Student continues to pursue education in the face of adversity, homelessness

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Delta College student Daniel Orozco, who is majoring in fashion. (Courtesy Photo)

The day second-year Delta College student Daniel Orozco came out to his parents as bisexual, his world turned upside down.

It was nearly two years ago, at the age of 16, when Orozco decided to tell his parents the truth regarding his sexual orientation.

Orozco feared what his parents’ reaction might be due to their Catholic faith.

“Coming from a very religious family where my father was a preacher and I’d host youth retreats with my siblings, it would’ve been extremely hypocritical if I came out,” Orozco said. “So I concealed it.”

When he eventually did decide to tell parents about his attraction to both genders, he said he received intense backlash, especially from his mother.

“I could so easily feel her anger, her rage, and see the tears she had in her eyes,” he said.

Orozco said he felt broken and confused.

“I cried for two days nonstop, everything that I tried to eat that week, I threw up,” he said.

Orozco said he was told he would have to leave his house. The only way back home, he said, was if he sought correction for his preferences.

“My immediate response to that was ‘no,’ I didn’t want to do it,” he said. “My older sister told me to try and thought it was something that would pass, but it didn’t feel right. To this day, I still don’t regret my decision.”

When Orozco’s belongings were dropped off to him at the location where he would temporarily be staying, his mother forbade his siblings to see him, he said.

“As they were leaving,” Orozco said. “I heard my younger sister, who was only 10 at the time, ask my mom, ‘Why are we leaving Daniel behind?’”

Orozco said he has not spoken to his mother in more than eight months. 

He is trying to heal.

“It has hurt me and my life is affected by this every day,” he said. “I’m trying to find peace within myself and learning how to cope with all of the emotional damage she has caused me. The way she used to talk to me brought me down. She made me feel so worthless and unloved.”

Despite not speaking to his mother and not being allowed to have a relationship with his siblings, Orozco said he tries to see his father at least once a week.

Now he is facing yet another battle: homelessness.

According to a 2012 study conducted by The Williams Institute, 40 percent of homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

“Unfortunately, I find that many youth in our area tend to remain closeted at home out of fear that they will be kicked out,” Cymone Reyes, Interim Executive Director at the San Joaquin Pride Center, said.

According to Reyes, the San Joaquin Pride Center offers counseling services and works with local shelters to assist anyone that has been displaced due to coming out.

The first three months after Orozco left his house, he stayed with a close friend who offered to take him in, though he couldn’t stay there forever.

“I spent all of last summer sleeping at school underneath Danner Hall,” he said. “In the evenings when I would sleep there, I would end up getting a bloody nose and coughing up blood since I was outside.”

Orozco has also experienced food insecurity.

“I would go days without eating,” he said. “Finding water was really hard, especially when school was not in session and no stores were open. I would ration out what snacks my friends gave me.”

In December, another friend agreed to take Orozco in. While staying with this friend, he tried to find a job with no success. He now struggles to pay for his schooling. Because of his strained relationship with his parents, he has no way to get the tax information necessary to complete his FAFSA.

“It’s been extremely hard,” he said.

Even though he is facing many obstacles, Orozco still wants to pursue his education. 

He will graduate from Delta in May with his associate’s degree and hopes to attend California State University, Long Beach next year to complete his degree in fashion.

After all he has endured, Orozco manages to maintain a positive outlook on life.

“I’m still trying to find a place where I could call home, but I know this will all pay off one day,” he said.