Trigger warning: suicide. Christian Chávez’s face lights up when he talks about RBD. While his experience with the Mexican pop group — with its plethora of unbelievable highs and devastating lows — can be described with the refrán “be careful what you wish for, because you might get it,” the love he feels for the band, its members, and the fans cannot be doubted. It’s so palpable, I could feel it even virtually.
“You feel something before you get on stage,” Chávez tells Refinery29 Somos. “When you listen to the people screaming outside, and you’re just about to start — it's not a high. It's something I haven't felt in so long.”
At the start of 2023, RBD announced its long-awaited comeback tour. After 15 years, most of the band’s six original members will return. Chávez, a Mexican singer and actor best known for playing Giovanni Méndez López in the telenovela Rebelde, is one of the members coming back.
But this Christian Chávez is not one fans have met before.
If you’re a longtime RBD fan (like I am), you’ve heard the flurry of rumors and harsh gossip surrounding Chávez’s sexual orientation and personal life. As such, this comeback doesn’t just mark a momentous occasion for the band. It also welcomes Chávez as himself in his truest form — someone who stands on stage, welcomed by adoring fans, screaming “libertad.”
"This Christian Chávez is not one fans have met before."
At 21 years old, Chávez got his lucky break when he was cast in Rebelde, before the band made it big. But in 2007, that dream opportunity gave him what — at the time — was his worst nightmare. Chávez, who got married to a man in Canada six months before the telenovela blew up, was told his private wedding photos were being used as blackmail against Rebelde’s network Televisa. The blackmail perpetrators were “asking for a lot of money.” Currently, the perpetrators’ identity is still unknown and Chavez doesn’t “want to lose any more energy on blaming someone.”
He describes how it took three hours to write his coming out letter, going back and forth with his eraser and pencil, crying all throughout. “I didn't have the courage to say ‘gay,’ because I was so scared,” he says.
As one of the first high-profile stars to come out to the public (or, rather, being forced to) in Mexico, Chávez didn’t have a blueprint — and not for his personal life either. “When I was 16 years old, I was praying every night and asking God to change me,” he says. “I would have loved to have someone there on the TV, on the news, that was happy about who he was. I think it would have helped me a lot.”
Chávez didn’t have a choice. That’s the reality for many queer people. Being out means freedom to be yourself, but being forced out is a violent push that takes the choice away from you. And even when you’re out, it doesn’t stop there — every new person you meet means a new coming out. If your parents don’t accept you (as is the case for many of us in Latin America), it means coming out every time they willfully forget.
"Being out means freedom to be yourself, but being forced out is a violent push that takes the choice away from you."
“People think just because you're out, you don't have any problems anymore,” Chávez says. “But they have to understand that, especially my generation, we didn't have the opportunity to have a normal adolescence.”
Chávez was bashed in conservative Mexican media with networks denying him opportunities. His career took a hard stop. “Suddenly, every door closed on my face,” he remembers.
The narrative that if gay people come out, they’ll lose job opportunities became a painful reality. “If you are yourself, you're gonna lose even more,” Chávez recalls being told by people at the time.
He fell into a deep depression and addiction — even surviving a suicide attempt. “It really hurts your spirit, your heart, your mind, and it takes time,” he says. “It's hard work, you know, and that's something that I've been working on in therapy.”
Thankfully, he climbed out of that suffocating hole. He became part of a national HIV/AIDS awareness and early testing campaign across Mexico by The News Agency concerning Sexual Diversity (ANODIS) and Aids Healthcare Foundation México. He released “Libertad,” a song that’s become a gay anthem in collaboration with RBD member and friend Anahí. The dance rhythm accompanies profound, personal lyrics like “el dolor se marchó, y mi alma es libre del temor” (“the pain has marched on, and my soul is free of fear”) and “es tiempo de vivir sin miedo, yo solo quiero libertad” (“it’s time to live without fear, I only want freedom”).
Although these accomplishments happened between 2008 and 2011, Chávez considers them small. “It was little things because I was … I was lost,” he says. “And honestly, I was scared of doing too many things in the gay community.”
He was struggling with being himself, forced heteronormalcy, and not being “too gay” because that meant his career taking a hit. “You're not an activist,” they told him. “You are a singer and you're an actor.”
That mentality is long behind him, though. Things have changed, and thankfully, they’ve progressed. “It was almost four years ago that I started being myself,” he says. “Imagine. It took me a long time to start being myself.”
Now, he can truly reclaim that freedom he sang about 12 years ago.
With such a complicated past, one might think Chávez holds some resentment toward RBD and his experience for indirectly causing him so much grief. That couldn’t be more wrong. He smiles fondly and his eyes brighten when I ask him about RBD’s return. With that freedom, with his true self, he’s returning to his roots.
“I want to enjoy this new part of RBD as I am. You know, now that I'm free. Now that I don't have anything that holds me back.”
“I want to enjoy this new part of RBD as I am,” he says. “You know, now that I'm free. Now that I don't have anything that holds me back.”
It’s hard to grasp that just 16 years ago, a celebrity announcing their sexuality was considered a scandal. Of course, the world still has a long way to go regarding the rights of the queer community. Between the anti-trans laws being enforced throughout the United States and anti-queer violence throughout Latin America, LGBTQIA+ acceptance is far from perfect. Even so, it’s crucial to celebrate the progress so many of our queer ancestors fought for, Chávez shares.
“It's important to go and look at the history,” he says. “Because it's our history and that's what makes us stronger: to remember.”
Chávez’s story is a reminder that it’s never too late to be true to yourself. Even though he went through an extremely difficult situation, he was able to rise above the suffering. It reminds us that things change, that they get better — but only if we’re brave enough to keep fighting. The queer joy that’s waiting on the other side of our healing journey makes it all worth it.
“It's important to go and look at the history, because it's our history and that's what makes us stronger: to remember.”
When asked what advice he would give to queer readers experiencing similar struggles, Chávez reinforces that the key to survival is perseverance and community.
“Everything changes, so hold on,” he says. “Keep holding on. Try to find your family — and when I say your family, it’s not only your blood relatives. You can make your family with friends, with people that support you.”