The 20 Queer Qs series seeks to capture LGBTQ individuals (and allies) in a moment of authenticity. We get to know these people, find out what they value, and get their thoughts and opinions on topics surrounding the LGBTQ community including love, dating, media representation, identity, advice for LGBTQ youth, and more.
The goal is to leave you, the reader, feeling like you just gained a new friend and a new perspective.
Get to know Omar Torres, a licensed therapist in New York City who is incredibly kind and intelligent. Learn about his thoughts on queer therapists, his biggest insecurity, what goes through his mind when people say masc4masc, and more!
Preferred Pronouns: He/Him/His
Sexually Identifies As: Gay
1. What do you love about the LGBTQ community?
I love the concept of chosen family, and I love the way we’ve sort of redefined what family means, what it looks like, and we’ve adapted it to fit what works for us. I love that the LGBTQ community defines family not just through biology but through emotional intimacy, connection, and support.
2. How did you feel attending your first Pride?
I was 22 or 23. It was a similar experience to when I went to my first gay club. When I first started going out to gay bars and clubs, there was a lot more dancing going on. I just kept thinking, “I’ve been missing out on this?!” Mind blowing, eye opening, and relieving. It felt good to know that I could talk to someone and know I’m not going to get beat up. But the other great thing was that the default here is that I’m gay, I don’t have to come out over and over again, so having access to that kind of privilege is amazing. That was probably the most relieving part of my first Pride, is that I don’t have to come out.
3. What does Pride mean to you?
It means connecting with your core values, connecting to a deep sense of authenticity, staying true to that, and aligning yourself with that no matter how difficult or uncomfortable it is and not making apologies for it.
4. What’s advice you have for LGBTQ youth?
Find the people that get you and stick with them. Some of them you will randomly meet, but keep your eyes open for them. Find people that’ll have your back and have people that like you just the way you are. Don’t worry about finding a boyfriend, girlfriend, or partner, that will come later on. First, find your people, the romance stuff will happen later.
5. Do you believe in love?
6. What values would you like in an ideal partner?
What I’m looking for is their default to kindness and compassion. I’m also looking for someone who has a solid foundation of social justice, an appreciation for social consciousness and awareness, and a solid understanding of what privilege means. If someone said to me that reverse racism was a thing, I’d be like “we’re not gonna work out.” Openness and curiosity. I don’t mind helping people learn, but you have to be open to learning about stuff.
7. How do you heal a broken heart?
With intention. Meaning, there are a lot of people who say, “it takes time!” And yes, it takes time, but not idle time, it has to be active time. So you have to be intentional with how you spend your time, and who you spend your time with. You heal a broken heart by asking yourself what you need and following through with that. Surround yourself with loving, supportive people that love and care about you and reflect back to you an accurate vision of yourself.
It’s engaging in things that you’re passionate about and that you love, so reading a book that you love, watching a movie you love. Engaging in things and learning, listening to a podcast. Constantly engaging in the things that you’re interested in and passionate about. I think offering support to others is a great way of healing a broken heart. You might be going through something, but someone else might be going through something, so help and support them. Being intentional with how you spend your time and that you’re engaged, not just idly sitting around.
8. Do you think it’s more important for LGBTQ individuals to see a queer therapist as opposed to any therapist?
I definitely think everyone should try therapy. In one’s lifetime, you will most likely see a couple of therapists, at least one of them should identify as queer in some way. For a couple of reasons: One, there are things that I’m aware of that straight therapists may be aware of but not in the same way. It doesn’t mean that their input isn’t important, but having a perspective from someone who has lived through it can also be helpful. Then there’s the obvious stuff, no one has to explain to me what they mean when they’re talking about topping or bottoming. Some people don’t care and are more than happy to explain, but for other folks, it’s important to be able to not spend their time teaching these things. It’s interesting, I think there’s some room for clients to teach me things and just by them speaking to me and sharing, they’re teaching me things. I don’t think you should only see a queer therapist but in your lifetime of therapy or for however long you’re in therapy, I think you should try it at least once.
9. What are your thoughts on people who say masc4masc?
The first thing that comes to mind is how limiting. You’re really limiting yourself to a particular experience. It’s like walking into an all you can eat buffet and just sticking to the salad bar, it’s very limiting. When I see that I think to myself, wow this person has a great opportunity to unpack what masculinity means for them. There’s a part of me that’s excited for them because I really hope they one day meet a therapist who clocks that and says, “Let’s talk about this, let’s unpack what masculinity means to you, let’s talk that it’s a social construct, that it’s changed over time, that it’s subjective to you, and it’s misogynistic roots. That we created masculinity in order to oppress women and it mainly has been used as a tool of oppression; meaning this is the standard, this is the ideal, anything that doesn’t meet that is inferior and that’s how we’re going to treat people who don’t meet that standard.”
So if people could educate themselves around that, what it means to them, and unpack why it’s important enough for them to announce it. I want to draw a distinction between finding that you are drawn to something vs. announcing it. If you find yourself drawn towards masculine men, I would still encourage you to unpack that, but if you also feel emboldened to put that in your profile, knowing that it’s hurtful or deflating for a lot of people, then I think there’s more to explore there.
10. What hopes do you have for the LGBTQ community in the future?
To be nicer to each other. I think we can do better especially for the marginalized groups within our community, I think we can be nicer and more inclusive. Even myself, I can be more diligent to make sure that as many people as possible feel included and welcomed. I think there’s more talk around trans rights and more talk around the experience of people of color in this community and I would like there to be eventually more talk about folks of various physical abilities. So any kind of physical limitation from being wheelchair bound to having MS, I think that population feels particularly excluded, so I’m hoping that in the future, we are much more inclusive and welcoming of various groups than we are right now.
11. What’s your earliest memory that you felt you were different?
I cannot remember a time when I didn’t feel different. As long as I have memories, I remember feeling different. Some of my more vivid memories revolved around what I wanted to play with and recognizing that when I play with toy cars, everyone leaves me alone. But when I play with Barbies, people have opinions about it. So that’s one of my more vivid memories of “Oh, I’m different and something’s off.”
12. What do you feel most insecure about?
Sounding stupid. I’m very conscious of wanting to sound smart and intelligent. I work very hard to not sound dumb.
13. Have you found your chosen family?
Yeah! They make me feel accepted, and I love when they correctly predict the way I’m going to think about something or when they say something like, “Yeah, that’s Omar!” Little cues like that let me know that they really know me, get me, and accept me. I did not have what I have now at 25, nowhere near it. All throughout my twenties was a lot of trial and error. It was a lot of meeting people, thinking we were friends but then recognizing that we weren’t. There are very few friendships that I made in my early and mid-twenties that still are my friends now. That’s not to be like “don’t bother making friends!” because there is a small handful that I did make that, to this day, I’m still friends with and that’s special, but your cohort of mid-twenties is a lot of figuring shit out.
14. When you think of comfort you think of _________
Food, The Cheesecake Factory, Pizza, Mozzarella Sticks.
15. What is the most awkward thing about you?
My obsession with Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
16. Use 3-5 words to describe your coming out experience?
Terrifying, Surprising, Relieving.
17. Did you ever/still feel uncomfortable holding another guy’s hand in public?
To a degree, yes. And how that manifests itself when I hold another guy’s hand in public, I’m much more aware of my surroundings. So discomfort in that sense that I have to look around and when someone’s too close. DIscomfort not because I’m holding his hand, but the risk that’s involved.
18. How much does your LGBTQ identity play into your overall identity?
It plays a huge role. It’s a really big part of who I am because it informs my clinical work, it also informs any social justice work that I do. There is a reason why I’ll read a research article on gay men of color because I am a gay man of color. So it informs everything from how I do my work clinically, to how I treat clients, to what I read and what I consume. It informs a lot of that. Of course, it’s only a part of my identity, but it’s a big part and an important part.
19. Do you think younger LGBTQ youth have it better?
No. I hate this idea of trying to quantify hardship, I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to say anything to the effect of “my pain is more pain than your pain.” It’s shitty for everyone for lots of different reasons. It was hard for me because there wasn’t a whole lot of visibility and the conversation now is much different than when I was 15. When I was a young kid, figuring out that I liked other men is when the AIDS epidemic was ravaging the city so reconciling that was very hard.
But I didn’t have to feel the pressure of having to document everything that I’m doing. If I got called a faggot, it was somewhere outside. The second I was home, that’s it. Kids now go home and they’re being bullied on every single social media platform that exists and that’s rough. And the pressure that as an adult I feel to curate a certain presence on social media, I can’t imagine what it must be like when you’re a teenager. So you’re trying to fully formulate your own identity in the face of thousands of people telling you this is how you should be. Growing up, I only got a piece of that culturally and society telling me how I should be, but this is a whole new ball game.
20. What value/quality have you gained since being a gay man? What has being a gay man given you?
I place a lot more value and emphasis on the value of giving back and I think that’s what being a gay man, especially a gay man of color has sort of instilled in me is how important it is to give back to your community and to give back to those younger than you that are coming up. One of the things that I would love to do eventually is to take on and supervise social work interns and work with more social work interns. People that are still in school and looking to become a clinician. So giving back in that way and in other ways too has become more and more important to me.