Adam, my twenty-five-year old son, died of a heroin overdose two years ago. Several days after his death, and before the funeral, I sat up late one night talking with his ex-girlfriend. She revealed that he had been sexually abused for several years by a close, male family member starting when he was eleven. The perpetrator threatened to harm our family if Adam ever told anyone. Adam told a few people but the secret was kept from me.
“I’ve been having some gender issues lately.”
I was on the phone with my eighteen-year-old granddaughter Amy who had recently moved across country to attend college.
“Want to talk about them?” I asked.
“I want to be a boy.”
“Wow! Where did that come from?” Amy had come out to me as lesbian two years earlier, but I had never heard a word about gender dysphoria.
“I went to an LGBTQ meeting on campus last week, and the speaker said we need to honor who we are. This is who I am.”
I found myself crying as I danced through the streets of downtown Boston, celebrating my first Pride parade since coming out. While Lady Gaga songs and rainbow costumes provided a backdrop for my ecstasy, my joy arose from the feeling of belonging, a sense of connection bringing me closer to myself and to every person within that crowd of thousands. That was the feeling of my first Pride.
I was born a Brobdingnagian in a world of Lilliputians. As a child, I towered over my classmates, both female and male, and most of my teachers. Even as an adult, I stand out in a crow-and I hate it. Being tall has contributed to my psychological angst: it has given me a negative self-image; it has made me the victim of teasing (“How’s the weather up there?”); and it has made me feel like an outsider from mainstream society.
Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community may cause its population to feel a similar sense of isolation and depression. Or, it may not. I do not know. What I do know for certain, however, is that being different should be okay--and that no one, especially ourselves, should condemn us for not fitting some predetermined mold.
When I was a freshman in college, my closest friend told me that he was pretty sure he was gay.