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Ally Week: The Power of Hope

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It is 6 a.m. on a Saturday morning, and I've just sent my end-of-month report into cyberspace. Before I have even a moment to enjoy the feeling of completion, I sense the door swing open; there is someone else in my office.

As I turn, I see my daughter standing in the doorway. Cristina, my 21-year-old, stands at the door as if she is walking in her sleep. She looks pale; her eyes are swollen, her body trembles. She clasps her body with her arms as if she is trying to keep warm, still, or holding herself from falling apart.

At first I think she is sleepwalking. Then I notice her shaking shoulders and the tears running down her face. She is awake and sobbing.

My mental notes of her recent behavior come back. She moved back home from her college dorm suddenly, unexpectedly. On the few occasions I've visited her on campus for a quick lunch, we have run into her former roommate. She turns away each time, pretending not to see us. When I make a comment to Cristina about this, she brushes me off, saying I am being too sensitive.

While I am recalling these excerpts of her past behavior, she tries to get my attention. Coming back to the moment, I notice that her body is smaller; she has lost a lot of weight.

I realize she has been speaking to me, and I try to grasp on to what she is saying.

"Mom, I am evil, I am dirty, I am a liar."

Why is she saying those things?

"Mami, no one will love me again."

I am in shock. Why is she saying these horrible things? Did she kill someone? Did she steal money? Why is she in so much pain?

Her words fill the room:

"Mami, I am in love with a girl."

I feel relief, as if cool steam is blowing on my face; I thank the universe, cosmos, maybe God.

I now know the reasons for her weight loss, for all her sleepless nights, for the days she cannot get out of bed, for all the arguments with her boyfriend.

As I hug her, her body slumps. I grab her to stop her from falling, while my mind races at 1000 miles a minute. I think about the world of hate against people who seem different. I think about her pain and feel a stab in my gut. I could have lost her! If she's feeling all the things she expressed, she is clearly not happy.

I hear myself say, "Cristina, I love you, and you will be OK." As my husband walks into the room, I tell him what happened; he hugs our daughter.

It can be hard to hear your kid say that they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, but for LGBT youth who have to deal with rejection from their family, the battle is even harder. Fear of rejection often adds to the complex emotions LGBT youth must face when deciding to disclose.

Parents, be an ally to your child and to the LGBT community; if you are having a hard time adjusting or accepting your child, I implore you to seek out groups like:

When an LGBT child feels accepted by his or her family, that child has the security of unconditional love -- an advantage many others don't have when confronting intolerance and discrimination by others in our society. This feeling can literally save a child's life; LGBT children who feel accepted by their family are less likely to engage in risky behavior, attempt suicide and suffer from depression and substance abuse.

The minute Cristina shared her feelings, my responsibility as a parent was to help her bloom into a young woman free of guilt, shame and fear. On that Saturday morning four years ago, hope and acceptance worked for my daughter. It kept her moving toward her dreams and her goals. She graduated from medical school on May 16, 2011 and now practices family medicine at White Memorial Hospital in Los Angeles Calif., serving the Boyle Heights community. I am proud to say that my daughter has grown into a healthy, whole woman who, like Harvey Milk, has embraced freedom, happiness, honesty and, above all, hope.

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