10 Years of Queer: Reflections on Pride / by Sydney Baloue

My mother sent me perhaps some of the best photos of Pride that I have seen. There is one of her, our family friend/cousin from Guyana, who recently came out, and another with a bunch of people from my mother's work in San Francisco, including her boss, who is the sweetest German lesbian chaplain at the hospital where my mother works all marching through SF Pride. My mom told me about how much fun she had walking the parade this year with her colleagues and my little sister and also how much fun she had going out on a night on the town with our cousin/family friend as he took her to a bar in the Castro with his friends! I couldn't get over my mother's wild night out as it seemed like something out of one of my early clubnights oh, so many moons ago. You know the one where there is an enormous line at the door, a ridiculous cover charge, lapdances, lots of loud music, laughs, and someone gets too drunk and has to leave the establishment? Yeah, it was that kind of night for my 60 year-old mother. I asked her if any of the people in the club knew that she was twice their age if not more. She quickly assured me that no one had this insider information. haha! I look forward to aging as gracefully and hopefully having as much fun as she.

My mom with our family friend at San Francisco Pride!

It was so funny hearing my mother's telling of this and also just so great when I think about our journey together as mother and daughter and now as mother and son. I feel like I have watched my mother flourish in her life after leaving an awful marriage of 25 years to my father. Seeing her have fun with friends and others is such a privilege and a blessing in its own right. I could never imagine her being able to truly enjoy herself in the company of others when I was growing up. Even more so, I reflect on how I felt way back when I first came out. I have talked to a couple of queer/LGBT folk around my age, especially for friends who are trans, the world seemed very different not even ten years ago. I feel like back then barely anyone was talking about trans issues in the mainstream. I also feel like just being a lesbian was hard enough. I remember when I came out as a lesbian in the early 2000s and I just think of the ostracization I constantly felt in so many circles, whether it was straight, black/POC or LGBT at school during internships, at work, etc. I don't think I ever quite had the words for what I faced back then, but I knew that there was not really a place or space for me, which is why I kept trying to carve something out for myself wherever I went. Lesbophobia is definitely a thing and is still a thing, even in the LGBT community at large. I find myself still searching for my own space in a certain kind of way. Although trans issues appear more mainstream (appear is the key word), I find I am still on the margins, just in a new way. Barely anyone seems to really talk about transmasculinity in a concrete way. People love to ogle or fetishize us on social media, but rarely is there ever space for us to speak. Or even for us to speak to each other. As I reflected on Pride this year, I thought about how particularly lonely transitioning is. For one, there is the loss of friends, or people who you thought were your friends, but who don't really understand or care to understand how you're doing. There is also the fact that as a community, I don't find transmasculine people to be very, well, community-oriented. As in, rarely do I see bunches of us hanging out together or doing stuff together. There's a ton of self promotion on Instagram or Facebook, but the actual being in each other's company thing, doesn't really seem to be a thing. I would really like to change that and it's an intention I would like to put out to the Universe in my second year of medical transition.

My mother, my little sister, our family friend, and my mom's German lesbian boss, Berthe at San Francisco Pride

My mother, my little sister, our family friend, and my mom's German lesbian boss, Berthe at San Francisco Pride

Regardless, thinking about where I am now as I have entered my second year of medical transition and social transition, I realize how fortunate and how special it is that I have my mom for support. So many trans and LGBT people overall, do not have their biological families for support. The fact that my mother was super supportive to me and has been by my side as I have taken this next step in my life is something I really treasure from her. It has been a very long journey for us to arrive at this point and when I reflect on what "pride" means to me year, I feel as much as my identity has evolved over time, I am so very proud of my mother for being so supportive and loving of me in this process. It makes me so proud that my mom sees me for who I am in my authentic skin and cares as much as she does. Our family has been through so many ups and downs and knowing I have her solid support is something I truly cherish and do not take for granted. To see her photos from Pride (which she was very excited about) was such a huge moment for me to take in and even hearing about her crazy night out in the Castro (I know, I'm still taking it in) was more affirmation for me that we're more closely linked that I realized (We both love a good party! maybe it's a Trini thing?). I found it a little hard to even share with friends as I know so many of them have very fraught relationships with their parents about their identity. I remember when I first officially came out to my mom as a lesbian 8 years ago. I did it over the phone after I came back from Paris. By this point I had been out to my circle of friends for 2 years and was living in DC for the summer. I said it rather matter-of-factly in the midst of a conversation about something mundane. She just responded sweetly, as my mom does, "I know," and then we had a short conversation about it and that was kind of that. Since I have been away from home for quite some time, I only really see my mother at Christmas. So much of our relationship to each other has been over Skype rather than in person at this point. Regardless, I grateful that I have come this far in my journey.

I can only wonder what another 10 years from now will look like for myself. I am grateful for all the changes, all the mistakes and all of the lessons I have learned over time. More importantly, I am so grateful for all the community and alternate forms of family I have also cultivated in this time too. I have at least 4 mothers and 2 fathers as well as tons of brothers and sisters everywhere in the world. Being in New York this past week for Pride reminded me of this journey that I am on and of all the great wonders and support I have had to get here. For that, I am grateful and very proud.