By Yadira Vadillo – I want the world to know that my son was conceived with a lot of love, and that from the beginning he was a wonderful and beloved child. I realized very early on that my baby was different. It is worth mentioning that I have five amazing children, and that he is the fourth in that line. My boy was so tender and loving I could feel deep within my soul that he was special. In fact, I remember feeling his small arms around my neck and whispering in his ear that no matter what may come, I would always be with him. I had no idea how much that statement would be tested.
As the years passed, my love for my son grew but so did his differences. My son wanted to put makeup on me and paint my nails. He was gentle and did not like the things that other boys of our culture tend to like. Our country is run by severely held traditional roles for both men and women and machismo (strong or aggressive masculine pride) is an exaggerated expression of masculinity that even now permeates every Spanish-speaking country. Failing to meet this definition of what a male should be was at best of times met with indifference or avoidance; at the worst of times it can be tragic.
My family saw my son’s gentleness and criticized my parenting. They made comments about his possible sexual orientation with cruel jokes and words, their laughter scaring me and hurting my son. Even while my love for my son grew I could not stop myself from thinking that if my son was gay I would be the one they would blame and laugh at. Regardless of my fears, when the jokes and comments were made I defended my son and felt anger for their cruelty, while in private I held him close, wishing I could protect him from everything.
The day finally came when my son could not hold his truth inside any longer. He came out to me after graduating from nursing school. In all honesty, I probably knew the truth, but had to set it deep inside the recesses of my mind, hoping I was wrong. My world seemed to stop and fall apart. I felt shock and asked myself how this could be true when he had dated girls. Inside I was trembling, but I held him and told him how much I loved him. I felt terrified as I looked upon his beloved face that showed defeat. I wondered if my fears of long ago would become truth. I wondered if I would be blamed and if, indeed, this was my fault. The next months passed as I cried and wondered how this new reality would fit into my religious beliefs and in a society that had little compassion.
I took my son to see a psychologist, not because I thought that they would be able to change him, but because I did not want him to leave me. The violence against LGBTQ individuals in much of Mexico runs rampant and most crimes against them are never investigated. Being gay is still seen as an illness or a choice by the majority of the population. Most investigations are run by officials who have no education on this issue and consider these crimes to be what is deserved, or simply crimes of passion. Suicide in our culture is considered a blemish upon a family, made more so if the person who completed suicide is LGBTQ.
My son’s pain and fears were so deep, he attempted to quiet them with alcohol, and on many occasions told me that he didn’t want to live like this because he felt that HE was a horrible sin. All I could do was hold him. I spent many sleepless nights waiting up for him to come home, praying that he was safe.
It was during this time of great turmoil that I met someone from Affirmation Mexico who in turn connected me with the Spanish group of Mama Dragons, called Madres Dragones. This group helped me get through those long months of fear and doubt. They were a lifeline of support and education that brought with it hope and light. They helped me navigate and understand myself without judgment and offered me love and sisterhood. Today I feel stronger and have gained an inner strength that I did not feel before.
I recently attended the Mexico Affirmation Conference where I was one of several mothers of LGBTQ children from Mexico who represented Madres Dragones. In the faces of the young men and women present, I saw pain turn into hope as we shared our stories. I was able to hold and listen to many who needed a mother’s arms and love. My son attended with me and I have seen such a change in him since he came out. There is no doubt in my mind that my support and unconditional love for him have saved him. I still fear for him because change is slow to come to our country and there is so much opposition. There are LGBTQ-friendly laws in place now, but with no education being given to our leaders, these laws do not get enforced. Life for my son is not easy but he no longer feels alone. He knows that I will fight alongside him. I know that I, also, am not alone.