“Mom, I have something to tell you that I’ve been holding for a long time. . . .” I can still remember seeing my second-born Angelle’s long text. Before I even started reading through it, all the possible scenarios ran through my mind.
Angélica Canlas Castro (she/her, them/they) mother, social justice educator, certified Revolutionary LOVE coach.
When I got to the part of Angelle’s text where she came out as transgender, time stood still. I stopped breathing as she described in one short paragraph her lifelong journey of hiding in the closet for fear of not being accepted and loved for who she really is. When I finally came back to the present moment, I felt my heart break—not for me but for her. I couldn’t fathom what Angelle had endured holding this sacred secret.
I imagined that time was standing still for Angelle as well, and that she was holding her breath waiting to hear if her mom—the woman who thought she birthed a boy 21 years ago and had spent years raising this boy into a “fine young man” who was off to college doing what “he” was “supposed” to be doing—could find it in her heart to simply accept her child and keep loving her.
For me, there was not even a moment of hesitation or a question in my heart and mind whether I could accept Angelle. In fact, I loved her even more! After all, to me, she was the same beautiful person I birthed into this world, the same joyful person I watched run through grassy fields picking flowers for me, the same animated person whose contagious belly laugh filled any room, the same thoughtful person who cared so deeply for anyone and everyone connected to her, the same sensitive person who cried when she fought with her older brother over a video game. To me, this was a reintroduction of who Angelle had known herself to be—a woman, a sister, a daughter—my trans daughter!
I thought about the many nights she cried herself to sleep as I sat by her bedside, rubbing her back and asking if there was anything I could do to alleviate her pain. I went back to times where her eyes looked lifeless as she would talk to me about struggling in high school and wanting to drop out. I recalled my pep talks reminding her that she didn’t have it that bad and it could always be worse, not knowing the full scope of what she was holding. And now I had a chance to do better, a second chance to be a mom to my amazing child.
"I felt so honored to know that my child trusted me enough to come out to me, and I wanted her to know that I didn’t take her vulnerability and trust lightly."
I quickly texted back a response so Angelle knew that I fully supported her coming out and that my love for her would never change. I meant every word of it. I felt so honored to know that my child trusted me enough to come out to me, and I wanted her to know that I didn’t take her vulnerability and trust lightly. I gave her a moment to read my text response, then I followed up with a call. We cried together as I told her how proud I am of her courage and resilience.
I remember saying to Angelle, “I don’t want to make this about me at all, but I regret not creating a space where you could have felt like you could be your authentic self.” I knew I had tried to be inclusive. I raised four sons, or so I thought, so when my children would talk about someday having a girlfriend, I would always say, “or a boyfriend, or whoever you decide to be with.” I wanted them all to know that I would love them whether they were gay or straight. Angelle told me it was just that she had not come to terms with accepting herself as trans, so she couldn’t imagine anyone else accepting her either. And although there’s truth to that, I now know I could have done so much more to create a space where Angelle would have been welcome to come out as a trans girl as opposed to a gay boy. My unintentionally oppressive ways of being created limits to what Angelle could openly and honestly express to me.
Watching Angelle’s relationships continue to flourish is life-giving: her longtime partner Grace, who lives up to her name; her three brothers, Tyrell, Isa, and Sammy, who keep her close, loved and protected; her cousin Dechaunte who is her best friend and who she has always looked up to; and her entire friend and family network. They have all been her biggest supporters and her sustenance through her liberation journey.
I had already committed my life to being a social justice educator due to my own and my family’s lived experiences around racism, sexism, misogyny, classism, ableism, and ageism. I was born in the Philippines and at eight years old my family immigrated to the United States as diplomats. I began to experience oppression almost immediately, particularly racism, classism, and sexism, in spaces and from people I didn’t expect it from, like in church and from various religious leaders, close family, and friends.
My children identify as multiracial as I identify as Asian and Hispanic and their fathers identify as Black. Sadly, I have been a witness to their experiences of trauma and oppression from a very young age. And although trans oppression is quite pervasive in our current climate, I look to Angelle as one of my supersheroes. Her coming out has fueled my commitment to educate myself around trans oppression and to help create inclusive communities where we can all thrive. I can honestly say that my children have been my biggest source of inspiration for my work, especially Angelle. She has taught me more than she will ever know about choosing oneself!
I began using both she and they pronouns several years ago for my own reasons as I continued to explore and be open to my own learning and expansion around social justice. I was teaching and advising on a college campus at the time, and I began to see all the different and expansive ways that my close circle of friends and my myriad students and colleagues engaged thinking outside the gender binary and gender norms and embraced gender fluidity and ways to be gender nonconforming.
To say I admire Angelle is an understatement; I have immense love, gratitude, respect, and admiration for her courageous soul that exudes her truth; her generous heart that she can now truly wear on her sleeve; her bright spirit that fills the world with much needed light; her unburdened laughter that transforms everyone around her; her brilliance that she gets to fully explore and express; and her unapologetic transness that liberates minds and hearts everywhere. I am so proud of my trans daughter, and I am ecstatic for the world to see and experience what the embodiment of revolutionary love looks like.
Excerpted with permission from Authentic Selves: Celebrating Trans and Nonbinary People and Their Families interviewed by Peggy Gillespie (Skinner House, 2023).