My Daughter, Tyler
Hi, my name is Marie. I’m a happily single mother of two, born and raised in Brownsville, Brooklyn. My mother was from South Carolina and my father’s parents were from St. Kitts. Now I live in Williamsburg with one of my children, Tyler. I’ve always been into helping people and work at a homeless shelter.
My life seemed pretty simple until the day my 14 year-old son’s teacher called me into school. I arrived to find Tyler wearing a wig and makeup. I stood there in shock, looking for an explanation. When we got home I asked Tyler, “Why you dressing like a girl? You’re a boy!” At that time, Tyler said, “I don’t know.” Now I grew up with gay friends and knew about people attracted to the same sex, but I had never heard about someone wanting to be a different gender. This scared me. I didn’t want Tyler to get hurt. So for the next year, I told him he couldn’t dress that way. He began to skip school and our relationship suffered.
On weekends, I would let Tyler stay at a friend’s place in the projects. One night I got a call from the police informing me that Tyler was shot in the arm. On the way to the hospital, the policeman said, “You know, your child is dressed like a girl.” Tyler had been messing with some guy – when his boys saw them together, they said, “That’s a dude.” To save face, he chased and shot Tyler.
That’s when everything changed. I was so grateful Tyler was alive. I realized I had to figure out what this is about, or I could lose my child forever. I read resources online and called different support agencies to educate myself. I learned that for transgender people it’s more than wearing the clothes of the opposite sex, like when someone is a cross dresser. They feel deep down that their gender identity is different from their biological sex at birth. I went to Tyler and said, “Tell me. Is this how you feel?” She said, “Yes, Mommy, I’ve always known.” I had to look into myself. Tyler was not going to change. Instead, I was going to have to learn to accept her.
Trust me, it has not been easy. She’s been discriminated against at school and on the streets. Sometimes, I still have to remind myself that this is who she is. But, we talk openly now. She knows she will always be my child and that I love and support her.
I Still Love You
My name is Rodrigo and I was born in the East Village. My roots were laid in Brooklyn when my father bought a house in Sunset Park back in the 70s. Both of my parents were originally from Puerto Rico. At 53, I can say I have led a full life – I have an ex-wife and 13 kids to show for it! I love and care for all my kids equally, including my oldest son Julio, who is gay. This was something that was difficult for me to accept in the beginning… I remember being at work one day and getting a call from my wife. She told me Julio was caught kissing another boy – he was about 9 years old. She was like, “What are we going to do?” My wife had him call me and he said, “Dad, I need to talk to you.” I was angry. I asked him, “What, you’re gay?” All I heard was a click on the phone.
Throughout the day, a rush of thoughts went through my mind. We have a saying in Spanish, “Tell me who you walk with and I’ll tell you who you are.” That was the first thought that came to my mind – that people were going to say, “That’s Rodrigo’s kid – he’s gay.” I thought about how my dad would have reacted. He was raised that old Puerto Rican way – very strict, very stern. He would have said to me, “Pack your bags.” But how could I tell my son, “Because you’re gay, you’ve got to leave?” I’ve heard too many stories of what some kids have had to do to survive. I didn’t want my son to go through that. I had to be a good parent regardless of what my mind was thinking.
When I got home that night and asked him, “Is it true?” he said, “I think I am.” I looked at him – flesh of my flesh, blood of my blood – and told him, “OK, I still love you.”
Julio is 33 now, living in Florida and working for the airlines. I keep things real with him and I make sure that he can talk to me about anything. And he keeps me up to date about what’s going on in his life. He’s a good man and I wouldn’t have him any other way. My son is my son and I love him dearly.