Well, I don’t miss his misogyny. What I miss is the ease with which we moved through each others worlds. Primarily, the ease by which we navigated each other’s family lives. We knew that each of us was a tiny wheel in a beautiful messy mechanism that was our family life. I was eighteen. He was twenty-six. I had no drivers license (or self-esteem) so his mom, Priscilla, drove from Rancho Cucamonga in her rusting F-150 to our apartment in Ontario to take me to and from work. My sweetie and his mama both worked at the same Mexican restaurant and took turns shuttling us around often with his sixteen-year-old sister’s baby bouncing around in the back seat.
If his sister and I were both working swing shift at the mall we smoked secret cigarettes together before we got picked up. His mom tried to teach me how to iron a man’s dress shirt and I cried when I could not remember the steps. His parents were reformed working class cholos. My mom grew up working as a migrant farm laborer.
Even though our families were wildly different, everything was easy and natural when it came to family life. I can remember the overwhelming joy I felt when we first revealed to one another that we both adhered to the old adage, ‘family first.’ After so many white boyfriends who made me feel as though my big Mexican family was shameful and to be avoided, this sweet boy did everything in his power to slip right into the fabric of my family life.
My family parties usually meant sitting around a table eating pan dulce with coffee and telling stories late into the night, while his family’s involved turntables, coolers filled with beer, and bounce houses. On holidays, we celebrated with both families, first with his brood in LA, then driving five hundred miles to celebrate with mine. My family loved Rene and his family loved me. We thought we were going to get married.
It was 1998 and I had already decided that I was a dyke when I met Rene and was confounded when I fell in love with this sweet genderqueer boy who encouraged me to live openly as a bisexual and experiment with women. Years later, when our porno performative all girl (except Rene, kinda) gang bang sex life began to feel, well, performative and I needed to have private intimacy with my female lovers, it was fine with Rene, until it wasn’t.
But what I miss isn’t just the ease of sharing a cultural history, but the ease I felt when my family perceived my sexuality to be heterosexual. Although I’m no longer estranged from my family and one of my girlfriends has met my extended family, I did’t see any of the familiar warmth that they expressed for Rene extended to her.
I don’t miss the way that boy replicated the emotional violence committed by his father against his mother with me. I don’t miss him using his power to scare me, to make me feel stupid, the way he blew my money on partying, or convinced me I couldn’t survive without him. But these have nothing to do with our shared Latinx history. I miss fasting together for Lent, making vegan capirotada, and babysitting all the kids in the family together. Most of all I miss how easy it was to be with my family with him. For a time, I thought what I was missed with the way in which my straight relationship was privileged, but I realize now that what I really long for is for my two trans girlfriends to experience the same love, warmth, and acceptance that Rene enjoyed.
It’s been close to nine years since I came out to my Latinx family, and I have to admit, they are coming around. And while my two white girlfriends may never experience the kind of cultural familiarity and comfort that I had with Rene, I hope that one day my queer and trans lovers will have the opportunity to enjoy the kind of ease that I once experienced with my family. And it would seem that my only chance of getting what I want is by taking the risk of opening myself up to the possibility of being hurt by familial rejection and wading through the discomfort until I get there.