A trans mom tells her heart-wrenching life story to her daughter in this animated video.
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#WhoWeAre

When Alexis Martinez first came out to her mom as transgender in the 1960s, her mom called the cops.

After the police showed up, things went from very bad to much worse. Instead of offering any form of support or guidance, the officers shrugged off the incident, ridiculing her family while they were at it.

“They just laughed and told her, ‘you got a fag for a son, and there's nothing we can do about it,'" Martinez recalled to StoryCorps five decades later.


In this powerful, animated video of Martinez's story, she tells the turbulent — but ultimately hopeful — journey of her life to her daughter, who's grateful that her mom can live freely in her own skin:

Although Martinez's story of parental rejection is decades-old, it's still one that many young trans people know all too well.

Transgender people are far more likely to experience homelessness, abuse drugs, attempt suicide, and live with mental health issues, like depression.

These problems, of course, aren't inherent — they stem from widespread societal transphobia, which bleeds into many facets of everyday life. And it's a formidable form of bigotry that, many times, starts right at home.

Life was tough for Martinez. She put on a facade after initially coming out, trying to hide her identity with a heavy dose of machoism. She joined a gang on the South Side of Chicago where she grew up, hoping others would see her apparent toughness and not her true self — or the outfits she chose to wear underneath her rough exterior.

"I would be wearing combat boots and blue jeans and a leather jacket," she said. "But underneath, I would have stockings and a bra."

"I remember it as a very dark period. I really didn’t believe that anybody could love somebody like me," she explains in the video.

Fortunately, Martinez — now a happy grandma with a healthy relationship to her family — is in a much better place.

She's free to live openly and honestly — a point her daughter, Lesley Martinez Etherly, hopes her mom truly understands.

“You don’t have to apologize, you don’t have to tiptoe," Etherly tells Martinez in the video. "We’re not gonna cut you off. And that is something that I’ve always wanted you to just know: that you’re loved."

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.