Faces of Pride: The House Mom

CHARLOTTE — “My name is Emily, I’m a student, I’m a hair stylist, I’m deserving of love, I am deserving of respect, and I am a trans woman.”

“I grew up in a small town in the foothills of North Carolina, called Casar; my graduating class was maybe 75 people. Growing up queer in a small town was definitely difficult. I remember people in school using slurs, walking down the hallway getting pushed around.”

“Having allies in your life as a young person makes your life less violent and safer,” Emily told Channel 9′s Genevieve Curtis. “A positive thing about being a queer person is we often make our own families.”

“A house mom usually refers to an elder in the community -- sometimes a cis person, sometimes a trans person -- who takes in young people experiencing unstable housing or shelter, and guides them,” Emily said. “The reality is in Charlotte, there are teenagers experiencing homelessness tonight that are unwelcome or unsafe in other spaces.”

“They call me ‘mom’ or ‘Miss Cat’ and I think they know I’m a surrogate mother. I am not their birth mother or their mother they were raised with by any means, and I do not try to take that away from them, but I’m here for them.”

“My name is Catherine; my pronouns are she/her and mom, and I am an ally in the community; I’m an ally in my house.”

To Catherine, being a house mom means their personal belongings are safe, and they are safe with her.

Reese came to live with Catherine in late January 2022.

“It was just a misunderstanding with my parents and my family; I was in a dark and unstable place, I didn’t have a phone or any money and just lived in my car,” Reese said.

“She very quickly brought me into the family, made me feel at home. She has in a lot of ways been a mother to me; she would take me to my doctors’ appointments or she would take me to the eye doctor.”

Catherine said it was “just things that a mom typically helps with.”

“We do have other kids who come in and out and don’t typically spend the night, but just need a place to hang,” Catherine said. “I try to love them like my own because I love my own children unconditionally.”

Reese said, “It’s honestly pretty scary to think if I didn’t have Catherine’s place to go – because I made the decision to leave home, at the same time, it didn’t feel like a decision at the time. I would hope that I wouldn’t be dead but I don’t know.”

During Catherine’s interview with Curtis, her daughter, Emily, has just arrived with a surprise.

“Holy cow,” Catherine said.

“I love you,” they say to each other.

“Thank you for everything you’ve done for us as a family and for the LGBTQ community and being an ally and just being such a sincere ally,” Emily said while holding flowers for her mom.

“Just being your mom, that’s all,” Catherine said.

The flowers are from another young person Catherine has taken in. That person wrote, “Ever since I came to live in your warm and loving home, my storm inside has settled down.”

“Before knowing and loving you and your family my every day was nothing but confusion, painful and mindless. I was lost inside my mind. You taught me things, I myself, could not do, and I’m forever grateful. You understood my broken soul and loved me for who I am. [You’re the] best house mother I could ask for.”

“I think the best way to carry out being an ally is seeing love as a verb, it’s an action,” Emily said.

Catherine says: “It was just, they needed a safe spot and I had it. So why not?”

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