It was an October night, at 1 a.m., and I had just gotten home from a long weekend away to find the door of my bedroom riddled with post it note phone messages (this was before we all carried cell phones), taken by my roommate, each more scary than the next:
Friday, 8pm, call your sister Mercedes. Urgent.
Friday 10: Your mom called, sounded weird.
Saturday morning. Your mom called again. Upset.
Saturday afternoon: Sister called again, said you should call her asap.
Sunday: Mom called again. I told her I didn't know when you were coming home.
Sunday night: Call your sister first, before calling your mom. Your mom knows you're gay. Mercedes says "sorry."
I stood there staring at the little yellow signs that my life was over. My mom knew. Oh. My. God.
When you're gay or transgender, even if your parents love you to bits, it's pretty common to think their love has conditions or even an expiration date. You say to yourself, 'sure they love me now, but that's only because they don't know yet. And when they find out, they'll stop caring.'
And there was nothing more important than my parents' love, for many of the usual reasons but also because of a bond we forged long ago, as a little band of 4 lonely Uruguayan immigrants.
We arrived at JFK in 1972 heartbroken at having left behind our family and feeling pretty lost. But together, my mom and dad and sister and I explored the U.S. together, discovering things every day: cheesecake and hot fudge (awesome!) That it can snow in Buffalo in April (not so awesome) Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors (too awesome for words. Where do they keep all the flavors?) The fact that the "gh" in "eight" is silent (what?!) and that "mouse" and "mouth" are two different words (Not awesome. In fact, my mom will still put up a good fight on that one, daring you to prove the difference).
We also supported one another in ways unique to immigrants: Who wrote out the cheat sheet my mom used to write checks? Me. Who was at the bank, at age 9, explaining why my dad needed a car loan, never mind that my feet didn't touch the ground. Me.
And I needed them even more than they needed me because I was lonely those first two years. I didn't yet speak English, so I sat around in classrooms and in playgrounds watching, not knowing anyone, lonely as a cloud, as the line goes. The only thing that made life bearable was hanging out with my parents and my sis. End of the day with mom, picking radishes in the garden or going for walks, or watching TV or playing ball with dad on weekends; that was my only social life.
I did not want to lose that precious family. So, as a teen, I tried to not be gay. Simple, right? Just deny your sexuality. Piece of cake.
Not so simple, and certainly not very healthy. Faking it was awful for me, and for those cute, sweet guys with whom I just could not fall in love, no matter how hard I tried. So when I finally admitted the truth and let myself fall in love with a girl, it was the most amazing feeling ever. Sometimes non-gay folks have trouble understanding what we celebrate at Gay Pride and I tell them that a big part of it is telling the truth. Because when you've spent years trying to be something you're not, telling the truth feels amazing.
Except when it's Monday at 9 a.m. and you have to call your mom.
Lucky for me, there weren't that many conditions nor an expiration date on my family's love. My parents and grandmother grew, in a relatively short period of time, to accept me, fully. They essentially said, 'This is who you've been your whole life. We know because we've known you your entire life. And loved you your entire life.'
A lot of Latinos feel the same way. A 2010 Bendixen & Amandi International poll found 74 percent of Latinos support marriage equality or other forms of legal recognition for gay and lesbian couples. A Field Poll of California voters released in February 2012 found that 53 percent of Latino respondents approved of allowing same-sex couples to marry. Clearly, love and support for all members of our families and our communities, including LGBT people, is a strong Latino value.
This Mother's Day and Father's Day should be a time when families share stories of love and support. Visit glaad.org and share your story of love from Mom, Dad or anyone else in your family for whom you are thankful.
I personally plan to call my parents and say, "Gracias, mamá! Gracias, papá, for your unconditional love, which protects and inspires me every single day of my life."
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