I am the mother of three, and it just so happens that my youngest child, Elysia, is queer. For the month of Pride, I would like to tell you a little bit about them; how wonderful, kind, funny, and smart they are. I learn so much from them and have fun watching them become the person they are.
My Only Daughter
I have a strained relationship with my mother. That may be an understatement. I’m a fairly radical atheist and consider myself a far left anarchist who fights for racial justice. My parents are both Trump supporting Republicans. I don’t think I have to explain why our relationship is strained, but it’s more so with my mom for some reason. I never felt like I’ve been good enough for her. She’s white and my dad is Xicano, and my mom has had this “inside joke” she shares often with others and with me. It goes like this: “I always wanted a blond-haired, blue-eyed child. I guess I married the wrong man,” followed by laughter.
To make matters worse, my cousins – her sister’s daughters – are both fair skinned, one with blond hair and green eyes, the other with gorgeous red hair. My mom has always been very public about how beautiful she thinks they are. I honestly can’t remember my mom ever telling me I was beautiful, or even pretty. She used to always remark about the bags under my eyes that reminded her of my Grandma Chavez, or chastise me for wearing tight fitting clothes because my hips, butt, or thighs were too big.
My two oldest children, both male, were born while I was a teenager, and the doctors told me I wouldn’t be able to conceive after my second son because of serious hormone imbalances. I became pregnant with Elysia, or “E” as I call them, when my youngest son was 10. I was so ecstatic when I found out I’d be having a girl. I went out and bought fairies and frilly purple things for her room. It was more than just having a girl to complete our family; I wanted so badly to have a fulfilling mother-daughter relationship. I saw this as my chance.
From birth to around the time of the 4th grade, E was as girly as a person could be. Over time, though, things started to change. They started to hate wearing dresses. They wanted to cut their hair short. One day, while riding in the car, E said, “Mom, I think I’m transgender.”
“Oh?” I replied. “Why do you think that?”
We had a long conversation about a book they were reading about a transgender child and how they didn’t feel like they were really a girl. We talked about body dysmorphia, and E decided they were ok with their body, but not ok with gender stereotypes as they felt they didn’t fit into any of the assigned female roles. Luckily, my teaching partner also facilitated the Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) and had some reading materials for me to share with E. After learning together, E has settled on a non-binary, or gender fluid identity.
In the 5th grade, E had a really cute “relationship” with a boy at their school. They were boyfriend/girlfriend until E moved schools in the 7th grade. Around this time, E started saying they were bisexual. We talked about what that meant, too, and E started dating girls at their school. They went from bisexual to gay, and when their girlfriend came out as trans, E discovered they are pansexual, and now they just refer to themself as queer, which is all encompassing of their gender expression and sexuality.
My Child Is My Teacher
I would like to say this has been super easy for me and all of these discoveries E’s experienced have had no impact on me, but that’s not true. Of course I’ve been supportive and love my child as they are, but it has stretched my understanding of gender and sexuality and encouraged me to educate myself on each. I still suck at getting the pronouns correct. It’s not easy when you’ve gone 40 years in a binary world, but I try my hardest and apologize when I mess up.
I’ve also had to defend E from attacks from their father and brother and my side of the family. While on vacation in Europe, I sent E’s father a picture thinking he would like to see E enjoying our trip. He went on a tirade about how I let his daughter look like a “dike.” So, not only do I have to defend E, I have to build them up to prevent these attacks from tearing them down. It hurts to see their tears caused by a person who is supposed to love them unconditionally.
Watching E’s resilience and openness gives me so much pride in and respect for them. They are unapologetically who they are and they love everyone with their whole heart. I haven’t lost a daughter. I’ve gained a happy and fulfilled child who fearlessly expresses their authentic self. That’s better than what I expected from the mother/daughter relationship I craved. Their unconditional love makes me want to be a better person. I wish I could have grown up in a household where love was at the center of all decisions made; truly at the center in practice, and not just words. I want all children to be able to explore and discover who they are without judgment. I see in E what is possible when that exists – Love and Joy.
Happy Pride Month!