This Latinx Heritage Month, Kai Guzman Shares How The Love of Her Abuelita Helped Her Live Her Truth

by Kai Guzman

This Latinx Heritage Month has been a coming of age for me.

My grandmother plays such important role in my family, just like in many families across Latin America. She is at the heart of my family at this time. We call her Abi, short for abuelita, meaning grandmother.

I was assigned female at birth and yes— you guessed it— the middle name given to me was my abuela’s name. I was raised alongside my mom’s family as the first grandchild in an immigrant family devoted to their faith and unity. Abi’s family was full of musicians and composers, so learning to sing and play the guitar was worth it if it meant seeing her smile. As my madrina, or godmother, learning prayers and joining rosaries with her genuinely filled me with pride every time I popped an eye open to see her. Of course, this meant, at some point, I was bound to be the choir kid who sang salmos, psalms, at Sunday Mass. It felt as though I was doing my part to make sure my family’s sacrifices could be met with dreams too.

As someone who identifies as transgender, growing up with my kind of family was also very lonely. I had difficulty explaining the way I saw the world. I didn’t feel as though I belonged with the other girls in my family. I struggled with being raised in girlhood and womanhood and it took me a long time to figure out why.

As an adult now, much has changed, including my name. I’ve spent the last year preparing to come out to my family. I’ve started a testosterone routine and will soon celebrate a year since my top surgery.

Abi, on the other hand, was diagnosed with cancer and spent the last year battling the worst of it.

Kai Guzman and her abuelita.

As I watched her health decline, I made the decision to talk to Abi in August about the reason I was going by a different name. I asked her if she could call me by my correct name moving forward. She simply nodded and began saying my correct name as we continued talking. After that, I knew it was OK to come out to the rest of my family, and I did.

The following week, I helped take Abi to church. I had no idea then that it would be the last time Abi would attend Sunday Mass at church.

My abuelita, Margarita, passed away on the 1st of September. She left this Earth surrounded by her family who loved her endlessly.

Abi is the reason I will continue to sing. To me, she is a reminder of how strong our people are, our Latinx people. Her final gift to me was a love that means never having to hide who I am to anyone ever again, even family; which, as Latinxs, we know can be quite extensive. As I continue this journey without her here, I know her prayers will continue to protect me (transphobes beware). I step into the full light, knowing my ancestors are with me, and I am unashamed.

As Latinxs, may we never forget how to live a life with love.