Editor’s Note: Below you will find the winning entry “Untitled”, written by Edison High student Elisha Mendoza as a part of the inaugural Sherley Anne Williams & Lawson Fusao Inada Writing Contest. Find out more about the contest here

Illustration by Ulonie Garza.

I was inspired to write this story based off a common experience most people in the LGBT+ community face. Coming out is usually a really difficult thing to do even when you have parents who are open-minded. Most children still find it a challenging thing to do. I really wanted to write a story that had a happy ending, because I felt the community doesn’t really have much representation with a happy ending.

So this is the tea…… It had taken me a few months before I really figured out really how I wanted to tell my mom. I mean, I could tell my mom and dad at the same time, but I decided to just test the waters with my mom. For some reason I felt she would be more understanding.

I was sitting on my bed squeezing the life out of Morty. Morty is this plush shark I had gotten on my birthday while visiting Santa Cruz. Anyways, I was feeling so anxious that poor Morty was starting to look like a pancake, so I decided it was finally time. I was going to do it! I was going to come out to my mom. It had been two years since I first thought of it, but I knew I’m ready. So I stood up, took a deep breath, opened the door to my room, and walked out. I heard the TV in the living room playing so I figured she must’ve been watching ​Property Brothers ​like she always did when she had time off work.

I confidently walked down the hallway, but when I turned the corner and saw her sitting there on the couch with the box of fruit loops in her hand, I instantly lost all confidence. It just escaped my body and I realized this was a totally bad idea. My brain had canceled the plan, but my body was still walking towards my mom anyways. She must’ve seen the stupid face that looked like I had just come out of my final for Biology junior year, because she looked at me and asked, “Hey what’s wrong with you? Did you die in your game again?” I made the weirdest sound that has ever escaped my mouth, which I can only describe as something like an awkward laugh, but if the awkward laugh had come from a penguin with asthma. This just granted even more of a concerned look from my mom which certainly didn’t help, so I did the most logical thing I could think of. I blurted out “I have a C in Chemistry.” while I just looked at her with the most straight face I could muster. She just looked and me and said “Is that it?” I nodded, gave her a simple “Mhmm,” and zoomed back to my room.

I jumped into my bed and instantly thought ​What the heck was that?? That wasn’t the plan? Chemistry is my best subject?? What even was that? ​So being the person I am I decided that this was a fail and I would try again some other time, so I crawled into bed and took a nap even though it was barely three in the afternoon.

I woke up around six or seven, but when I woke up I noticed there was a tray with my favorite food- chicken tacos and red rice- on my dresser that had a note next to the plate that said “Get your grades up, Pendeja- Love, your favorite icon” My mom really knew how to cheer me up. She must’ve thought I was stressed from my grade being low in chemistry, so she made me my favorite meal and left a funny note.

Literally how much cooler could she be? That still didn’t help me get over the fear of telling her, but it certainly helped. My mom has always been so cool, but I still didn’t know how she’d take the news. I had heard of other parents who just completely shunned their kids or forced them to go to conversion therapy. In some cases I’ve even heard of them getting kicked out and completely disowned. I didn’t think my mom would do that, but there was still that possibility. My mom is more open-minded than most, but at the same time my dad is a different story. Him and I don’t really talk because, he’s always away on business trips for work. When he does talk to me we don’t really have personal conversations.

I got really lost into thought when I heard a knock on my door. It was my mom. “Hey I’m going to Baskin Robbins, cause I’m craving a banana split. You wanna join me?” I was still really anxious, but I thought ​there’s no problem ice cream can’t fix.

We ended up both sharing a banana split. We got two scoops of rocky road with one scoop of rainbow sherbert on top. We were eating it in the car parked outside of the ice cream shop. Her and I had been laughing at something the girl on the radio said when I just took a deep breath and blurted out “Mom, I’m gay.” I instantly took a scoop of rocky road, shoved it in my mouth, looked straight ahead of me at the dashboard, and prayed that she didn’t hear what I said. She took a breath in, which made my stomach drop, and said “Oh baby, do you think that’s going to distract me from the fact you took the last bite of rocky road?” I instantly turned to look at her, and said “ Wait. Did you hear what I said??” She reached over the center console and pulled me into a hug as close to her as she could. Tears were falling on my mom’s sweater. I didn’t realize it, but I was the one who was crying. She pushed me away and looked me in the eyes. The words she said will most likely never leave me “ It’s okay, mi vida.” There was a bunch of tears in my eyes, but for some reason I could still see her clearly. My mom had just heard me come out, but she was smiling at me with the same smile she’s always shown me. I was accepted by her. I went in and hugged her for a while longer. She was so warm and i’ll never forget how tight she held me.

About two weeks after I came out to my mom, I went to go play basketball with my dad at a park that was right near my house. We did this whenever he had enough time off work. We were just playing a game with street rules, and it was really fun, probably cause I was winning, but after I decided ​today would be a good day to tell him​. We were sitting on the bench drinking water and he decided to compliment me on my three pointers. “ Where’d you learn how to shoot like that Goose?” “Dad, I’m gay.” It may have been really bad timing in the conversation, but it was out there. There was an awkward pause and my dad tilted his head a bit, but then he said, “ Oh, okay. That’s cool if that’s who you are, but I still want to know who taught you how to shoot a three while I was away.” He looked at me and smiled with his same somewhat serious, yet somehow goofy grin.

I was accepted by both of my parents, and that was the happiest thing in my life. I know not a lot of people who are like me don’t have as happy as an ending when they come out, but I just hope that there will be more stories like mine that I hear in the future.

by Elisha Mendoza

The kNOw Youth Media
The kNOw works to support and equip young people with the journalism and advocacy skills they need to tell their stories and the stories of their communities.

In 2006, over 25 youth began participating in weekly after-school writing workshops where they congregated in the hallway of a two-story building in West Fresno and learned the essentials of creating media and telling their stories. The group evolved over the next five years and is now proudly recognized as The kNOw Youth Media.

Through our program, we create opportunities for our youth participants, who in turn create long-term positive change in their communities. Our approach weaves youth development and youth media innovation to produce our biannual youth publication, multimedia projects, and community forums.

The kNOw began as a project of New America Media, which was the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 2000 ethnic news organizations. In 2018 The kNOw became a project of Youth Leadership Institute.

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