When Zoila Fajardo and her family moved to the U.S. from Nicaragua more than a decade ago, she never imagined that advocating for transgender children would be part of her full time duties as a mom.
Post submitted by Milagros Chirinos, HRC Bilingual Media Manager-Spanish
When Zoila Fajardo and her family moved to the U.S. from Nicaragua more than a decade ago, she never imagined that advocating for transgender children would be part of her full time duties as a mom. Her activism for LGBTQ causes was inspired by her 6-year-old transgender daughter, Ariel, and educating the community about the issues facing transgender youth has become one of her missions in life.
For Fajardo and her husband, learning their daughter’s true gender identity was both surprising and challenging. She recalls that at the age of two, Ariel communicated very clearly, had a vibrant personality and loved playing with dolls.
“At first it was very confusing and I did not know what to do. I felt like I did something wrong and that I was responsible for her behavior. I blamed myself for it,” said Fajardo. “I immediately started to do some research about the topic and was determined to educate myself and my family.”
At the age of four, Ariel started wearing dresses, drawing pictures of herself with long hair and using crayons as makeup. Unable to understand her own process, Ariel -- the youngest of three siblings -- became introverted and distressed. Her demeanor concerned both of her parents who tried everything to get Ariel’s lively personality back -- and ultimately decided to support Ariel’s true gender identity by allowing her to socially transition. The shift in her daughter’s attitude occurred almost instantly.
“She was slowly learning to be that little person I knew before, it was like life came back to her, and I saw joy and light in her eyes again,” said Fajardo. “My daughter’s transition changed our lives forever, she’s changed everything. Now, in my eyes, she’s the most beautiful of all the girls.”
Fajardo believes that the “real transition” occurred within herself, friends and family members as they learned how to love and respect Ariel’s true gender identity by accepting who she really is and using her correct name and pronouns. She created a video using photos to recreate every special moment, using it to share Ariel’s story with her friends and family back in Nicaragua.
Despite Ariel’s safe school environment and supportive family and friends, Fajardo recognizes her daughter will grow up facing multiple challenges. She fears for Ariel’s safety and is cautious about their privacy. Her child’s inner struggle inspired her to advocate for the transgender community and stress the importance of education within society.
Fajardo is a board member of Translatina Coalition and collaborates with local grassroot organizations in the D.C. area. This year, she attended her first HRC’s Time to Thrive, an event dedicated to LGBTQ youth, families and youth-serving professionals, where she witnessed the importance of best practices, inclusion and safety for LGBTQ children and youth. Fajardo is also thankful for the guidance provided by her friends at PFLAG and for all the supporters she’s met along the way.
“Love and education are the key to supporting transgender children. Understanding that every human being in this world is unique, authentic, unrepeatable, original and different is the beauty of life, humanity and nature,” said Fajardo. “We are all equal because we have dreams, goals, desires and needs, therefore, we deserve respect, dignity and opportunities no matter where we come from and who we are.”
Parental love and support for transgender and gender-expansive children are critical. HRC’s Parents for Transgender Equality Council, a coalition of parent-advocates, is dedicated to working for equality and fairness for transgender youth. Learn more here.
HRC is committed to providing tools and resources for families, friends and professionals to help and support their loved ones. Click here to learn more about the issues facing transgender youth.