Meet Jael and Cynthia

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Below was submitted to us from renowned Belizean LGBTIQ human rights activist Derricia Castillo-Salazar who tells us of meeting her partner through the military, life as a lesbian couple in Belize, their journey to pregnancy, and of their beautiful son CeeJay.

I wish I could say we had the most romantic story in regards to how we met, but it was nothing spectacular.  We met on the job – both military women; we had both come out of difficult relationships, her of three years and mine of nine years.  Honesty, at first the relationship was never meant to be anything serious.  I never wanted forever with her, she came into my life as a friend with benefits, but there was something about her that eventually made me fall stupid in love with her.  March 23rd, 2011 was when we officially started dating.  

We had discussions about it for two years, we knew we wanted a family. Cynthia had nieces and nephews and I had a little sister but that didn’t fill the void of the little family we were working towards creating.  We knew what we wanted, we just weren’t sure how.  What we did know, however, was that we wanted to make our family as legitimate as possible within a country where anti-homosexual laws were dangling over our heads.

There were a lot of people from the LGBT community who turned to Mexico, at that time to have marriages that would be considered “legal” in Mexico.  Cynthia and I wanted different.  For years at underground Pride events in Belize we had kept seeing a Reverend who was pro-Human Rights – black, white, gay, straight, whatever bracket you fell in, she believed we all deserved life, love and respect.  So, when Cynthia and I decided we wanted to commit to each other, she was the ideal person to assist us.  Without hesitation, Reverend Mary was willing to assist us by conducting our commitment ceremony.  To us, making the commitment to each other was more important that getting validation from a government or country that excluded us from our basic rights as humans.

On April 12th, 2013, myself, Reverend Mary, Cynthia, our two witnesses Roshawan and Jay loaded Reverend Mary’s vehicle and headed to Punta Gorda, Toledo District – the most southern town in Belize.  April 13th, 2013 Cynthia and I, in a private seaside ceremony made our vows to love each other even beyond death.

I wish I could say this is where the fairy tale started, but it wasn’t.  We had to return from our magical weekend to the reality of the country we lived in.  We were “committed” to each other, but in Belize “committed” legally meant nothing.  We were still legally roommates.  We decided to take the commitment one step further.  We wanted to be addressed by the same last name, but we wanted to maintain our uniqueness as lesbian women.  We did not in any way shape or form want to imitate a heterosexual “husband and wife”.  Therefore, in June 2014 we filled out, submitted and legally became the Derricia and Cynthia Castillo-Salazar.  Did this mean we were recognized as wives legally? Oh not even for a second!  We were now just roommates that share the same last names now.  To us though, that was ok.  That helped us in making our next step a little bit easier.

By this time, I was certain that I needed to be doing my part as a “committed” lesbian woman to ensure that one day Cynthia and I, and everyone else in our position would be able to be more than just “roommates” in the eyes of the Belizean society.  It was then, in 2014 that myself and two other friends, created a grassroots organization named “Our Circle”.  Our Circle was, and still is, committed to improving the quality of lives and access to opportunity for LGBT persons and families of LGBT persons ensuring a socially inclusive Belize.  

Remember I said we wanted a family?  Well on March 13th, 2015 I gave birth to our son – CeeJay Zidan Castillo-Salazar. Throughout all our time together we knew we wanted a child.  We knew that was our moment of satisfaction and fulfilment in our lives.  We discussed adopting, we discussed sperm donors, we discussed the pros the cons and the uncertainties that would occur with us bringing a child into a relationship that to the entire country was “fuelled by hormones” as someone once told us.  We decided on sperm donor, after a year of hormone therapy my body was ready and I was pregnant with our son.

Yes, in Belize there are numerous LGBT couples who are raising children and they have been careful to remain under the radar and work things out and be happy in their bubble.  However, Cynthia and I didn’t bring CeeJay in this world to limit him, he has no boundaries and neither will we in regards to giving him the same chances, opportunities and rights as every other child in Belize.

You see, from 2011 up until now, Cynthia and my relationship has been tested to the point I thought we would never recover.  We are both in the military, serving a country who excludes us from many protections.  The amount of work that we need to do to secure our little family has been tiresome, has caused frustration, hurt and disappointments.  It has really taken a toll on our relationship, our finances and ability to work together.  I wish I could say I look at her and see the same person that I saw in March 2011, but she’s not.  She’s tired, she’s worn out.  But I know she keeps fighting because we both have the biggest motivation ever in our son.  Cynthia and I both realized that at any point, if anything happens to her we will be left alone to fend for ourselves.  While we are her family and while we love her unconditionally, if she is to expire from this world, CeeJay nor I will ever see any of her benefits for serving her country so proudly.  On my part, CeeJay is better off because I am his maternal mother, I am the only name on his birth certificate, therefore what is mine is his.  However, at any point any one of my family members can rip CeeJay from Cynthia, although in a will and Power of Attorney, I had to list our son as an object that I would want given to Cynthia in the event of my untimely passing.

On this day of love, I take this opportunity to tell my life partner, Mi Negra, Cynthia Castillo-Salazar that I appreciate you, I know how hard this is and that you may never be as proactive as I expect you to be but I appreciate and love you for who you are and the support you give me.  But I love you more, because of the love you have for our son.  I know you are tired, I know at times you need a break, I know you wish we could have it easier, but there will be a time we will be able to relax and know we have done all we can for him.

CeeJay Castillo-Salazar, mi Negro, I would give up everything for you and I promise to not stop fighting until Belize, your home country, your land of the free, stops limiting you.  You have proven that you will be wise beyond your years and I’m hopeful that when you get older you will be able to teach and speak love to everyone you cross paths with.

To the world out there - yes, we have won the Section 53 case, but much more work is left to be done.  Belize may never see gay marriage in this lifetime, hell Cynthia and I may expire as “roommates with the same last name” whose relationship was “fuelled on hormones”.  Love isn’t about hearts and balloons and chocolates or even Valentine’s Day, it’s about unconditionally loving people.  It’s about knowing that you have done all you can in your powers to ensure they are secured, protected and happy. 29 years of both my life and Cynthia’s life has passed and we are walking in the footsteps of many who were along this same road.  But the love we have for a 19 months old little boy that we were blessed with, gives us extra energy in every day as we prepare to get CeeJay adopted by Cynthia without me losing guardianship of him.  

In a country that is behind in acknowledging modern family structures, I see love in everyone at his Daycare that misses him when he has a sick day.  Everyone at Cynthia’s and my work spaces that constantly sends him hugs and kisses.  His aunts, uncles, grandmas and grandpas who don’t care how he got here, but they just now he’s here and would do anything for him.  Our LGBT community in Belize who supports and appreciate the work being done to have our CeeJay’s – and every other child in his position - innocence and rights preserved.  I see love in his eyes every day, because even if we can never change the laws in our lifetime, we have paved the way to changing the hearts and minds of those who surround our family.  In his 19 months CeeJay has taught us what true love is – being willing to fight for equality, dignity and rights of others who are not able to fight for themselves.  OUR LOVE FOR HIM ALLOWS US TO FIGHT!