.
Watches Bridgerton once* @Patty Heg
If you are queer or have anyone in your life who has struggled to come out of the closet, it’s not difficult to understand the impact of Pabon’s TikToks. For many people of color especially, the idea of parents who not only accept their queer children but also attempt to walk in their heels is a far-fetched concept. Watching Patty speak to her son about her own sex life takes the onus away from her queer son to be the only one to articulate his most intimate desires. And it creates an atmosphere of safety and mutual support.
What feels incredibly rewarding to Pabon is the evidence of his and his mom’s impact beyond the comments section. He tells me about a time in a gender neutral bathroom at a club when a stranger approached him and described how Pabon had inspired them to come out as trans. Of course, there were tears from both parties.
Seeing a Latina mom be so vulnerable has opened the floodgates for many young brown queer people to demand more from their parents, it seems. Pabon tells me that when the videos started going viral, people whose parents had rejected them for being queer started calling his mom their mom. She’d been spiritually adopted thousands of times over, and it felt incredible.
The haters always make it to the yard, too, though. At the beginning, “we were getting a lot of hate,” Pabon tells me. But ultimately, heartfelt comments from queer or trans people cut through the noise. “Those were the responses that made us keep going.”
Pabon’s newest TikTok series, “out of the closet,” is a vehicle for him to dig deeper with the people he loves. A few weeks ago, he asked his mom if she had ever gotten with a girl before — turns out she had. Posts like this make me think about how often in my coming out journey I have demanded my immigrant parents to see me as a complex person while simultaneously regarding them as one-dimensional. I have never asked my parents about their exes or if they have ever had same-sex crushes.
Seeing Pabon ask his mom these questions led me to realize that maybe immigrant parents and parents of color can be as dynamic as anyone else. I’m pretty sure many of our parents have dated, had at least mildly gay thoughts, been heartbroken, and had sex — regular sex, disappointing sex and the best sex of their lives.
Our families are too often portrayed as uncomplicated bigots, and creators such as Pabon are antidotes that give permission to other queer Latine people to imagine coming out narratives that are not filled with heartbreak and rage. Yes, rejection is too often a real and terrifying prospect for a lot of us, but we should be allowed to witness different, more positive outcomes, too. As in Pabon’s case, we can hold space for the radical possibility that our parents could turn into our greatest allies if we gave them the chance — and the guidance.