I’m Rosa Manriquez and I’m from Los Angeles. When people ask me what I am, if I’m LGBTQA, what am I, I tell people I’m neither. I don’t identify by my sexuality, I’m a mother and a grandmother. I was raised Catholic, I’m still very much Catholic, and I went to Catholic School and I was going to be a nun. But that went by the wayside when I met Enrique.
With Enrique, he was my first everything, first kiss, first date, everything. Fell in love with him, we got married and we ended up having children. But honestly there was no marriage there. Enrique was gay. He never came out of the closet but the signs were all there. Being a good Mexican wife I refused to see those signs. I just figured I could carry the family by doing what I had been taught to do. One morning he came home and told me I can’t do this anymore and he abandoned the family. And I found things like pictures and love letters and the like. And at that point for me the face of “gay” was Enrique. And I really hated him. And it followed that I hated anyone who was gay. His lovers and anyone else. And I honestly believed that anyone who was gay should go to hell. I was upset because my heart had been broken, I was abandoned with two little daughters, two infants, I had debt all the way through the roof. And it was really a difficult time for me but having my background, my up-raising, being raised Catholic and being devout, I realized that I couldn’t let a lie be the basis of my life, including the lie that he was all bad.
It was through a lot of prayer and retreats and talking to people I trusted as spiritual advisors and what I understood after a while was that Enrique was not a demon or an angel, he was not a Saint he was not a sinner, he was just a plain old human being. And that was really important because I knew that for the rest of my life I was going to be looking at the faces of those two little girls and I was going to see Enrique. And so as a Latina especially, familia is very important to us and no one can tell us that there is every any reason to not love our children.
When my youngest daughter Cecilia was in high school she came out to me. And what had happened was that, my daughter Cecilia is a really emotional person. If she’s happy, the whole world is happy, everyone is singing, it looks like a scene from Enchanted, she’s cooking, everything is great. But if she’s not happy, we all know, the dogs hide, the clouds cover the sky, we’re just careful around her. So she came home one day when she was in high school and she was just quiet, didn’t say anything. And I thought that was kind of strange. And she came up to me and she said, Mom, I’ve got something to tell you but don’t get mad. I thought she was pregnant. She started crying, she was just falling apart in front of me, and I got scared. I thought what if she’s hooked on drugs, what if she’s dating a drug dealer, all kinds of crazy nonsense. And she was having a hard time talking and getting the words out. And she told me, Mom, don’t hate me, I date girls. I like girls. Don’t hate me. And that was pretty hard because for me I would do anything for my kids. I think to myself, I would even die for my kids. And there would be no way I could hate them. I don’t understand this whole thing with a parent hating their kids, I don’t get it. But she was afraid of me believing with all her heart that I was going to hate her. We talked. I told her, Mija, I love you now the way I loved you before you told me, the way I’ll love you until I die. You’re my jewel, you’re my gift from God.
What concerned me was that growing up because she had been abandoned, she resented her father intensely. And it hurt me to see that it must have been so hard for her to struggle with knowing she’s lesbian and somehow connecting that some part of her father was inside of her, although I don’t think because he’s gay and she’s lesbian that that meant that part of him was inside of her. I mean, it’s like, it’s just who she is. But I could feel that that’s what she associated so it must have been a struggle, it must have been painful for her to admit to herself that she is lesbian.
I counseled her on love and commitment and trust and having self-respect for herself and all of these things you’re supposed to tell your children, and I think I did okay except for one thing that I told her, and that was, “Careful who you tell.” And I feel badly for telling her “Careful who you tell.” I told her out of fear but there’s something wrong with that, something very wrong. If she had been straight, I never would have told my daughter “Careful who you tell.” And it’s got to change. We can’t be worried that our kids are going to be harmed because of who they love.