Growing up, I knew I was different.
When I was eight, I marched in my first Pride parade. My sister worked for a bank that participated in civil rights issues. In 2002, this was almost unheard of. Being the curious kid I was (and still am), I eagerly agreed to participate with my parents’ permission. I didn’t know what gay or transgender or queer meant. I just knew that there were going to be people there, and as outgoing, as I was, I wanted to meet them. I wanted to talk to them and ask them questions. I wanted to ask what it felt like to be like them, because even so young, I knew that I was different, just like them.
I clearly remember the excitement at all of the bright colors, smiling faces, and boisterous laughter that permeated the streets of downtown St. Louis. I was thrilled to be holding the banner and walking with the adults in the front, even if the height of the banner nearly surpassed my own. I felt a connection to them, and the love and positivity was infectious.
Unfortunately, so was the disgust and reproach that reared its ugly head in small pockets scattered through the streets. I saw intolerance and hatred. I saw fear in what they didn’t or refused to understand. I saw signs with slurs, insults, and threats of burning in hell. I’d gotten my first taste of why it sometimes felt wrong to be different and my little eight-year-old brain took that as a sign to keep my feelings hidden.
Years later, in 2007, I saw classmates and friends that were different like I was for the first time. I’d long repressed those feelings, and seeing other people like me, they came flooding back. For the first time, and what I now know was not the last time, I came out of the closet. I started to accept my sexuality.
At the age of 15, I started to view my body with confusion and repulsion. It felt wrong. I didn’t see in the mirror what I saw in my head, and it hurt. Though once again, after seeing the social ostracization of my peers who felt the same way, I shoved those feelings deep down and buried them in the lies and denial that shielded me from the truth.
It wasn’t until two years ago at the age of 24 that the proverbial Pandora’s Box was forcefully ripped open.
I bought a binder, telling myself I wanted to use it for costumes and cosplay and Renaissance fairs. In hindsight, I wholeheartedly believe that this was my subconscious telling me that it was time to start living my truth.
That decision finally pried the lid off of Pandora’s box--I’d had enough. I started living my life as who I had always known myself to be. I cut off my long hair and I ditched the hyperfeminine clothing that overcompensated for the feelings that laid dormant for nearly a decade. I started wearing my “boy clothes” again. This time, without shame. I stopped using my given name and started using a name that was true to who I’d always been. I started the journey of living my life as who I really am.
I’m now proud of who I am. I love my “not normal-ness”. I embrace that I’m different, and though the path is wrought with struggle, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.
I still see the hate and intolerance that try to smother the rights of the LGBTQ+ community; however, thanks to the blood, sweat, and tears shed by early activists, today, I and many others are able to live an openly LGBTQ+ life. Pride is the fruit of the labor of many, and a remembrance of the Stonewall Riots that took place in 1969--the spark that lit the flame of change and became the foundation for gay and transgender life. Pride is a time to reflect on the progress made, but also a time to recognize that we still have a long way to go for true acceptance and equality.
Opening my own personal Pandora’s box was painful, but as in the myth, there was something else freed that day--hope.
I’ve found a home with Electro that recognizes me and embraces me for who I am--a strange, hyperactive, goofy dude that will never again feel shame for living his truth.