In mid-September, Bonnita Spikes, a Maryland resident attended a GLAAD media training for the Maryland Black Family Alliance, an organization of African American straight leaders who advocate for marriage for all couples. During the training, Spikes shared that she felt compelled to be part of this group because she wanted for her transgender daughter Michelle to have the opportunity to be legally married one day. She also talked about the pain her family endured when Michelle became the target of a near fatal hate crime in 1999 and how the attack strengthened their mother-daughter relationship.
This was a story that needed to be told on a grand scale.
After the training, I approached Spikes about her writing a story about her experiences and told her I would help pitch it to the media. She said, “Absolutely.” A few weeks later, we saw that our hard work paid off.
On October 16, The Grio―NBC’s news website for African Americans―published Spikes moving article, “A mother's story: Hate crime brings new bond with transgender child.”
Here is an excerpt:
Early on, l knew my son Michael was different. While my three other sons begged me to buy them G.I. Joe figurines and were obsessed with football, Michael preferred playing with My Little Pony and taking tap dance lessons.
In Prince Georges County, Maryland where we live, we have a diverse group of friends so the idea of having a gay son didn't scare or shock us. Sure, we feared he had a hard road ahead of him - being bullied at school, getting fired from his job for being gay and facing the possibility that he may never be able to be legally married - but with our love, we knew he was going to be okay.
When Michael turned 16, he told us that he wasn't a gay man. Instead, he was a transgender woman named Michelle who had been dressing as a woman when he left the house. At that point, my husband and I both realized that this was a big deal. My son was now my daughter.
Even though I am an activist and somewhat liberal, I didn't know what being transgender meant. After doing some serious soul searching, my husband and I concluded that our child needed us. Unlike too many of her friends whose parents had kicked them out for being gay or transgender, we were going to open our minds even further than what we thought was possible. It was difficult. But we started going to family therapy and things were slowly getting better.
But everything changed in December 1999, the day my daughter Michelle became the target of a hate crime.
While standing in line with her friends at a club in Atlanta, Michelle was struck in the head with a metal pipe by a stranger who did not like the fact that she was a transgender woman. She fell to the ground and her skull split open.
The doctors weren't very hopeful - they didn't think she was going to make it. As she lay there unconscious, she was unrecognizable. Her head was shaved, there was a V-shaped scar down the side of her face, and she was bruised and swollen.
For weeks, my family, my friends and my minister prayed by her bedside, not confident that we would ever hear her voice again. When she finally woke up, we were ecstatic. But we were realistic that a full recovery was miles away. Michelle had temporary amnesia and didn't even remember me. One day, I asked her if she knew who I was and she said, "No, but you seem like a really nice lady."
Those moments made my heart break, but my daughter was alive and that's all that mattered.
Read the story in its entirety here.