Terry Gonzales can quickly sum up what it means to be a mom, “You support your kids, that’s the job,” she said. Terry lives in Houston, where she’s raising two children and works full time as a senior administrative assistant at a hospital.
“I can’t imagine not doing everything I can to make sure my kids are happy and healthy – that’s what you sign up for when you become a parent,” Terry said.
So, when it became clear at a young age that Terry’s daughter, Sammy, was transgender, she did everything she could to support her and ensure her happiness.
Sammy was born a boy, but as soon as she could speak and express herself, she showed much more interest in what people think of as girl activities. When she started to speak in sentences, Sammy said that when she grew up, she wanted to be just like her mom. Her mother tried correcting her, explaining that when she grew up she would be a man.
But Sammy was adamant, “No,” she’d say, “I’m going to be a girl!”
It was around this time that Terry, unsure of what to do or how best to care for her child, found a support group for the parents of transgender children.
“The best advice I got was to let your child lead the way, let them guide you,” Terry said.
In multiple meetings with her doctor and a therapist when asked how she felt and what she wanted, Sammy said, “I’m a girl and I want to live as a girl.”
It was confusing and at times difficult for Terry, but throughout it all she focused on one important goal: Ensuring that her daughter didn’t face physical or emotional hurt.
While Sammy was ready to start living her life as her authentic self, Terry was worried about all the potential negative impacts. She tried to slow Sammy down, concerned that this could be a phase.
One day, Terry was trying to convince Sammy to wait a little bit longer before living completely as a girl.
“I was trying to buy some time,” she said, “and I was explaining to her that it was like butterflies, something she had read about. I told her she was like a caterpillar, she would eventually become a butterfly, but that she needed to spend a little more time as a chrysalis,” Terry said.
But, Sammy quickly corrected her mother, saying, “No! I’m a butterfly now, mama, and I’m ready to fly!”
As her mother, Terry said, she knew her job then was to love her and do everything she could to support her.
At the same time that the Gonzales family was working to ensure Sammy’s health and happiness, the city of Houston was debating a new non-discrimination ordinance that includes protections against discrimination on the basis of gender identity and expression.
The Gonzales family, including Sammy’s brother Joaquin, testified in support of the ordinance and were very excited when it passed. Since then, they’ve been to Austin to lobby legislators on the importance of ensuring that all people – young and old – can live their lives without fear of discrimination.
With the support of Sammy’s teachers and school, as well as most of her extended family, Sammy was able to start living her life as her true self without a lot of problems, and it has made a tremendous difference in Sammy’s happiness.
However, there was one area of life that still gave Terry a lot of concern: her church.
“I’ve been going to the same church my whole life,” she said, “I was born and raised Catholic, and I wanted that for my family, too.”
But, as her kids grew up and got closer to the age when it was time for their First Communion, Terry was afraid to ask her pastor.
“I was afraid of being rejected; I couldn’t stand the idea of my children being rejected by our church. So, I waited,” she said. “Then the other kids their age started having their First Communions and my kids asked why they hadn’t had theirs,” Terry said.
“Finally,” Terry says, “I found the courage to at least ask. I called my pastor and I asked. He said he had to call the Diocese to see what they say. Later, he told me the Diocese said ‘yes’ and Sammy could accept her First Communion as her true self.”
So, in May of 2015, Sammy and Joaquin were both able to have their First Communion; Joaquin in a suit and bow tie, and Sammy in a beautiful white dress and pearls.
“The First Communion was more than I expected. My heart was of full of joy and love for these kids; I’m just lucky I get to parent such amazing kids,” Terry said of that day.
Terry was incredibly moved that her church accepted her family as they are, “I’m so grateful to know my church is still there for me and my family,” she said, “Everyone should be accepted for who they are.”
Through it all, other parents and family members have commended Terry’s strength and bravery in standing up for her daughter’s happiness, but she’s very quick to redirect the credit.
“I’m not brave;” she says, “Sammy is the brave one. From a very young age, she stood up for herself, for who she was – that’s strength,” Terry says. With the support of her family, her community, and her church, Terry is excited to continue to watch Sammy grow into an amazing young woman.
We’re so grateful to Terry for sharing her family’s beautiful story and we think all three of them are great examples of strength and bravery!
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