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Would My Mom Still Love Me If I Were a Lesbian?
Damia Mendoza
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In Ecuador, where I grew up, there’s a lot of discrimination against gays. Many girls I knew said that being a lesbian meant you had a “contagious disease.” Once, during a history class at my Catholic high school, a nun said that being gay was “evil stuff.”

I also heard the same discrimination at home. In 10th grade I was caught kissing a boy by the stairwell at school. My mom was called in to talk to the principal, but this didn’t bother her at all. She told me enthusiastically, “I told the principal that I was glad that you kissed a boy and not a girl.” For some reason, my mom was worried that I might turn out to be gay. She seemed relieved to know that I liked guys.

Unlike many Ecuadorians, I accepted gays and lesbians, and it bothered me that people were rude and made disrespectful comments about them. But I wasn’t interested in raising awareness about this discrimination. Since it was so ingrained in the culture, I didn’t think much about it. But when I moved to the U.S. two and a half years ago, I got to know some gay people. I realized they’re just like me and that discrimination against them is wrong.

More Accepting of Gays Here

On my first day of high school in New York City, I was struggling to open my locker. A Filipino girl who looked like a boy came over and helped me out. She wore men’s clothes—saggy pants, men’s boots—and half of her head was shaved. She wasn’t dressed like any girl I had seen in Ecuador, but she was nice. We became friends after that. She wore a cute necklace and I told her I liked it. “Oh thanks, my girlfriend gave it to me,” she said happily. This was the first time a girl had openly told me she had a girlfriend. I was shocked. I hoped she did not notice it was surprising to me.

I went home and told my mom that a girl had easily told me that she had a girlfriend. “It is so normal here. They are not ashamed,” I told my mom enthusiastically. She wasn’t happy about it.

After a couple of months, I took an elective class called “Make the Road,” about a non-profit organization that raises awareness about discrimination against minorities, including African-Americans, undocumented people, and gays and lesbians.

My teacher, Mateo, is gay and I found him to be an awesome human being and a great leader. He used his time to help others and make this world a better place for all human beings.

That summer I became close friends with a girl named Karla who is a lesbian. I met her at a supermarket where she worked. She was in charge of the bakery section, and she offered me bread with coconut on top. She would flirt with me. Even though this was the first time a girl flirted with me, I wasn’t uncomfortable. I told her, “I love you as a friend, but don’t waste your time flirting with me. I am not attracted to women.” She laughed and said, “Well, at least I tried.”

When she invited me to go to a Gay Pride parade with her I accepted because I like attending events that support minorities. There were many people dancing, singing, and just yelling. There was a minute of silence and after that we all hugged each other. It felt really good. Being part of this unified act made me feel even more that in spite of what my mother and many other Ecuadorians think, gay people are the same as my family and me. I could feel the love they had for their community. I didn’t know if they knew I was not a lesbian, but many said, “Thanks for being here. It means a lot.”

Trying to Change My Mom’s Views

I’ve changed a lot since I moved to New York and gotten to know some people who are gay. Now when I see others treat gays unfairly, it pisses me off. They have every right to be happy, and it makes me especially mad to know that my own mother is prejudiced.
Karla lives in Paris now. I want to visit her, so I recently spoke to my mom about it.
“Mom, do you remember my friend Karla?”

“Oh, your lesbian friend who bought you the sweater?” she said sarcastically.

“She invited me to Paris, France.”

“I don’t like that type of company,” she responded.

image by YC-Art Dept

“What do you mean?” I knew exactly what she meant, but I still wanted to hear it from her.

“You know, being with people like that can become normal to you and you may like it,” she said.

Even though I know my mom understands that being gay isn’t something you “catch,” I think she doesn’t quite believe it. She does not mind if others are homosexual, but if I were to be one, she would be disappointed. She was the same with my two older sisters but feels she doesn’t have to worry about them anymore because they’re married to men and have kids.

My family usually talks after dinner. We call it “the round table session.” We bring up what we have done during the day and good and bad news. Whenever I bring up events that include gays and lesbians or I just talk about Mateo and other homosexual friends, my mom and my grandfather usually get mad and an argument starts.

Our arguments usually go like this: “You haven’t even had the chance to get to know them—there is nothing wrong with them,” I start after they have made faces.

“God created a man and a woman to be together and reproduce,” my mom says.

“Listen, my little one, two women cannot have babies. Humans are supposed to reproduce. Homosexuality is a mental illness,” my grandpa says.

“I am sorry, Grandpa, but a female friend of mine has a girlfriend and they get along so much better than you and grandma—a straight couple,” I say, frustrated. The conversation goes like this until one of us decides to leave the table.

My Personal Revolution

I think my mother is influenced by her parents who are close-minded. My grandmother is very religious and my grandfather is macho. She grew up with these discriminatory ideas.
No matter how often I tell my mom that it isn’t right to disapprove of gay people, so far it hasn’t sunk in. “It is not my problem if they want to be like that. They chose so and that is OK with me, but I do not, at any cost, want you to be like that,” she said.

“What if I bring home a girlfriend?”

“Don’t even think about it. It is not funny.”

I ask her this often, hoping that she’ll think about it and separate family love from sexual orientation. “Mom, you make me want to have a girlfriend just so you can see that it would not change the way I am with you or anyone else,” I say. She does not say anything at all, and I hope it is because she is reflecting on it.

I say this to her hoping that she’ll realize that if I were one of them, I would still deserve her love and acceptance. Being lesbian would not make me less of a human being.

Recently, after we attended a march in support of immigrant rights, one of Mateo’s friends gave me a rainbow gay rights flag. I took it home and told my mom what the flag represented. She looked at me and told me to put it anywhere but in our home. I said I wanted to keep the flag in my bedroom and I would be angry if she magically made it disappear.

I knew she would not like it, but I’m committed to creating my personal revolution against her beliefs. I respect her, but I want to show her that she will not change my mind. But I will keep trying to change hers.

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(NYC-2015-05-03)

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