“Mija, where are you going?”
“To a conference, want to come with me?”
“What is it for?”
“It’s an LGBTQ forum in Boyle Heights. I didn’t know how to ask if you wanted to come, that’s why I didn’t tell you. Do you want to come?”
“Let me get dressed.”
Coming out to my conservative Mexican Catholic family was more difficult than I had anticipated. First I told my mom and then my stepdad and stepbrother. When I told my grandmother her reaction was so intense that my uncle ended up finding out and he chose to disconnect from me completely. The people I considered my closest friends also decided to withdraw from our relationships for several reasons in addition to coming out to them. Needless to say, I felt like my whole world collapsed and my support system was non-existent. I survived these tough months on the unconditional love and support from my partner and co-workers. Distance was something I had to get used to with my family, which was tough since I am an only child.
Since the start of my coming out process, conversations with my mom have been filled with tension and unprecedented awkward moments. As I was walked out of the house on Saturday, April 6th, ready to attend the LGBTQ forum in Boyle Heights, my mom’s willingness to join me took me by surprise. I was nervous the entire time we were present at the forum, but I made an effort to introduce her to my co-workers and friends. Together we walked around the tables of service providers and participated in the Family and Faith workshop. Ronnie Veliz, an organizer for Bienestar talked about his journey coming out to his conservative Peruvian Catholic family. At the end of his story I immediately felt my mom’s hand grasp my elbow. “I can only imagine what you went through,” she whispered to me. That simple moment of acknowledgement meant the beginning of rebuilding our relationship together.
The LGBTQ forum presented by the Boyle Heights Building Healthy Communities initiative provided information to the local community on relevant LGBTQ issues for youth, families, and service providers through workshops and a health fair. Services such as legal assistance to address questions undocumented youth had on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals and HIV testing were available to everyone. As participants enjoyed the day and engaged in conversations, I was so proud to see rainbow flags flying and faces smiling. The opportunity to build and inform the community around the needs of Latino/a LGBTQ people had come. The continuous moment where being healthy means fostering the leadership to create change was present. More than anything, the space to heal wounds and create understanding amongst the biased and misinformed happened. Health happened through reconciliation with my mom and I know many others experienced profound moments like mine at this event as well.