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This story and its audio recording were produced as part of a workshop by the Boyle Heights Beat in collaboration with the Latino Equality Alliance, Mi Centro/Los Angeles LGBT Center and PFLAG.

Charlie Ruíz Vazquez has many things in common with her mom, Mary Ruiz. Both are Clínica Romero health promotoras at the Ramona Gardens housing complex where they live, and both self-describe as very friendly people.

Both have found personal improvement through education and Charlie, 24, hopes to graduate with double majors in 2019 from Cal State Northridge. Charlie, who identifies him/herself as a gender-fluid pansexual, learned about community service from her mother, a volunteer and co-facilitator at the Spanish-language PFLAG meetings at Mi Centro in Boyle Heights.

In this interview, Mary asks Charlie what she looks for in a sentimental partner and the daughter responds asking the same question, about how Mary chose her own partner.

Mary: Have you ever been bullied because of your sexual preference?

Charlie: Yes (laughs). My Junior year [in high school] was when I started to feel that I was different from others, from what society says is normal, right? You know that I have always been very friendly, always been very social and all that. Well, a group of girls at school thought I was, I think they thought I was flirting with them. I was just being friendly, I was not flirting with them. They started saying they did not feel… what do you call it?

Mary: Uncomfortable…

Charlie: ….around me because they were in the basketball team, and they didn’t want to get dressed with me in the locker room, although I didn’t even pay attention to them because… they weren’t my type.

Mary: They weren’t your type…

Charlie: (laughs) They started to… they met in a group and made a plan for one of them to come speak to me to tell me that they felt uncomfortable and this and that… and that girl that went to talk to me asked, ‘are you sure that you’re heterosexual?’ And I said, what? And she started telling me all this stuff and, I think at that time a lot of things began to…

Mary: Pass through your head…

Charlie: Yes, a lot of things… and I started to say, ‘oh, that’s why I felt this, for this and that and that…’ I started to connect things, when I never thought that it was all because of my sexual orientation.

Mary: Oooh!

Charlie: And then they, once I felt a term with which I felt comfortable, which is pansexual, I started to… well, I told one of them, the one that came up to talk to me, and I think it was too big a secret for her to keep, so she went and told the others…

Mary: Oh!

Charlie: … and they started to exclude me from their group of friends. And they started to say that they did not feel right around me in the locker room, because I could do something to them, I could say something to them, whatever. That’s why often times I would leave the locker room, I would just leave my things and go outside and dress on the court. The teacher, the coach, he started saying stuff like, ‘oh, you just like to dress outside’ and I don’t know what else. But in reality it was so that they could feel alright and wouldn’t start saying those things, that’s why I dressed outside. Although, in reality, I didn’t really care (laughs).

Mary: They were worrying about something that you weren’t even thinking about.

Charlie: Yeah, because, they’re not my type. Not them, in particular.

Mary: What characteristics do you like in a person as a couple, or you would like to find?

Charlie: They have to be funny, you know, they have to make me laugh.

Mary: So you’re looking for a clown (laughs).

Charlie: Yeah. (laughs) I want someone who gets the Latino experience, who understands what it is to come from an oppressed group, and a person who shares thoughts similar to mine, who wants to help other people, who wants to get ahead, who wants to help their family. For me the most important thing is that they get along with family, in other words, that they…

Mary: First with you, or with your family?

Charlie: Well, first with me (laughs) and then with my family because, well you know this, you are everything to me. The last thing I want is for this person to come and want to take me away and not let me be with you, then, that is the most important thing for me.

Mary: Very well. I only want you to be happy.

Charlie: Tell me about you, what were you looking for in my Dad? What did you like about my Dad?   

Mary: Because since he was a young man he was a hard worker. As a young man he was very hard working and now he is a man who loves his family, loves you girls, and works hard every day to give his family a decent life.

Charlie: Yeah, same here. I think a lot of people are looking for someone like that, no? Be whoever they are, whatever their orientation.

Mary: Yeah, because at the end of the day, you have to like the person that you decide to live with, you’re the one who has to like them, not other people, just you.

Charlie: And more than anything, they have to let me go to school, let me work.

Mary: Oh, no, definitely. You have to finish school so that you can fulfill many of your dreams.

Charlie: I will be the first one in the family to graduate from college. My first degree…

Mary: Bachelors?

Charlie: Bachelors…

Mary: How many are you getting?

Charlie: Two. In literature and creative writing.

Mary: You know you’ve told me that you have a dream of helping LGBTQ+ youth who are homeless. I wonder, how is it that you want to help them?

Charlie: I want to create a shelter for them, but a little different from other shelters we see in the city of Los Angeles, where a young person gets there, sleeps and then has to leave at a certain time, more like a school, where these people can find, these young people can find a bed and a warm meal and a teacher, a person who will guide them and help them get an education, reach a certain level of education, like high school. And if they want to go on, to help them, and if they don’t want to go on with school to help them find a job. Because these are all things that you learn in school and also things that you learn at home, with their parents, but being homeless they don’t have those resources, to call them something, they don’t have that guide they need.

Mary: That is so beautiful, the way you want to help other people. You know what… do you know why I love you?

Charlie: Because I’m your daughter (laughs).

Mary: Yes, because you’re my daughter, and… because that beautiful heart that you have and those thoughts about helping other people, that makes you a wonderful person.  I just want to say that I love you a lot, daughter.

Charlie: I also love you a lot, Mom.

Participants:

Charlie Ruiz Vazquez

A 21-year-old gender fluid pansexual born & raised in Boyle Heights. They are currently a student at CSU Northridge double majoring in English & Creative Writing.

PGP: (he/she/they)

Mary Ruiz

I am 41 years old and I was born in Irapuato, Guanajuato, Mexico.  I am a health promotora at Clínica Romero and I am the co-facilitator for the  PFLAG en español meetings at Mi Centro. I have lived in Boyle Heights since 1993, I have two daughters,  Charlie and Espii Ruiz. I have been married 24  years. I studied English for five years at the Occupational Center. I very much like to work in my community, I adore to speak to people and I am very friendly with everyone. I love my family and I am very happy because my Mom came from Mexico to be with us. My favorite color is blue and I am   Community Engagement Co-chair of the (HHP) prevention group at BHC.

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