My name is a Estefanie Lliguichuzca. I’m from Astoria, Queens.
It’s Christmas break 2008. I’m coming home back from college and I invite a friend who I had a lot of feelings for. I’m trying to, like, rub this chick’s thigh. My mom picks it up and is just like, “You better cut this shit out because you’re embarrassing me but also you’re making a fool out of yourself.” And with that, my mother had her suspicions but I also wasn’t ready to come out to myself yet.
It’s the Spring 2009. I’m back on campus and I’m just like, all right, I’m gonna be a savage. So I meet a junior. And the junior was dope because we were hooking up for the semester but I’ve realized – it was in April – when I just turned 19. And after a night of hooking up, I was just laying next to her and I’m thinking to myself, “You’re lying if you still say you’re straight. Clearly you’re gay.”
And so I decided – I go back with confidence and told my friends that, “Hey, I’m gay.” And everybody embraces it. It’s loving but I knew that I couldn’t do that at home. So when I had to return for the summer of 2009, I wasn’t looking forward to it. And my sister picked up that I was changed, that something about me made me happy but at the same time I couldn’t be too happy about it.
So we were talking in the living room and I come out to her. It made sense for her given that I was a tomboy but my mother picks it up that something is going on from the kitchen. So she comes over and she says, like, “What’s going on?” I didn’t want to come out so at that moment but Veronica felt strongly that, you know what, this is the time that you need to tell her. I looked at her, she looked at me and even though I was breaking down as I was coming out to my mother, my mother actually jumped in and was like, “Estefanie, yo se.”
It didn’t feel much of a relief telling her because what happened afterwards was that she couldn’t understand why. She thought that it was given that the fact that she was a single mom. I’m like, it’s none of those reasons. So she decides “the best thing for you is you need to go to see a therapist.”
We go. She knows – the therapist tells her, “There’s nothing wrong with her. She just fell in love and found her true self.” That’s not what my mother wanted to hear so we stopped going. Before I go back for my sophomore – the fall of 2009 – she just like, “Nobody needs to know. You live how you wanna live. But don’t just tell anybody. Just do you.”
Then I decided that maybe that – full break – that you know what? I need to just chop off my hair. That was World War 3 in my household. My mom was, “Everybody’s gonna know. Why would you do that to yourself?” That’s when she was like, “Okay, you can never return to this home. There’s no place.” So she wouldn’t return my calls. She didn’t wanna know about me.
Given that my home situation was shit and that I have a sanctuary to go back to, I decided to take winter courses at undergrad in the winter of 2010. However, that all changed when my grandfather suffered a stroke that first weekend of January. Even though his survival rate wasn’t great, my mother being the good old Catholic Ecuadorian woman that she is, was like, “I’ll do everything. Tell the doctors they need to do everything to save him.” But he didn’t come out right. Half of his body was paralyzed. So for that entire month before I had to go back for my spring semester, I was just taking care of him, speaking to him. Because for whatever reason, my mother, my aunt and my uncles didn’t feel it was right to speak to him. But I’m like, clearly he can still hear. So I’m like, I guess just communicate so he can know that someone is there. Clearly now, all of the Ecuadorian family members are coming to see to see me – well, to see my grandfather – but they see me by his bedside and it’s like, “Well, okay she has short hair now. Oh, well, okay, but what is she doing? No, she’s actually caring for him and not only advocating for his well-being.”
January was coming to an end and I had to leave to go back to school. And my mother knew that I was coming back in March because it’s spring break, so she told me, “Hey, I’ll see you in March.” She never really said, “Hey, you could come back home” because she already kicked me out. But this was her way of saying, “Because of what you did for me and especially for my father, I’m willing to welcome my home to you, even though you have the short hair, even though everybody now knows you’re visibly gay. So to me that was a big step towards progress and I took it.
So I remember speaking to her when I would come back and I would tell her, “Hey, ma. Ma, I think I identify as butch. Because my mother doesn’t – is not fluent in English, she took the term butch to be bougie. It was remarkable because she was just like, “I might not understand it but I’ll try to understand my daughter. So if she’s gonna identify like this, so be it.”Now we can walk down the street and people are like, “Why is this person calling this girl bougie??” No, it’s my mom saying, “Hey, it’s another way of saying Estefanie.”
But the major transition for me that was shocking for myself was when I started my – I started dating my partner, Lauren. And for me, the day that I was like, “Mom, I’m going to introduce you to my girlfriend and her name is Lauren,” I didn’t think she was gonna take it well, just because she finally is meeting someone that I say is “girlfriend.” She’s never experienced that. And I’m just like, oh god, what she’s gonna – how she’s going to react? How she’s going to treat her? There’s this other thing also. Like, my girlfriend is black, so I’m like, oh, is it gonna be good because of race relations and x, y, and z. Instead, like, they just now get along so great that she considers our daughter, has her own little nicknames her, like, calls her Miss Johnson. That’s her last name. And they like cook together and have family meals.
Looking back to younger Estef, I would just tell her you’d be surprised of how people evolve over time. And probably younger Estef would like, “What the fuck you talking about?” But I feel that I would just be like, just give it time and be patient and you’ll see what exactly I mean. Now we’re in a better place and I just feel that this Ecuadorian woman has progressed so much but so has her daughter who grew up from Astoria, Queens and now she’s back in Brooklyn, living her best life happily and in love.