The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Batman and Robin

Names have been changed.

When I was young, my grandmother often said hateful things about gay people. She would express disgust if she saw people outside who looked gay or did things she thought were gay. She would say she could not understand how two men could have sex, and “That’s why there are women around!” and how this world was coming to an end. I was not sure why she got so upset about what strangers did.

I did not even know what the word “gay” meant, but I did hear it a lot, mostly when people made fun of other people. I was even more confused when the word was thrown at my little brother Efrain, starting when he was only 6 years old and I was 8.

I felt sad when my grandmother insulted my little brother for doing feminine things. Once my brother put lotion on his feet, and she said to him, “That’s pajaro! Only women do that.” (My grandmother only speaks Spanish, and pajaro is worse than “gay,” more like “f-gg-t.”) She made fun of him for keeping his fingernails clean and painting them clear, so my brother maintained his hygiene when she was not in the house.

Efrain and I were in kinship care with my grandmother. In her house, we only had each other to play with. We shared our toys: He liked playing with my dolls and I liked playing with his video games. We played together a lot; we went to the same elementary school and walked home together.

I noticed a double standard early on. My grandmother never yelled at me for playing his video games, yet she always yelled at him for playing with my “girl toys.” One day when I was 9 and he was 7, he and I were sitting in our room playing with my dolls. My grandmother came in and smacked the doll out of his small hands. He looked confused and scared at the same time, as if he was trying to figure out what he had done wrong.

My grandmother walked out of the room and he looked at me. I wanted to help him understand what just happened, but I was confused too. All I said was, “She’s being mean; don’t pay her no mind.”

Another time, my grandmother caught him wearing my underwear, which were soft pink with flowers on them. When she saw him, she slapped him on the arm and said men do not wear female underwear. However, my brother was not a man. He was a little boy who could not understand why his actions always got him in trouble or why he was called names.

Protecting Him

I felt like I had to protect Efrain—and not just from our grandmother. I defended him against other little kids who picked on him as well as from my other family members.

Besides the name-calling, Efrain and I also suffered from my mother’s neglect. We lived with my grandmother because my mother didn’t want to take care of us. She lived nearby and would tell us she was taking us out, and we would get all happy and dress up for her. I was the first to understand that she usually did not show up, and one day I told him not to get dressed because she was not coming to pick us up from our grandmother’s house. It hurt me to have to tell him. He still saw the good in our mother.

As we got older, my grandmother’s taunting got worse. I wanted to defend Efrain more than ever, but I had to leave his side. I got pregnant at 14 years old and moved to a foster home after I had my son. Efrain also went into care briefly but went back to my grandmother’s when he was 13.

I could not spend as much time with him as before. I felt like he was mad at me, as if I had let him down. It was sad we couldn’t support each other more because we both were getting criticism from our family—me for getting pregnant so young and him for being gay.

In high school, I made friends with an openly gay boy named Jamal, and then I realized that “gay” wasn’t just a feminine boy. It was people attracted to the same sex. Jamal spoke about kissing other guys and actually having sexual intercourse with another boy. It was so much to comprehend, but I knew this was what my brother was.

My relationship with Jamal helped me realize that gay people are people just like me. I could not understand why people had so much hate. Jamal would shut down anyone who had anything negative to say about his sexuality: I admired and was proud of him for that. It helped me understand Efrain more. My anger at my grandmother’s cruelty and my mother’s neglect grew and grew.

One day when I was 17 and he was 15, Efrain and I were at my grandmother’s house. I was on my phone in the living room while Efrain played his video game. It was peaceful; the only sound came from his game. Then my mother came in and said she was going to cook. It felt like she was making herself feel better for abandoning us both for years. My grandmother was in her room watching the Spanish news, but she came out to see my mother.

They started talking about dinner, and then my mother asked me to go buy a can of beans. I did not reply because I was not hungry and did not feel like going. My brother was still playing his game and ignoring everyone.

The Explosion

My mother then said, “You guys want to eat food but can’t go do me a favor.” My grandmother added her two cents: “That’s what they do. They don’t respect us but always want us to do things for them.”

image by YC-Art Dept

My brother, annoyed, said, “No one asked her to come cook. We have been in the house the whole day without complaining. You want something, you go buy it.”

I sensed that an argument was about to start, and that a lot of pent-up rage was going to come out of me. I was ready for war, and sure enough, my grandmother fired the first shot. She said in Spanish, “This f-gg-t always want to be in the house playing video games but he never want to do anything.”

My mother stayed quiet. My brother looked at me and I gave him the “I got your back” look. I asked why she didn’t cook all day and waited until my mother came to care if we ate. It was already around 7 p.m.

My mother said, “Do not yell at her!” Efrain started to cry and that is when I really got angry with my mother.

I yelled, “You never took care of us! Grandma had to do everything!” I said it was all her fault that I got pregnant young because she was not there to guide me and give me advice. It was her fault that I was in foster care living with complete strangers. “We only see you when you get drunk and run to stay at Grandmother’s when you lose your keys and wallet!”

I saw the shock and hurt in her eyes, but it was too late to take anything back. And I did not want to take it back; I was tired of her not being there for us and tired of them making my brother feel wrong for being who he was. My grandmother tried to defend my mother and it only made me angrier. Everything I had held back came pouring out.


I said to my grandmother, “How can you talk sh-t about my brother, saying he’s gay when your daughter abandoned us for a whole year to run off with another woman!”

Yes, that’s right, my mother had dated a woman for several years! I found out when I was about 10, because my mother would take us over to the woman’s house, and then give me and Efrain Nyquil. She said it was because we were sick, but I noticed I always got sleepy after she gave it to me and one night I held it in my mouth and spit it out in the bathroom. My mom and her “friend” left to go out. I was mad she drugged us and left us alone and I waited up for them to return.

At 3 a.m., they were still not home, and I decided to go to sleep in the friend’s bed so that when they came home I would know. They finally came in loud as can be and I knew they had been drinking a lot. They came in the room and started kissing. The woman asked my mom if she wanted to move me to the other room, but my mom said, “No, just leave her there.” Then they got in bed and started having sex!

I could not believe it. I did not know whether to act like I woke up or keep faking sleep. I felt so disrespected. I never told anyone about that night or about the extent of their relationship. I felt like if I said something I would be ignored or told to keep quiet.

My grandmother knew my mom was hanging out with a woman, but it was never talked about. My mother did not attack gays like my grandmother, but she would say negative things about homosexuality when she was mad at my brother.

Of all the wrong things my mother ever did I was hurt by that the most—the fact that she abandoned me and my brother to run off with another woman, yet she’d talk about my brother. I wanted her to know we would never look at her as a mother. I said all those hurtful things so they could feel how he felt. I wanted them to leave him alone.

We’re Our Family

My brother did not tell me to stop or leave it alone as he often did; I knew he was relieved and that I spoke for both of us. He stopped crying and looked at me gratefully. From that point on, the bond between my brother and me grew. We realized that our family was him and me, that nobody could defend us the way we could defend each other. We were Batman and Robin.

We still didn’t talk about his sexuality, but I think he knew I was OK with it because I defended him from our family. Last summer, we communicated with each other indirectly about it at my grandmother’s house. I walked in the living room and saw my brother sitting with his friend. The two of them were talking about some boys they thought were cute. I was curious—could I actually talk about boys with my brother and it not be awkward?

So I invited myself into their conversation, asking, “Who is the boy?” My brother said “some boy from my school in a different grade than me.” His friend agreed that the boy was good-looking. My grandmother was in the next room, but we spoke in English so she couldn’t understand.

Having a brother who’s gay has changed my outlook on gay people. I think that family should be the main support system for someone who is not straight. If more gay people had support from their families, they would not care as much what others say. If my son were ever to tell me that he was gay, I would give him a hug for being brave enough to tell me and let him know it is OK, that I support him, and that he is not alone.

Nobody should have to go through what my brother has gone through. It felt good to finally talk with him about his sexual orientation, and now I can also speak to him about issues I had. There’s no judging between us. I do not feel like he’s mad at me anymore for having a baby so young. I can speak to him about things going on in my foster home and about being a mother. Having each other makes everything we go through easier.

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