Guest Post: I Don’t Know Who I Am

The author is a man who likes people, and is posting anonymously. 

When I first heard about the project that Cha-Cha was working on – a kind of community building exercise that would allow people to voice who they are, what they’ve been through, in a safe and supportive manner, I knew I wanted to participate, even before Cha-Cha said anything to me about it. I don’t feel safe in the place where I am because of years of oppression and violent actions towards both myself and people I loved or just connected with – so I simply don’t feel safe giving my name – even though no one that I don’t feel safe with reads Cha-Cha’s blog. It’s not a rational fear, and I know that. It’s decades of bullying, repetitive actions – you must hide and be ashamed of who you are – just repeating themselves. When I wrote this down in class last night, the first part, about the bullying, came easily. The second part, about the things I had done, the people I had been with, was so much harder – because I’ve never acknowledged them before in writing. I’ve told my partner, and then Cha-Cha, and now, this. While liberating, It’s also terrifying.

I grew up in a small, upper-class town in Massachusetts. The community was extremely segregated; I didn’t know anyone of color except for an African American co-worker of my fathers at the college my father worked at. When I was in fourth grade, the first family of a different skin tone moved to town, an Indian family. My sister had a cabbage-patch doll in kindergarten, which she proclaimed was Chinese.

The segregation didn’t end at skin tone. My family taught their children to be accepting of all people, regardless of their differences from us, and I suppose this led us to be quite confused, and ostracized from our less accepting peers. I recall one incident in middle school being called a faggot by one such close minded individual, and thinking that this was unacceptable, telling my teacher, who referred the two of us to  the principal. The principal sat the two of us down, asked us what happened, and to my surprised, the individual was quite forthright about the incident. When I confirmed that this was indeed what had happened, the kid said, yes, that was true, he had called me a pile of burning sticks. Our principle congratulated him on vocabulary skills and sent him on his way.

My older sister had introduced me to punk music and shaved my head, and I had a leather bike jacket given to me by my godmother. I wore it to school my first day of seventh grade. It solicited the nickname nazi-boy from the seventh grade teacher. That nickname, along with “faggot”, became my default names around town. I’m quite surprised I didn’t at some point start writing one of those on the tops of my papers. I remember at one point, growing fed up with being called “faggot”, telling my parents that I wanted to sew a pink triangle on the back of the jacket – if they wanted a faggot, I figured I’d give them the part. However, as much as my parents had taught us to accept everyone for themselves, they also insisted that we not “rock the boat”. As such, my idea was summarily dismissed.

Fast forward to my time living in Worcester – never, at any time in my life, have I been part of a community which I felt was so supportive and accepting of people who are different – for whatever reason. I recall with some pride, for instance, the collective outrage that the community felt when the Coalition for Marriage group decided to hold their anti-LGBTQ rights fundraiser at Coral Seafoods. This solidarity and acceptance would have never happened in my hometown.

As if to prove this – after about a year, I was hanging out after a drunken evening with one of my hometown friends, when I came out to him. We had been friends for 10, 12 years, and he loved to throw around the term faggot as much as anyone. I didn’t hold it against him, He had once told me in a drunken stupor that he had been raped in juvenile detention by an older kid, and he had never dealt with it – never told anyone other than me. Still, it grated on me. Finally, that night he called me a faggot after I hugged him, and I explained to him that I was bi (such a simple explanation, I thought), and when I asked if he understood, he responded that he understood, that meant that if he took out his cock, I’d suck it. Coming from one of my best friends of over a decade, this crushed me. From a stranger on the street it would have meant nothing, but to have my feelings trivialized like this by someone I considered family was mind blowing.

I didn’t talk to him again for two weeks. My other best friend was his brother. I was to be his brothers best man in his wedding. When I told him what had happened, his attitude was dismissive, saying, “Well, that’s how he is, he’s not gonna change”. Then one night two weeks later, we all went out for drinks to discuss the wedding, and at the end of the night, the brother again started spewing out the faggot word… I can’t remember why, and I slapped him across the back of the head, and said something like, “After all I’ve done, you can’t give me the respect of not calling me that”?… which he responded to with several punches to my face.

Over the next couple weeks, I began to have problems I didn’t know how to address with the other brother and being the best man, and his response was to send me several emails calling me a faggot and telling me to buy some tampons, that I wasn’t a man because I hadn’t come and addressed these issues face to face.

After 12 years, I’m no longer friends with either brother, or anyone else from my hometown – not because I don’t like where I’m from, but because I got to a point where I felt that I needed to identify all forms of oppression in my life – and then eradicate them. I can safely say that doing this has made me feel more complete, more sure of myself, more happy with myself. I miss those people, for sure, but I don’t feel bad for not tolerating their oppressive behaviors, for not saying “it’s ok, there’s no one around who’s gay, who’s black, who’s jewish, who’s _____”  How can I condemn the actions and language of those around me, yet tolerate it in those around me? It made me feel dirty.

These were the major events, the ones that really hurt and scarred me.When I look back, I don’t know if it was being ostracized from the group of people that I grew up with that hurt most, or feeling invalidated by my family when I wanted to strike back…Ultimately I believe it was because I was experimenting at the same time with my sexuality, exploring boundaries, figuring out where I was comfortable and where I wasn’t, and all of this hatred and shame made me feel like I needed to be ashamed of what I was doing as well.

I don’t know what I am. I don’t identify as bi-sexual. I don’t know if I identify as “straight”. Until I started reading this blog, I had never heard “cis”, “pansexual”, and many other identifying terms. What I can say is that I’m a guy, and I’ve been with guys and women, and I’ve looked at porn with guy on guy, guys with guys, women and guys, transgender people, and at the end of the day, I think I find attractive attributes to people from every gender – whatever the “norm” of the day is.

 

 

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2 responses to “Guest Post: I Don’t Know Who I Am

  1. Hey – lots and lots of thoughts on the enormity of what you’ve shared here.

    Before anything else, I wanted to make a quick note for the readership, because a lot of us (especially those of us who are just beginning to think about this stuff, or make certain admissions to ourselves about our feelings/histories/proclivities/what we know ourselves to be, etc) are unfamiliar with terminology, what different things mean, etc. I know I was, and I’ve still got a lot of learning to do.

    Just wanted to be clear that “transgender people” are not a third gender. There are folks who identify as “third gender,” and some also identify as transgender, but transgender women are women, and transgender men are men, wholly and completely, same as cisgender (non-transgender) women are women, and men are men.

    Confused? So are lots of folks, and there’s hardly any mainstream education on this topic, still, so here are some resources to get started (and, I’ll probably write a whole ‘nother post about these..)

    For those readers who may be unclear about what “sex” versus “gender” versus “sexual orientation” means, this is a chart that can provide a basic 101: http://www.ftmtransition.com/transition/faq/spectrum.gif (thanks and apologies to http://www.ftmtransition.com)

    While that chart is useful in some ways, I’d like to remind folks that the “male/female” gender binary is a social construction, and doesn’t really work as a starting place for everyone. To that end, please see: http://29.media.tumblr.com/tumblr_lzkt4eUSk71qgleipo1_500.jpg (thanks and apologies to http://tracyvanity.tumblr.com)

    Here are some basic terms from the Gender Equity Resource Center: http://geneq.berkeley.edu/lgbt_resources_definiton_of_terms

    Here is a Glossary of Gender and Transgender Terms from Fenway Community Health in Boston: http://www.fenwayhealth.org/site/DocServer/Handout_7-C_Glossary_of_Gender_and_Transgender_Terms__fi.pdf

    There are so many good resources. This is hardly an exhaustive list. If other readers know of good resources, please send the link to silenceendshere@gmail.com, for an upcoming post.

    That clarification is it from me tonight, but I will be back shortly, responding to the post and the enormous emotional journey it took me through, parts of which I seriously felt like a knife.

  2. Well, it’s been a bit longer than one day. But I haven’t forgotten, not in the least! So here goes:

    There are several aspects of this piece that hit me really, really hard.

    In no particular order, and undoubtedly leaving something out:

    1) We, too, get attacked. Physically. And verbally. We, too, get called “fag” and other words that mean, essentially, that we are fair game for murder / violence / rape etc. Somehow, this gets forgotten, or just gets subsumed in “things that happen to gay people” because bisexual / pansexual / not-straight-not-gay + folks get classed as “confused gays.” The hate crimes against us are not even counted. And, there are many.

    2) We, too, lose friends and family because of this. We are not more “easily accepted” because we might be willing to f*ck an opposite sex partner. That fact does not make this kind of social violence “less likely” to happen to us.

    3) We, too, doubt ourselves. And hide. And remain in the closet from everyone. And it sucks, and it’s painful, and it isn’t easy. And we don’t know what to make of it.

    4) In my own life, part of this journey was being told there was a “safe space” for queers, for me to access. But it wasn’t really for me. It was for gay-elles and gay guys. Which left me feeling betrayed all over again.

    I am really glad you are participating in this project. I hope that you will do so again when you feel it. I think many of us have been betrayed. We need to support each other. Thanks for helping with that.

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