The Domingo Family: “Gather Your Strength at the Holidays”
December 21, 2017

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The November and December holidays are a time of year when families come together, reflect on the past year, and celebrate the spirit of togetherness and joy. Here in Massachusetts, we’ve spoken to countless families of transgender children who honor these same traditions, as well as being fierce advocates for non-discrimination.

They enter 2018 with renewed hope that our campaign to protect non-discrimination at the ballot in November will be successful, and that the work continues to educate people about the importance of this election. This is the first in our holiday story collection, featuring the Domingo family in Bridgewater.

Their transgender son, Micah, began his transition 8 years ago, and now they are able to celebrate the holidays with a full sense of belonging and love.

The Domingos (Beryl, Vernon, and Micah) • Bridgewater

What is your favorite holiday tradition as a family?

We have all the usual traditions — we have the tree, we do the presents, all of it. Usually, we have a really big dinner on Christmas day. We have a small family here — most of our family is in South Africa – here we have us [Beryl and Vernon], our two children Micah & Jerry, Jerry’s wife Jenn, and our two grandchildren.

domingo family

Micah lives in New York City, so he is close and loves coming home for Christmas. Thanksgiving is a lot of the same – we host dinner at our house. Thanksgiving is actually a big day for us – we got here in 1982 from South Africa. Beryl and Jerry arrived the day before Thanksgiving, so it’s a time for us to celebrate our coming to a new country.

This Christmas, Micah is in South Africa, and coming out to his extended family— it’s the first time he’s gone there since he’s transitioned.

Do you have a particularly favorite memory of the holidays?

We love getting together as a family, because we’re very close. Micah makes a real effort to get home for the big holidays. Being together as a family is our big tradition, and definitely with a big meal. One of the great things is we have 2 grandchildren who are 6 and 2. They’re very special to us, and they’re very close to Micah, and it’s so great to see them interacting.

“The holidays are a time to think about family, and what that means. We should use this opportunity to energize ourselves and commit to fight for the rights of our transgender loved ones in the year ahead.”

All they’ve ever known is uncle Micah, and it’s wonderful to see them relating to him. Micah came out to us 4 days before Christmas in 2009, and we remember that time, sort of being confused, and finding out what being transgender is all about. It’s really wonderful to think back over the past 8 years and see the journey we’ve made as a family as far as inclusion and happiness is concerned.

How early do your decorations start going up? Who’s responsible for what?

Because we’re both retired, now we start planning our holidays early, right after Thanksgiving. In the past everything was always a close call when we were working full-time.

We try to get our tree up by mid-December, and we put up Christmas stockings for everyone coming on Christmas day, including family and any friends who will be joining us. Beryl makes the stockings and we make sure everyone gets a little something in there.

What are your family’s concerns about the 2018 ballot initiative?

We’re very concerned that putting a civil rights issue on a ballot is the wrong way to go. All people deserve civil rights, and civil rights should not be a ballot issue. Our response is to get involved. Beryl and I have made some public presentations on being parents of a transgender child.

domingos 2

We’ve developed a program that we’re now taking on the road — for example, we are trying to get ourselves invited to libraries and community venues, where we can speak about being parents and that transgender people deserve full and equal rights. We were very proud that Massachusetts initially set the tone when we approved these rights in 2016, and now it’s hard to believe we could take this step back if the repeal passes.

It would influence other states to establish discriminatory laws like they tried to do after President Obama gave the guidance to schools. A bunch of states then filed legislation to repeal that guidance. A repeal here in Massachusetts would be awful for trans people and make them targets for discrimination.

How would repealing protections hurt your family?

One of our biggest fears is what we’ll be exposed to over the next year as far as awful advertising and campaigning, We’ll be seeing images that portray transgender people in awful ways, that really ugly side of campaigning. Micah is very concerned – his life for the last 8 years has been as a transgender man.

micah kids

He has experienced misgendering and small slights, but he knows friends who have been denied bathroom use and have been harassed in public spaces. For him, he knows the serious cost if trans rights were overturned. He lives in New York City, where they do have gender protections – so when he would visit here, he would feel like he’s in a state where it’s not safe for him. It would make a difference in him coming back, and how often he would come back. It would feel hostile for him.

What do you want people to think about our campaign and this issue going into 2018?

We urge families and friends of transgender people to step forward and make sure it [the repeal] doesn’t happen. Speak out publicly wherever you can. The holidays are a time where we can gather our strength and then step into the public arena and talk about why discrimination shouldn’t be allowed.

This is our responsibility as a family. People need to know that trans people are people. We need to move away from looking at them as “different” or “strange”. These are people we love and want to stay close to. This is about the rights of us as human beings to be who we are, to go about our lives safely, not worrying that someone is going to harass us or deny us services or say things to us just because of the way we look or who we are.

All of us should have the same rights to be safe and protected, and there should be legal recourse if somebody threatens us or creates a situation that’s fearful. People need to think about their own lives — how it feels to be able to walk down the street, to go to a restaurant, and feel they have the right to be there and use the facilities they need. This should be afforded to everyone – transgender people are no different.

All of us should have the same rights to be safe and protected, and there should be legal recourse if somebody threatens us or creates a situation that’s fearful. People need to think about their own lives — how it feels to be able to walk down the street, to go to a restaurant, and feel they have the right to be there and use the facilities they need. This should be afforded to everyone – transgender people are no different.

The holidays are a time to think about family, and what that means. We should use this opportunity to energize ourselves and commit to fight for the rights of our transgender loved ones in the year ahead.


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