We are so pleased to announce that the winner of the Catalyst Wed Co. Campership to attend Autostraddle's A-Camp is Jessica Alvarez! We asked applicants to submit their stories about how this political environment is intersecting with their personal lives, and Jessica wrote this beautiful and brave essay.
I was drunk on tequila the night I came out to my mother. It was a week after the election and more than two weeks since she told me she was voting for Donald Trump. I couldn’t fathom how my Hispanic immigrant mother could vote for such a vile man who spewed malicious lie after malicious lie about the Hispanic community, about her. “Because Hillary Clinton supports abortion and gay marriage,” she told me, her closeted daughter, parroting divisive conservative propaganda like scripture. I caved into myself, a coping mechanism whenever she went on her ‘homosexuality is a sin’ rants, wondering what she would say if she knew I was gay.
I couldn’t fathom how my Hispanic immigrant mother could vote for such a vile man who spewed malicious lie after malicious lie about the Hispanic community, about her.
Days after my mother dropped that bombshell, I had joked with my roommates that I would come out to my mother if Clinton lost the election, anything to hurt my mother as much as his presidency would hurt me, as much as her declaration to side with him had hurt me. I was in my liberal high with every poll coming out of the woodwork saying that the United States would be blue enough to stop white supremacy from gaining traction. I would never have to follow through with my words I thought, and my moments of bravado would melt in the euphoria of electing a woman who supported gay rights.
But then Trump won.
I went to work the next day, a shell of a person who only wanted to cry. I sat in my school office in the middle of rural North Carolina not knowing what to do with myself, feeling like a blue fish in a sea of red. I had students float in and out of my office, looking for me to tell them it was okay and knowing I was not able to so, relaying to me the horrid things their peers felt entitled to say. White staff members who wore their support of Trump like conservative Boy Scout patches celebrated in secret without a second thought for the minority students who sat in their classroom scared for their lives. During this time, my self-imposed wager still lingered in my mind. I didn’t have to come out, no one would keep me accountable, but I needed my mother to know what her vote did to my students, what it did to me.
So, when she called that Tuesday, I picked up the phone. She asked me how I was doing, and from there, we spiraled into a forty-five minute argument about the politics of our decisions, a feverish dance of punches and dabs, and all the while I kept pouring myself drinks.
And then I told her.
I needed my mother to know what her vote did to my students, what it did to me.
I told her I was gay and had known this about myself for the past nine years and that there were times in high school that I would empty bottles of Advil in my hands, knowing if I were to swallow all the pills at once, I would never have to tell her my secret, never have to disappoint her. She told me she still loved me and that God would change me one day. I said thank you and then assured her that he wouldn’t.
She sounded tired when she said goodbye, like Dr. Frankenstein going through his notes, wondering what mistake in his calculations created the monster. How was she to preach the sin of homosexuality when the poster child for it in her mind was now her own daughter? I clicked the phone off, and the world didn’t shatter. It shifted, and as I reconciled the new me that felt more secure—a bit stronger—I realized that living in my truth, and proudly, was the first step in fighting against this toxic presidency.
Since that night, we haven’t spoken about the conversation, nor do I think we will anytime soon, but I know that whenever she hears anything about LGBT issues, she thinks of me, and with time, maybe it’ll shift her perception of gay people. Maybe, she’ll come to accept me as me.
Jessica Alvarez is a relatively recent Duke alum who currently works in rural America as part of the National College Advising Corps. When she is not helping the children figure out their life plans, she is either binge-watching Netflix or biking around her neighborhood.