I’ve spent far too much of my life feeling apologetic for being different. I was an effeminate child and this was not something anybody was prepared to ignore in Richmond, Virginia. It only makes sense that I would grow up to continue the pattern of shame and embarrassment for my very existence into my adult years. All these strong males in my hometown were anything but when faced with an exceptionally small child who to say was “light in their loafers” would be a massive understatement. In fact, I didn’t even wear loafers, I outsmarted my mom into buying me a pair of platform flip-flops when I was 8 years old because the Spice Girls wore platforms. I still remember looking down and admiring how my toes hugged them even as I stood over my uncle’s grave. He had died from an overdose and from the outside I suppose I appeared to have my head slunk down in solemn contemplation but at such a young age I had simpler things on my mind, clearly.
Every adult who encountered me as a child seemed to resent me. I came to expect it from men, but it always hurt more when a woman would be put off by my fluid, sing-song voice and makeshift rubber band pigtail bowl cut hybrid. I was all too aware of how uncomfortable I made the grown-ups feel and like any child psychologist will tell you, I internalized every last drop of it. I still remember every odd facial expression and every side comment made to another adult as if it would skip over my young ears. The seed was planted. I am feminine, I have no control over it, and being feminine is bad. Cue “Born Bad”. So naturally, I end up in a career where my morality is deemed debatable by a majority and I am forced to convince people endlessly that I’m not “bad” in spite of my unique gender identity or sexual honesty.
It wasn’t until a few weeks ago in therapy I uncovered this narrative and how it was still tainting my view of myself and consequently my reality. I liken it to a dog on a chain. I would wander away from the stake in the ground and forget all about it until I inevitably felt the tug on my throat and returned to it. This narrative limited my freedom. Then I became a young adult, I discovered that my femininity did have some positive reinforcement when I hit 17. Boys didn’t seem to mind my girly walk and feminine charms once I started to hone my craft. For some unknown reason I didn’t seem to virilize with the rest of the rough necks and I was being admired by the burn outs and the odd balls who were willing to make some unusual sexual choices if at very least to feel more interesting. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t just sucking all these cocks for validation. Nothing was more intoxicating than taking out a guys foggy cock from his sweaty, unwashed jeans, and putting my mouth on it immediately. But while I satisfied my sexual hunger, the seed would still be there waiting.
To be fair I might have been able to distract myself well into my thirties if I hadn’t accidentally found an extremely stable and loving relationship with my current partner. For me, my damage didn’t make itself known until I was profoundly happy. My natural inclination when I uncover any personal distortions is to immediately share my finding with the countless other humans who I know are also suffering. Often I have to remind myself to fully digest and internalize these discoveries for myself first before quickly trying to share my new insight. Therapy has helped me to reassess my story and my worth before attempting a relationship with the world. All of our interactions are tainted by our own limitation and ability to understand ourselves and in turn our reality. I had to “fix my story”. This was tricky because this subconscious story of shame felt like innate fact as it had been planted in my mind at such a young age not unlike what organized religion does to so many.
When I got to the core of my fears it came out in my therapist’s office as “I’m bad”. I paused for a moment and realized how insanely puerile that statement was. I pride myself on my unconventional empathy and nuanced approach to all human stories in yet when it came to my own all I could muster was “I am bad.” It hit me that the reason it sounded so oversimplified was because a child was saying it. With that realization, the spell had been broken. I blurted out, “The grown ups were bad. It wasn’t me!” That was a slightly better adjustment but didn’t ring quite as true as I thought it should. That line of thinking wasn’t worthy of the profound reality I think I deserve to dwell in now that I don’t hate myself. In that moment I learned the intelligent and supremely powerful notion of ambiguity. I learned how to have empathy for myself. I’m not going to start off by denying it to others. I touched my maturity for the first time recently and it was very healing.