To Be Theirs

I am not their daughter. The name that reverberates in the atmosphere is of another and I am not her. They often use the four syllables of my full name when I have become used to only two and the sound of it smothers me.

The ambiguity of my gender is lifted and I am forced to be their daughter again. I am forced to be feminine, fragile, and vulnerable under the presence of a man. I will tend to him as Mom does Dad; he will take care of me as Dad does Mom.

I cannot breathe.

By the age of seven, the discomfort that my own image brought me started to become familiar. Mamá would hold up my arm and pull at the hairs on it, telling me that — at my age — she had looked the same. Then she’d hold up her arm to mine, bare and smooth, and say that eventually my arms would look that way. I would take Mamá’s scissors later and lock myself in the bathroom, cutting the heritage that burdened me with a reflection I had been told was not beautiful.

She would point at strangers and little girls on the street who wore dresses with their hair down. She’d say “Así se viste la niña bonita”. I’d look down at my shorts and t-shirt and let her words sink into my skin, picking at the scabs the scissors had created the week before.

I loved a girl but my mother never said anything because I did not tell her. Her hair was long, like mine, her voice deep. She spoke slower in English, trying to hide her accent and not trip over her words. She’d call my mother Tía and my father Tío—I’d always laugh whenever she did that. For a while things like that were funny to me but sometimes she would hold my hand and smile and all I wanted to do was cry. My mother never said anything but I could still hear her. I loved a girl but I couldn’t let myself for long. I loved a girl and I told her that I didn’t.

My skin isn’t bare enough and my clothes are not as feminine as they should be and my heart belongs to the wrong person. I am not their daughter.

My sister is not their daughter. She is something else entirely. Her limbs are tainted by the touch of her lover and they do not see her, do not hear her. They ignore everything she has ever told them, everything they never wanted to hear and construct a past image of her, instead of loving her for who she actually is.

They told her last year that they would visit but only if her “friend” went to a hotel while they were there. This way, her image would remain intact and all of them could pretend that she didn’t love another woman and was still their daughter. My father said, “Please Maria Luisa, for our own mental health”. To them, my sister breathes and fills her lungs but it’s as if the air around her is different. We are filled with different substance. So I am suspended, left with only whispers and muffled screaming that pull at the seams of my being.

We don’t know what it means to be their daughters anymore. But if it is anything like right now and how it feels right now—when we hate ourselves because they too have been taught to hate these things about us—then we are sorry Mamá y Papá, but we are not your daughters.

By Alex Diaz-Albertini

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