I finished my Mother's Day project in kindergarten class as quickly as I could. A half-assed effort to be the first to finish. My speed was not intended to show off but rather to ask the teacher if I could make a second gift.
"You can't do another one," she said.
"But I have two moms." I responded.
"That's not possible," she said in the most affirming tone.
And the conversation was over. I was so confused, as I imagine my teacher was. I arrived home and give one of my parents the gift I made, consciously noting that the next year I should give a gift to my other mom. As a four-year-old, I didn't know how to tell them both that I loved them equally. But it was both school and home that conditioned me to look at them differently.
"Ella es tu tia," my biological mom would say, "pero es como tu otra mama."
I grew up with lesbian moms. One named Chula -- my biological mom -- and one named Muñeca. Both were pet names my brother Freddy gave them, so easily they stuck with me. They fled Nicaragua partially to escape the Sandinista Revolution -- and partially because they were sick of not being themselves in their home country.
Even as they settled into the U.S., they internalized the homophobia they faced in Nicaragua. My parents always made it clear that Chula was my mom and that I had one brother. Muñeca was just a super close friend that had kids of her own and I, in no way, shape or form, had a kinship to her.
I hated that.
The fabricated story made me feel like a liar. Something they taught me to never be. I don't blame them though. Many of our family scuffles stem from the fact that there are two women in a relationship. Its pitiful, to say the least, but true. All my older siblings found it difficult to accept that. I, on the other hand, had the advantage of being born into both of their arms.
They cared for me equally. Muñeca would sing me lullabies to sleep and Chula helped me with my math homework. They bathed me, they fed me. Most of all, they gave me my space to become the person I wanted to become -- the luxury they probably always wanted, but never felt they could have. They did what they could to make me feel special -- that I was important to them. And that's exactly how I felt. That paradox troubled me -- to know they cared for me as their son, but not be able to acknowledge them as a unit made me feel uncomfortable.
I knew that the tables were turning when they got married in 2008. California's brief flirt with same-sex marriage before Prop 8 was voted on became their moment to solidify their relationship and in essence, their love for each other. Almost a year before that, Chula suffered a stroke that has disabled her to this day. Immediately, Muñeca stepped up to care for her. What has amazed me so far is how attentive she is to her needs. I think about myself and realize I don't yet have the patience for it and begin to wonder how she does. But the answer is simple: They love each other.
Their love is what has afforded me a family, a home and the hope for something better. I love my parents. As I participate and engage in LGBT work, I am inspired by them. It took them decades to finally be at a comfortable place to proclaim their love for each other. The liberty I have to date other men and hold hands and be affectionate in public has come at the expense of our elders, at the expense of my parents.
I don't take my liberties for granted because I know how dehumanizing their communities were to them. I take my liberties to fight for equality. I take my liberties to honor my mothers. Because I love them both to death -- equally.
Lester Alemán is a co-host on The Boys Talk, an entertainment and lifestyle podcast. He is also a senior volunteer at GLAAD and is their National Chair of Young Adults Initiatives. He is the former Director of the Stonewall Resource Center at Grinnell College, where he also received his bachelor's degree in Sociology. Lester currently lives in Los Angeles and works full-time in the education sector.