When most people think of or meet my mom, the most common words used in response are, “Your mom is so cool/awesome/a rockstar.” Mostly because since I’ve been living in Los Angeles for the past twenty years, she’s come to visit me every so often and I am known to bring her out to all my favorite hangouts. From the world famous Abbey Lounge to the queer “bears” bar, the EagleLA, to former girls’ night TruckStop, my mother has seen more queer bars than most queer people. She’s earned her “rockstar” title and it took years of hard work.
When I first came out in college, she was accepting but as all parents tend to do, she worried for my well-being, safety and warned me about how challenging life as a “lesbian” or “gay” would be for me. The first two years she tried to convince me or lovingly nudged me at the prospect that I should “try to date men.” Almost 20 years later, I came out to her as trans. Once again, her initial reaction was more of concern and worry. When I told her I’ve thought about top surgery for my entire adult life, she immediately turned her energy and concern into love and support.
I guess as her child, I’ve put her through the ringer. I used to have such a fit every time she tried to put me in a dress. I’m hoping now she understands that I wasn’t just trying to be difficult, but that as a child I didn’t know how to explain why wearing a dress was so devastating to me. I’ve been fortunate that as an adult, my mom and I have become friends where we can tell each other everything. For parts of my childhood, she wasn’t around a lot and I was raised by my grandma, even living next door for a short time with an American family. But the truth is that my mom was my world and having her accept and support me means more than anything…more than everything.
I still remember the first time I put on a t-shirt after my top surgery and it fit perfectly. I called her crying because I was so happy and I can hear her starting to cry because she shared my joy and triumph. I remember her telling me once that she and my family were out in the city and there was a Pride party and she sneaked off by herself to go check it out because she knew I was gay and she was curious what gay people were like. She even bought Pride earrings to support and commemorate her experience. A few years back, she came to visit me and I brought her and a bunch of my friends to the Long Beach Pride Festival. I’m pretty sure she had more fun than I did, and she even led a group dance at one of the dance floors.
As Chinese immigrants, we are brought up in the Asian culture where we always need to “save face” and never embarrass the family. My mom is probably the most progressive and accepting Chinese mom I’ve ever met. She’s never hidden my identity. In fact, when I visit her, she always wants me to attend her functions with all her friends. She tells her community about the journey I’ve taken as a designer and is so proud of the person I’ve become.
Twenty years since I’ve come out and she’s more supportive and encouraging than ever. I think that we’ve both grown and evolved into who we are because of our love and acceptance for each other. I’m grateful each day for having someone like her as my best friend and mom. Though we may not always see eye to eye on everything, what matters most is that we see each other as we are… and that’s all I could ever ask for.