I wasn’t sure how I was going to tell her.
I was going through a deep internal battle. Things were happening to me and I was confused. What I felt was beautiful. It also scared me. It felt wrong. I wanted to push what I was feeling out of my body. I wanted to resist and deny it. I really believed that I was going to hell. That day, while I was doing yoga and my eyes were closed, I cried and cried. Then I did what I aways do—prayed for an answer.
I began reading excerpts from the Bible and every passage that I read was about how women would be stoned for this or that. Honor thy man. God made Eve for Adam. Men and women were made to procreate. And anything outside of that was a sin.
Yet, I knew that my creator would want me to feel love. I could no longer deny myself or deny who I am. Finally, I let go and allowed myself to feel everything. I made peace with my religious and spiritual battle, and gave in to what I knew to be true.
I accepted that I am gay.
It had been a battle that I had waged privately, inside my own head and my body, since I first felt a stirring for another woman. Still, accepting and loving myself for who I was, who I am, was one thing. Telling my 15-year-old daughter was another.
I was so afraid. I wanted it to be the right time, but the tightness in my chest told me there was never going to be a “perfect” time. So one night when we were getting ready for bed, talking about the day’s activities, boys, and love, I looked her in the eyes.
“Baby, I need to tell you something.”
“What’s up Mom?”
“Baby, I’m in love with a woman. I’m gay.”
Mixed in with the fear I felt was relief. I had finally uttered the G word aloud—to the person most precious to me. The satisfaction of that moment was short-lived as the fear quickly returned; I held my breath, awaiting Courtney’s response.
As her mami, I was so worried about how she would take it. I was afraid that my coming out would somehow damage her, or that she would even question her own burgeoning sexual identity.
Finally, after the longest 60 seconds of my life, her response came.
“Are you sure, Momma?”
“Yes,” I said smiling. The sound of her words filled me with so much love.
“Are you happy?”
“Yes, I’m very happy,” I assured her.
“If you’re happy, then I’m happy for you,” she said, adding in a matter-of-fact way that only a teenager might, “That’s cool, my Momma’s gay.”
Courtney smiled and hugged me.
The moment I came out to my daughter was the moment I finally felt a complete being. Her opinion and approval was the only one that mattered to me. Once I came out to her, I felt free. I was liberated. I was so excited about this new chapter of my life. It was like I was born again. Everything was new to me. It always felt like there was just one piece missing to my life-puzzle, and now I had finally found that piece and set it in its rightful place.
As it turned out, my smart, beautiful daughter was my biggest supporter. I was more freaked out than she was. Was she okay? Did she want to see a therapist? Alone or with me? She was like, “Mom, I’m good.” (Eventually, she would meet the woman with whom I’d fallen in love, but that’s a whole other story.)
I was and am still grateful for Courtney’s acceptance of who I am. It’s what gave me the strength to come out to my family, which was not as accepting—or kind for that matter. Most of my family members chalked it up to a phase, something that would pass, that I just needed a good man. My mother said she had nothing against gay people, while still making it perfectly clear that she would never accept a gay daughter or her partner. I am, in her words, “an embarrassment to the family.” It hurts, but we still speak. Like many Latino families, we just don’t talk about it. My hope is that some day they will come around. But even if they don’t, I’m at peace with who I am.
A NEW JOURNEY & FINDING MY FORCE
Over the next few weeks and months, Courtney’s and my conversations centered on identity and how it seems we are always trying to find our place, no matter our age. Courtney is now 19; I am about to turn 40. I shared with her that when I was growing up in New York City, I had a hard time finding my “place.” I knew I was Latina, but it wasn’t that simple.
To me, identity is a form of self-discovery and of acceptance. It’s how I identify myself as a woman, a mother, a lesbian, and a Latina. Finding my place came with understanding that I am both Latina and Black. I am both a mother and a lesbian. I am more comfortable in my own skin as I continue on my life journey.
My personal expedition has led me onto a larger adventure. For the past three years, I have been working on a project that has taken me away from my daughter for extended periods. I have traveled to more than 18 countries writing about the African Diaspora in Latin America for the documentary, Afrolatinos: The Untaught Story. Afrolatinos is a term used to identify the 150 million afrodescendants that currently exist throughout Central and South America and the Caribbean, yet have been invisible due to exclusion, discrimination, and racism.
Coming out as a lesbian and working on this documentary has strengthened my voice and sense of self. It has also strengthened my bond with my daughter. I value how open and honest our relationship is. We allow each other to be ourselves. There is so much acceptance and mutual respect between us.
And as Courtney prepares to head back to college and continue her own journey of self-discovery, I know she will figure out what kind of person she will be in a spectacular way—in her own time and on her own terms. Yes, I am a proud lesbian, but I am also an especially proud Latina mom.