Monday, December 17, 2007

Directly Towards Me

While speaking with one of my favorite blog writers about a post he wrote, John from Open A Window (click on link to see his post) told me about knowing something was different from as early on as four years old. This statement gave me a jolt, and like a computer searching it's memory banks I suddenly had childhood images and emotions flood back. I was a little shocked because I had to agree, even though I say I was around fourteen when I first admitted to myself that I was gay, like John I felt there was something different about me from a very early age. Even as young as four I remember I liked to play with either quieter shy type boys or girls, I could not understand why most boys wanted to play rough, and actually take part in games and adventures where the result could be pain. I felt something was wrong, a lot of times I could identify with girls but not boys. I did not play with dolls but I was fascinated with a neighbor's kitchen set where I could do dishes just like Mom! I did like to play with trucks but not to the same level as my male friends. I hated most sports and preferred to play tag or kick the can when there were a lot of kids over. Sports made me look clumsy and awkward and I did not want the extra negative attention. It certainly proves to me that I was born this way, I knew that something different was in store for me as a man but I did not understand what that was. It wasn't only me, a lot of neighbors, family, teachers also knew there was something different about me as a little boy but could not put their finger on it either.

I felt like a failure as a 'boy', like there was something damaged about me, something I wanted to change but did not know how. My male friends seemed so brave, so fearless, so strong and I felt weak and a coward compared to them. Everything seemed to make me cry easier than for them, I was always over sensitive to situations as well and was painfully aware of it. When I started school it became worse, that is when for me it showed up more. I remember as a little kid playing on the school grounds, hearing the words over and over, sissy, queer, fag and even though at that time they were not meant for me, I knew somehow deep inside they were directed towards me. I was not really sure of the meaning to these words but I was sure that they were meant to assault a guys masculinity, meaning less than perfect male, meaning someone like me. Life also gave me the card of always being half the size and half the strength of my friends. Some times even neighbors jokingly said "you should have been born a girl" but I knew it was meant in a back-handed way as well. It is a very hard blow for a child to get such an unsolicited cruel statement from an adult and often I remain cold to these people to this day.

As much of a failure being a boy I felt inside, it was double the feeling of being a failure as a son. I knew something was different with me but so did my father and he was not pleased. Yes I know a lot of you will want to write and say kind things like he loved me anyway, but I'm sorry that is Hollywood I grew up in real life. My Dad was very much the rough and tumble little boy when growing up, I was told many stories by older neighbors about the adventures he got himself into. I always imagine the way people congratulated him when he had a son and then must have scratched their heads later when my personality started to develop. As hard as it is for me to write this, I am sure he felt cheated from being stuck with a son like me and was ashamed of me, I know he was because many times he told me he was ashamed of me. I told John of nights when I was a kid, lying tense in bed, straining to hear my parents talking when my Dad was angry with me, I knew they thought I was asleep and I was fearful that I would hear my Dad say something like "why did I have to get stuck with him for a son" or "I wish I had a better son like Chris, Frank, or Jim, instead" I know he thought that often.

I think these past experiences are a large part of the reasons why I could not accept being gay. I saw it as a total sign of weakness and living gay would have been to give myself over to the image that I had been fighting my whole life. It is also part of the reason that I plunged myself into my work, staying late and working weekends. This way I did not have to deal with life, particularly a gay life and I could appear dedicated like a hard working man so that my Dad would be proud. It has cost me lost time. We are closer now my Father and I, he has mellowed with age, I think he sees me as a good person and understands I am more of an office guy than hockey jock. He calls just to talk now sometimes which he never did before. I worry now that if it should come up that I need to tell my parents I am gay, it will throw things back to the tense way they were before. However I have started on this path and it is the one that I will follow through. I have already had some of the hardships of being gay or trying not to be gay, so time now I think to experience some of the good things it has to offer, and yes I will now accept the experiences, the fun, the new friends that my gay life is sending directly towards me.


Steven said...

It's beginning to become an overused cliche, but I see myself in you in so many ways. And like John gave you your jolt, I got mine. I knew I was gay at 14, I loved to play Chinese jump rope (who remembers that?), and I "did the dishes" while we were at church. I would sit on the kneeler and pretend the dishes were on the pew....that's all I say. ;-) But then the regret came out of me and shame for my father as well when I "came out" and then Mom said, "So's your brother." So I saw myself as the last possible son to carry on the French Canadian surname. So I felt that I failed my father.

And what a positive outlook in your closing!! Thanks for sharing. :-)

Vic Mansfield said...

When we talk about our "stuff" we each share the stories of others. We share more than we differ, I think. I never measured up, never "manly" enough.

But my dad never taught me shit about "being a man." Even though I have always known I was different, it took me a long time to really figure out how. And then denial set in.

So I've done the straight thing: married, children (both of whom are girls - so there goes the family name thing. But, girls are good!)

Now, I'm on the journey of coming out. Thanks for sharing part of my story. Bring it on!

john said...

You've said what I felt so much better!

Creative Thinker said...

Wow -- dude... you have just written about my childhood. I almost cried reading it. I too felt like a failure and was told I was a girl. Talk about shame...I did have a good relationship with my dad, but to this day my parents still don't know I'm gay. Well, they may "know" but I haven't told them. Thank you so much for writing this post. It's nice to realize that there are people out there that can relate.

Steve said...

It's good to realise these things, because your childhood has such a big impact on things, on your whole life. And it must feel good to be able to share these things with your readers.

I also experienced being different when I was a kid. I was one of the few non-white kids at school, my parents came from the other half of the world (South America), I was a lot shorter than the other kids, and I also played with the girls.

However, I never felt strange, or like a failure. I think I just felt a bit different, that was it. It never seemed like a problem to me.

I think this has to do with the fact that other people always treated me with a strange sort of respect. I played with the girls, but got along fine with the boys as well (I just did not like sports, that's it). I even think some boys looked up to me a bit, because I could get along with the girls that good.

And when I came out to my parents at age 17 (I think they were the first I came out to), I did get the Hollywood response from my parents. So luckily enough, it does happen in real life as well!

Doug said...

Your father may surprise you when the time comes. If he respects you as a person now, it's hopeful that respect will carry over to include all aspects of you.

A lot of people label gentleness and non-competitiveness as gay traits. I look forward to the day when a person can be considered gentle without immediately being labeled as gay.

Java said...

I really like your blog, your writing, and I can identify with a lot of what I've read so far.
I feel like a failure as a girl. I am a girl, but I just don't fit in with girls. I like boys a lot (well, men, really!) but so many straight men are such asshats. Gay men can be, too, but in my experience they are a whole lot nicer. And I tend to be a lot more butch than many gay men I know!
I haven't spent a lot of time reading your blog yet. There are so many things I'd like to comment on, but it is late and I am tired, so I'll try for another day.

Wayne said...

How old are you Steven. Do you take girls over to your parents? Do you talk about girls?
I think they know you are gay.

daveincleveland said...

i am sitting here reading my life, you have nailed it....was not close to my dad, was the youngest, very very close to mom......hated sports, kept thinking why can't i be like the other boys, oh and fuck was i the picked on one or what.........all through school, but in junior high school started noticing "boys" oh my....and after all these years and finally startinng on this weird,wonderful, wacky journey that we are all on, all that past shit made just how to move on and mend the hearts of the one i destroyed.....

Bill said...

I always knew I liked boys in a different way than I liked girls.

I'm an only child, and I'm sure my parents weren't thrilled to have a gay son, but - hey! - they're the ones that put all their eggs in one basket.
Both of my parents loved my partner and welcomed him to their home. They put us in the same bed with no questions asked from the first time I took him with me for a visit.

The best gift we can give our parents is to be true to our core values such as honesty, compassion, kindness, integrity, and courage. These qualilties transcend minor things like differences in gender, sexuality, race, or religion.

Most parents "know." Few parents know quite how to say "I love you, and it's okay."

Matt said...

You described my childhood pretty accurately, too.

You're so much less alone than you know.

Sooo-this-is-me said...

Steven, parts of this were hard to write but it actually helped to get it out. It is comforting to know others understand how I felt.

Joe, I wonder how many straight boys feel that they don't measure up. Strange when a boy is confused how the father becomes cold to him and some how thinks that will help him become a man.

John, thank you but it was your post that awakened these thoughts again.

CT, thanks for the kind words. I am also glad that you could relate to this, yes I think it greatly helps to know there are others, if only we were able to find each other at the time.

Steve, I am glad that things turned out well for you, I think things will be better for a lot of kids today as more people understand what being gay means.

Doug, that is true, it is like being a man has to mean we are some lion that kills all rivals or else he is considered weak.

Java, actually I never heard a woman say they feel they failed as a girl. Usually if a girl is more like a boy, the parents brag about how strong their daughter is but I guess it is how a person sees things.

Wayne, somewhere down deep they must know something is up, they would prefer to not talk about it.

Dave, I often wonder how many men I know are actually gay or bi, I mean it is not possible that out of all the men in my life, I am the ONLY gay guy? We know now that being married with children means nothing as far as a man being gay or not.

Bill, I don't think my parents would be that open, if one of their brothers or sisters gets divorced or drinks, they are no longer welcomed to the house, no exceptions!

Matt, strange we feel like we are the only ones, almost embarrassed to say how we felt, then every other gay man says "yes I felt the same way to" and inside we can sigh, then finally not feel alone.