Stories of Acceptance

Love and Acceptance

Hi, I’m Lynette and my friends tell me I look pretty good for 49. I was born in Barbados, but moved to Flatbush when I was 12, so I’m practically a Brooklyn native. I was raised in the Pentacostal church but I’m now active in an apostolic church. My pride and joy is my 17-year-old nephew, Darnell.

I always suspected that Darnell was gay from the time he was little. He didn’t seem to want to do the things that other boys did. Instead of playing baseball and football with the boys, he preferred playing dress-up with the girls. Our family didn’t know for sure he was gay until he was 13, when we found him at home with another boy. My sister threw him out of the house, and she rejects him to this day. I took him in.

Even though I accepted Darnell into my home, accepting that he was gay was a more difficult process. My culture and religious upbringing said being gay was wrong. I had always expected he would grow up to find a nice girl and get married — I felt that was all shattered now. But most Love and Acceptance of all, I was scared for him. This world is a cruel place and I had heard stories of men getting hurt, even killed, for being gay. On top of all that, I was scared he could become infected with a sexually transmitted disease, especially if he felt he had to hide what he was doing.

I didn’t know where to turn first, so I started reading up. I learned that being gay is not something you choose and it’s not something that rubs off on you. I went back to my Bible and I prayed. I asked for help and all I kept hearing from God was, “I accepted you as you are. How can you not accept this child?” That was more than enough to turn me around.

I have now started to accept that Darnell can have a happy life, even if it’s not what I pictured for him. I’m proud to say that Darnell just graduated from high school and has a job he loves. He’s saving up for college and I’ll support him as much as possible. I still worry for Darnell; what parent doesn’t? But as long as he knows he has my full love and acceptance, I believe things are going to be all right.

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 educat​e 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 s​ay 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 w​as 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 yo​u’re gay, you’v​e 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.

Not Just a Phase 

Hi, I’m Dahlia. I’m a 51-year old African-American, divorced mother of six, born and bred in Brooklyn. I work at a homeless shelter.

I was only 17 when I had Rose, so we grew up together. I was just getting this motherhood thing down when Rose hit the teen years. I was completely unprepared when I found this letter my 14-year old had written to another girl. In the letter, Rose said “the kiss was wonderful” and that she loved her. My feelings were all over the place; I always had this open door policy with my kids, but I was scared. We were living in Flatbush at the time — I didn’t want her to get chased or beat up.

I had to find out what was going on, so I sat her down and spoke to her — she told me she’d known she liked girls her whole life. I was trying to act calm, but I think she could tell that inside I was shaking. The way I saw it, my daughter had enough strikes against her already, being Black and female — and now she was gay? I didn’t want any more pressure on her, so I convinced myself that this was just a phase and to leave it alone.

The next couple of years, Rose ran away twice and I didn’t understand what was happening with my little girl. At one point I read something in the paper about a runaway girl who was found murdered in Brooklyn. The police weren’t releasing her name and I was desperate, thinking this could be my baby. I’d do anything just to get my daughter back safe and sound. The worries I had before seemed so trivial now —who cares if she’s gay? I just want her to be safe and to know that I accept her for who she is. When I finally found out that the murdered girl was not Rose, I broke down with relief — then I did everything in my power to find her. Turns out she was living with a girl named Keisha — her girlfriend — and I gave them my blessing.

From that point on, our relationship got a whole lot better. She told me she’d been running away because she didn’t want to let me down or hurt me. After that, she and
Keisha started coming over all the time and I could see they were happy together. And that’s what I wanted for my daughter — it didn’t matter whether she was in a relationship with a man or a woman.

Now Rose is 34, and in a happy, loving relationship with a woman named Sandra. She has a good life, she’s happy, and she’s safe — what more can a mother want for her child?

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