My mother always explained to her children that our sisters are the only people that will be by our sides, forever. She instilled in us, that no matter how many times we fight and how many friends we have at school, the four of us (whether we liked it or not) are here until the end. On the same note, as a Chicana from a large, loud family, she always reminded us that our family will remain intact as long as we live.
What she never mentioned was that there would be years of questioning ahead in my journey that would keep me wondering, how many conditions were held under our unconditional love?
I am proud of the brown skin that I live within, a constant reminder that I come from an ancestry of resilience, power and Chingonas. I am proud of the life I lead as a queer person, connecting me with a community that has spent centuries fighting for the right to validate their love. I am proud of my hair, beard, body, and chosen names, because they are symbols of my pushback against gender, and pride within my transgender identity.
But what happens when these identities– brown, queer, and transgender– are wrapped around me while I navigate family, life, and success? Struggle.
I want to share with the world my truth, in hopes that this is being read by someone across the world, or down the street from me in Downtown Los Angeles, or by someone who simply needs to know. Our journeys are beautifully similar and powerfully different.
When I first came out to my family as anything but the straight, little boy I was expected to be, I was met with open arms and a family that promised to protect me at all costs. As a Catholic-baptized Mexican, queer/trans teenager, I can say that I was pleasantly surprised.
But as years passed, the effects of American capitalism and white supremacy found my parents unemployed and my family homeless. While I made the best of living motel-to-motel, imagining every new city we lived in as another country tourist stop, I couldn’t ignore the beginning and rise of my parents’ substance abuse that had only been encouraged by their inability to support four kids and a cat.
In school, I had just begun my freshman year and dedicated myself to continuing the basically perfect academic career I had led for the past eight years. If anything, knowing that I would be going home to a dirty motel and intimidating neighbors, made me stay on campus from sun-up to sun-down, nose in book and feet on the sports fields.
What I couldn’t avoid, however, was the growing tension about my gender identity and my parents’ failing mental health. I knew in their hearts and minds they supported me and loved me regardless of my lack of gender conformity. But drugs and sad minds don’t always speak kind words.
Laverne Cox has repeatedly been quoted saying that “misgendering a transgender person is an act of violence,” and I can’t help but struggle to emphasize this. I want to say “yes, this is violence”, every time my parents say I will always be their son. Yet I take a step closer to the mental/emotional place I fear because my Mexican-strength, machismo-bred, mental-health-isn’t-a-thing-just-drink-7Up upbringing feels humiliated that I could be affected by a simple name, word, or pronoun.
So why don’t I leave? Why haven’t I packed up my mind and heart and walked away from the family that I know loves me, but has been unable to show it for the past six years? Why don’t I follow the Gay America path and move to a bigger city, a friendlier community, a whiter town?
…Because my mom said my family would be here until the end, and I won’t be the one to walk away first. I look at the strength of what brown families have endured, what our ancestors fought to uphold, and I know it is worth it to keep fighting. I know that I may never have a family that is able to communicate their allyship and support of me in ways that my white friends with rich, nine-to-five, Pride-marching, P-FLAG member, mentally-healthy parents have.
But at the end of day, I want to believe my mom. On one hand, if we’re taught anything as Mexican children, it is to never question what Mom says. But on the other hand, as a queer, transgender person of color, I do not have the emotional capital to walk away. If all I can get is 50% of love from my familia, then I will take and appreciate just that, with 100% of my heart.