By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
I talked about that with my godfather. He is pretty old, and different from anybody I've met. He talks to me about the importance that gay people have had in history. And not until recently [did] I see what he's been talking about, and why my parents have had such a hard time with all this. Older gay people who meet me today ask, "Why are you so confident?" I answer, "You don't know what I had to go through to get here."
JASON(a pseudonym) is a 16-year-old female-to-male transgendered teen who attends a Los Angeles area high school.
I REMEMBER MY HUMILIATION when I couldn't believe that I wasn't a boy. I thought everybody was plotting against me, telling me, "Boys pee standing up; you don't, so you're not a boy." I didn't believe them. My mom would try to put me in dresses, and I was like, Why me?
I remember distinctly getting in trouble in preschool because I refused to wear my bathing suit. I wore a pair of swim trunks from the lost and found. Some other girl was borrowing my swimsuit. My mom found out about it, and yelled: "Why can't you wear your own clothes?" I used to put water on myself and say that I had peed on myself so I could wear the boys' clothes from the lost and found.
I knew who I was! It was more of a pure thought than when I got older, because you have no social stigmas going against you. I'd be humiliated if my mom put me in a dress and sent me to school. I handled that by battling my mom. It wasn't courage. It was just, "You're wrong. You're putting me in a dress. What's wrong with you?" I ended up dressing like a boy anyway. My mom didn't push me all the time, but on those special occasions that I had to look nice for the grandparents, it turned what was supposed to be a nice event into hell.
When you find out that you're different, it's a burden. You're never gonna be like other kids, normal. I told everybody, "I'm a boy." I assumed the normal role, like a tomboy. Eventually I came out as a lesbian, and I thought that should have made things better, because I liked girls, and so it made sense. But I was still unsettled.
I knew I liked girls, but I wasn't like a woman with a woman. My girlfriend at the time was very feminist, very lesbianlike, and so it felt weird. I just recently obtained the feeling that I used to have when I was a little kid. Within the last year or so, after I started hormones -- becoming a guy -- I got myself back on track. I feel like I haven't been living my life for the last 10 years, like it wasn't mine.
It's like when [people] come out and realize, "Oh my God, I'm gay." I would assume that's like a click. I didn't get the click until I realized, "Wait, I'm not gay. I'm straight. I'm just not a girl." Now I know who I am again.
*** "Why do I have to be the one struggling to make my family think outside the box?" --Lizzette Torres
LIZZETTE TORRESis a 21-year-old bisexual woman with a 3-year-old daughter.
I REMEMBER BEING bused to Hubbard Elementary in the Valley from South-Central because the school was overcrowded. That's my first memory of being different. I was in first grade. There was one little girl; we always talked together. We'd hold hands, we'd kiss, but it was always under our jackets. How did I know to hide this from the family? Well, you never saw people of the same sex kissing each other.
Right after I started finding out about myself, I was sexually abused by my stepfather. I didn't have time to understand myself. I was dealing with the fact that this person is having sex with me, and I'm 9 years old, and is that normal? I don't remember saying anything. I pretended to be asleep. I would hide under a table. I was quiet as a kid.
It wasn't until I started working at the Gay & Lesbian Center that I saw I had my own internalized homophobia and my family's. I live in a Latino-Mexican community where you don't talk about homosexuality, especially in the ghetto, where you're poor. My family had a yard sale just after the September 11 attack, and one of my uncles -- he's a born-again Christian -- said, "Oh, you know why the World Trade towers were crashed into, right?" And I said, "Why?" "Because homosexuals are getting married." I never got that angry before. I couldn't control myself. I raised my voice in front of my family. My mom walked away.
I've broken the cycle of silence with sexual abuse and broken the cycle of silence with homophobia in our family. I've broken so many cycles that sometimes I'm in that position where you just wanna die. Why do I have to be the one struggling to make my family think outside the box, outside our little community? It's hard, hard, to be a young, single Latina woman with a child, having to teach her family about the real world.