I was born in the city of Lawrence Ma in 1965 at a time where issues such as GLBT were simply not discussed. To make things a bit more difficult I was born in the middle of a sexual revolution to parents who were just old enough to be a part of the generation where sexual issues were not discussed either.
Now before I state what I am about to please understand I love my grandparents dearly with all of my heart. I know that their prejudice were more a part of the way they were raised in a tougher time when this countries industrial revolution was just taking off and life was much different. They were a product of their childhood.
My mom did the best she could as a single parent could have she had no choice. She was 29 when I was born and my dad left for the West Coast when I was 2. He figured it was easier to run than to pay child support or take care of his offspring in a responsible manner. The fact is that in terms of gender issues he wouldn’t have been of much help because he wasn’t much good to himself.
So in 1967 my mom was left as a single parent to raise her son as best as she could. When all of this took place by the grace of god we were living on the 2nd floor of my grandmother and grandfathers two family so I was lucky enough to have my grandparents right there with us. While I was reasonably young when my grandfather would part this earth the memories he left me with are very precious to me and he would have a profound affect on me later in my life as I grew up.
When I was5 or 6 years old on a hot summer day my grandparents were sitting on the front porch soaking in the city heat. We had a screened in porch that I would often sleep outside on as though I was camping out in the wilderness soaking in the sounds of nature, as the cars would drive by on the street below. (Yes I’m being funny) I would try and listen to the crickets chirp or watch the lightning bugs light up the night.
I was the apple of my grandfathers eye, I was is second grandson and he made an effort to show me how much he loved me. He had a habit of teasing to show his love and I was no different, to this day I believe I inherited his sense of humor. It’s easy to speak fondly of him as my time with him was during my youngest years and not those of having to deal with the Gender Identity issues deeply. He surely would have been disappointed to know that his grandson thought he was the granddaughter instead.
The fact is that even in those early years I knew something about me was different and I now know my family knew it by the way I was raised. I was never the tough little boy that the others were and in every effort to make me what my mom thought I should be it was confusing for me growing up.
My family was laced with racist, bigots who were homophobic to the core and even with the gender issue for a time it was a trait that was handed to me as well, it was all I knew. I was brought up in a family who hated things or people that were different, it is something I am not proud of and it is something that kept me from begging for help for all of my adolescent life.
When I was young I was constantly drawn to my grandmother’s jewelry box, she had a set of stringed pearls that just seemed to catch my attention. I would often sneak them just to wear them and pretend to be a girl for just a little while. I remember how much I loved them.
At one point while I had them I remember my mom coming and I hid them under my sheets as to not get caught. I knew the way my family thought and I knew for sure that they would treat me as though I was doing something wrong. She never caught me with them to my surprise, I always seemed to be one step ahead of her in that respect, she simply couldn’t know how I felt because I knew a beating would surely follow. I guess it was a way of justifying dishonesty out of self-preservation.
After stuffing those pearls in my sheets I left my room not thinking my mom might change my sheets or go snooping, but not long after in a very hostile tone my mom beckoned for me to the living room. "Kevin" she snapped, "what were these doing in your room?" I remember being paralyzed with fear and the only answer I could muster was that I had them as a joke.
Out of a fear my mother saw through me that day and she had the opportunity to make things right and help me out with what would turn out to be a life of self-hatred. As I look back on it now I can hear the words I needed to hear but for whatever reason what I needed and her capacity for compassion simply weren’t in line with each other.
In nothing but a split second one sentence changed me forever and alienated me from my mom for the rest of my life. I still hear these words to this day as they echo in my head as fresh as the day they were said.
"Kevin, Are you a Queer?" she snipped.
I remember breaking out in tears and swearing I wasn’t and swearing that I took them as a joke. It’s a moment I’ve replayed in my mind constantly ever since it happened. I know I’m asking a lot to expect my mom to have been more compassionate but the fact is that it wasn’t something she was capable of, she herself lacked that in her family. That sentence was the division from the mother I was close too and the need to protect myself for years to come. Sadly a little compassion could have made the difference that I needed.
Years later my mom in a conversation with my wife had told her she didn’t know what happened to me but one day I became cold towards her and I’d changed. She even blamed it on my dad as though he had some influence in my life. Today I now that was the turning point in my life when it came to my mom, we were never the same again.
I walked away that day loathing people, I disliked homosexuals, minorities or anyone different, it seemed to be a way to protect myself and fit in so no one would truly know me. Years past in raising my own daughter a friend asked me one day how I’d feel if she turned out gay. It was something I’d really have to think over and I guess that to some degree it changed me a bit. They were right I wouldn’t love her any less. The personal lesson that I learned was that I didn’t have to hate others because of my fear that I would be ousted in the process. My hatred of others was a way to hide my true feelings and maybe make myself fit in with a more masculine attitude … It never worked ..
I regret finding fault with others for my own lack of self-esteem. It took finding myself to realize how badly I viewed everyone else for building a wall around me and it was all traced back to a moment of compassion between a mother and her child. I’ve raised my daughter to be accepting and compassionate to those who are different. I’m happy to say that it’s a lesson I am very proud to have taught because it breaks the cycle of hatred for generations to come. Hopefully my GID hasn’t done too much damage to her.
I guess my point here is to think carefully about how you approach things with your children. One small mistake can make a tremendous impact on their views for the rest of their lives.
I don’t talk to my mom anymore, in fact it has been 15 years since we split from each other. She now lives 15 minutes from my home and will be 71 next month. While I don’t miss her treatment of me at times, I do still love her even if from a distance. I won’t say in this blog what caused the division but I will say it was those golden words as a child that helped make the decision easy.
I certainly hope she is healthy and happy because her only daughter is finally starting to become happy and live her life the way it was meant to be …
If she could have only known the true me ….