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caption: Arvie Lynn Cabral with her son Riley 
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Arvie Lynn Cabral with her son Riley

My Catholic mom and her two queer sons

My mom and I are kind of the same person. Look at our muddy little eyes and how they crinkle when we smile. And our thick black hair, which we keep tied on top of our round heads. And our freckles, scattered on our wide cheeks.  

Riley Collins and his mom have figured out how to make their differences work.

Our cultural differences, though, can be tough to deal with. 

I was born in Seattle, and I’m half white. My mom, Arvie Lynn Cabral, grew up in Santo Niño, Philippines. One of the biggest parts of her life from the start was the Catholic Church.

“Growing up we were just praying at night, me and my mother,” she said. “Where I grew up in the village, we don’t have a church but we have a nice, real altar for Mama Mary for my mother to pray.”

I’ve always noticed that church and God and stuff brought us Filipinos together. As kids, my mom would load my brother and me into our red van every week and drive us down to the Catholic church. I remember the instantly recognizable smell of lumpia and halo-halo and people laughing and conversing in Tagalog. But man, did I hate Mass. Tell me one 5 year old who can sit in a room full of people without squirming or throwing a fit.

As I grew up, I realized it was more than me being bored. I don’t think I was connecting to Filipino culture as much as I should have. This was just another way I was going to be very different from my mom.

In the sixth grade, I stopped going to church. My mom would get super upset with me, but in my mind, there was a specific reason why I stopped going: I’m gay.

My mom was a Catholic, and I thought there would be some horrible reaction to me coming out. In the eighth grade, I did it.

“I was kind of shocked a little bit and sad a little,” she said. “But that was just like for a moment because I would accept you no matter who you are. I love you the same.”

Two years later, my little brother Ethan came out.

So now my straight, Catholic mother was in the same house as her two queer sons, and she wasn’t thrilled.

“It is what it is,” she said. “Whatever it is that’s going on, I'm not going to complain. I'm not going to be sad about it anymore. Life is life. I'm just going to move on.”

My brother and I still don’t remember the last time we went to church with my mom, and right now, she kind of misses it.

“That was one of the best times for me, when we were all going to church together on a Sunday morning," she said. "It was special to me because that's one way for us to be together in one place.

"I was hoping that you and Ethan would be interested on knowing that there is God and believe on it.”

I honestly miss it too; going on picnics afterward, spending time with my mom and my brother, even though I never really felt connected to God and church in the first place.

But in my mind at least, we’ve reached an understanding. Even with the fighting about church, differences in our roots, and her feelings about my sexuality, we’re still a family.

My mom told me: “I try my very best to raise you both the best way I can and the best way I know. That’s all I can do, and whatever you want to choose to be, it’s your choice and it's your life."

This story was created in RadioActive Youth Media's 2017 After-School Workshop for high school students at New Holly in partnership with Seattle Housing Authority. Listen to RadioActive stories, subscribe to the RadioActive podcast and stay in touch on Facebook and Twitter.