Doug Nava was born and raised in Santa Fe to a family of Catholics who can trace their Spanish lineage back farther than most. He’s traditional in many senses of the word: He has a respectable job in state government, goes to mass on Sundays, loves his family, has participated in the annual Fiestas de Santa Fe and even ran, in 2010, for Santa Fe City Council. That he’s gay is where Nava may be different--or, as he contends, not so different at all.
I give thanks every single day that, when I was being created, I was chosen not only to be Hispanic; I was also placed in the oldest traditions in the United States--and, of course, I was given an extra chromosome. Being gay and being Catholic, to me, doesn’t make a difference. I don’t think it’s conflicting. Being Catholic, we’ve always been taught we are part of the creation. Well, if I’m part of the creation, then this is what he did.
People know that I love Santa Fe--the traditions, the cultures, from the artwork to the music to the dancing. I’ve made a lot of great, wonderful friends. And then one day, I just said, that’s it. I’ve got to go to the next phase. It’s time to say who I am.
When I came out, it wasn’t like people were shocked. That’s the best part about it: It didn’t make a difference.
I’ve gone on dates with guys and stuff like that, and they’ve said, ‘How can you be Catholic? The Catholic Church persecutes you.’ I say, ‘You know what? That’s man that persecutes me.’ I was raised in this, and nobody’s going to take it away from me.
If people were to pay attention at mass, they’d realize how many gays are up there.
I think about how I was raised, the traditions I carry, the blood I carry. If La Conquistadora and the Spaniards could do this, then I can be that same--contemporary conquistador. Or, in the gay world, a ‘couture conquistador.’
I’m a native Santa Fe boy. I love this place. I say I’m going to move, and people are like, ‘Whatever, Doug.’ I’m just lucky to be an openly gay man in a family that doesn’t care.
Everybody in this town has gay members of their family. They’re teachers; they’re firefighters; they might be policemen; they’re at the store; they own the restaurants you love. Who cares?
I’ve attended my sisters’ weddings, walking down the aisle and being in the church and stuff--yeah, I would love that. But it’s not going to happen. I’ll never see that. Where two gay men can get married on the steps of a Catholic church? That is never gonna happen. I’m sorry; that is just realism.
To Archbishop Michael J Sheehan, who knows me, who saw me at the procession, who saw me in church, who knew I loved it: Because I’m gay, does he think I’m a horrible person? Does he?
When I first came out, I told my only brother. And this is the best: I said, ‘Mario, there’s something I’ve got to tell you.’ He’s like, ‘You’re an alcoholic!’ I was like, ‘What the hell does that mean?’
I came out at my mother’s 50th birthday party. I used a celebration to come out. I killed all the birds with one stone.
I told my mother last and, when I told my mom, she started crying. I thought, ‘Oh my God, she’s mad.’ And she said, ‘I just want you to be happy, Doug. I don’t care.’
The one family member that I was more terrified about than anything was my brother-in-law, Richard--such a masculine [man], and I never really said anything to him. One day, my brother-in-law was at the house, and I think my niece had asked him [about my being gay]. My brother-in-law came into that kitchen and he said, ‘Doug, I need to tell you something.’ And I said, ‘Uh-oh. Here it is.’ He said, ‘My kids are not going to be bigots, and they’re going to learn to love whoever you love. You’re their uncle.’ I had tears.
I’ve met a lot of guys in this town that are not open, and I’m like, ‘You’re kidding me. Your family does not know? Do they not see you walk and talk?’ But it’s a struggle, and it’s not easy.
Being gay, to me, is a major lesson. I’ve learned a lot. But the guys that I hang around with now have made me a better gay man than I think I could’ve been. All my buddies have been together 8 years, 10 years, 19 years. I am the spinster; I’m the single one. But when I have two buddies who have been together 19 years--yeah, they fight, I’m sure. But they have a great time together, and they take care of each other, and they’re stable, and they do nothing any different than their neighbors across the street. And if people can’t see that, then what the hell do you see?
I live in the city of St Francis, la Villa Real de Santa Fe de San Francisco de Asís, and St Francis being the patron of peace, anytime anybody has ever semi-attacked me for being gay and Catholic, I always quote: ‘Make me a channel of your peace. Where there is hatred, let me bring you love. Where there is injury, pardon, Lord, you know.’ Can’t get any better than that, you know? Especially when they’re Catholicism people. I’ve always said until the day he comes down and points His finger at me and tells me he’s disappointed in me, then I guess I don’t have anything to worry about.
I was part of Santa Fe Fiestas. I ran for [the part of Don Diego] DeVargas, and I’ll be honest; I didn’t promote my gayness. I wasn’t really out there with it because I love being part of all that so much that I kept thinking, well, once I’m gay, is it something I can’t do anymore?
I’ve never been angry with my Lord and my God for not ever getting what I want. I just had open-heart surgery, and I wasn’t angry. I ran for DeVargas and I didn’t win. I wasn’t angry with Jesus, and I wasn’t angry. Those are man-made, human decisions when people do that stuff. I was raised in this, and nobody’s going to take it away from me. Nobody is going to take it away from me.
I know a lot of men in this town who were born and raised here who say, ‘Oh, I left the Catholic church.’ I’m like, ‘Why? Didn’t you love it?’ [They say], ‘I used to love going to Mass.’ Then why’d you stop?
Somebody has to pass on the traditions. Somebody has to keep it going. And I love it. If I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t.
We all hear something different. To me, religion is like math. In high school, the teacher always showed five different ways to get to the answer. To me, that’s all religion is: It’s five different ways. We all end up praying to the creator. But that’s the great thing about being an individual: you can depict what your creator is.
If the Pope and all these people never knew who I was, and I sat and prayed with them and did the rosary with them and went to church and walked the processions and sang, and then they found out I’m gay, was I still not a good Catholic? Am I now not a good Catholic? That’s what it comes down to.
If I met a guy and we just hit it off and it’s wonderful, if he wanted to have that whole commitment ceremony then, as his partner, I would do it. Why? It makes him happy. I don’t need it. But if it makes him happy, that is part of making it work, 50-50. There might be compromise but if I met a guy who says, ‘I don’t need a piece of paper,’ then that’s fine....
If me and my partner live together until death do us part and never once did we hate our God or hate our Jesus and never once--how can I say this?--just lived a good life and took care of people and did what we have to do, if it meant me being condemned to hell just because I was gay, then I guess that’s just the card I was dealt.
I don’t need a certificate by the church for anything.
I go to church, and I sit there and see a lot of the gay community. Until the day of final judgment, we don’t know what’s going to happen. But I’ve always said, I don’t need anybody’s acceptance in this world but my family’s.
My grandmother is my entire life. She’s everything in the world to me--talk about on a pedestal, you know?
So I met this guy, and he came to the house one time and met the family. I was sitting in the den with my grandmother, watching TV, and I said, ‘What did you think of the guy that was here the other night?’ And she’s like, ‘Why?’ And I’m like, ‘Because we’re dating.’ She goes, ‘No, you’re not.’ I said, ‘Yeah, we are.’ She goes, ‘No. I don’t think so.’ I was all, ‘Because I’m gay?’ She goes, ‘No; because I don’t like him!’ And I told her I was gay and everything, and she’s like, ‘I don’t care, Doug, but not him. Anything but him.’ She didn’t like his appearance. She’s old-school. She [thought] I should be with some clean-cut, professional type. She learned to accept it, but you know.
I just figure there has to be somebody who protects me, and us in general. I had open-heart surgery last year. When you’re about to go underneath something like that--I relied on Catholicism to get me through it. I kept my rosary. When I went into surgery, they said you can take something in with you. I took a picture of La Conquistadora with a prayer on it, and they taped it to my hand. We don’t know where the card is. We don’t know what happened to the card--that was probably something that came off in the midst of all that cutting up and rib-making and whatever they do to you in there, but I took it with me. Hopefully it didn’t stick inside me.