Do you remember what it felt like to grow up confused? I had always been strange but my sexuality revealed just how different I am. People tell tales of blissful ignorance at childhood. I’m one of the weird ones who didn’t have that. I knew, I always knew something was off or maybe something was turned on. Either way, it would take most of my earliest years to realize I could do nothing to change it.
I remember my 15-year-old self sitting across a woman once. Mrs. Ladipo’s office was pristine, the room almost empty of the usual burdens in a space. She had two seats, one across from the other, a bookshelf that my hands itched to survey, paintings that I felt held no meaning or point, an office desk and a closed door in the room that held another curiosity for me. The desk was laden with a few books, pens, a computer and several colored files. They were all neatly stacked. She was a “friend of the family” but I didn’t think so. She and my mum went to the same church, they attended events together, but I never really liked her.
Theirs was a friendship that reminded me of the sports my father was intent on destroying my evenings with. They were simply competing with each other. Considering my mother’s dominance over her, I supposed my secret finally made their friendship even.
These forced sessions made my disdain for Mrs. Ladipo even more intense.
My heart thundered during the last few appointments, first with anger at my parents. Every time I went to see my new shrink, I was subjected to images and texts that referenced me; a patient of this spectacularly fine establishment as psychologically deranged. Sometimes I wonder if the assessment was right.
And then my anger became desperation. Something about me, since my parents found my stacks of pictures cut from magazines of naked men, was changing. I could feel the new layers of insecurities, my anxiety was becoming worse. I knew I needed to get myself out of this somehow.
“Why do you think you are feeling these things?” Mrs. Ladipo asked.
She and my mum had begun to use code words to describe my illness – as they called it. They exploited the elusiveness of words like condition, perplexity, situation, indiscretion, and now “things”. I honestly liked the words and always made mental notes of using them for my own elusive gain. I loved words. So what if these ones were intended as derogatory? Don’t blame the words, blame the human using it wrongly.
“What things am I feeling, Doctor?” I answered, a smirk playing on my lips.
She didn’t reply and stared at me evenly. I sighed.
“I told you, I was simply curious,” I said as I straightened my shirt and pulled my sleeves further down.
“It’s okay,” she said. She paused before taking another breath. “Do you realize that the incriminating position that you find yourself in is very wrong. You should not be looking at or be curious about things like that.”
I paused, as though thinking about the severity of the statement she had just made. But really, my mind was pondering on the new words – “incriminating position”. I concluded that I really liked the phrase and would find a dictionary to tell me how to properly use it.
“I know,” I answered, looking at my shoes in faux contemplation.
“You must change…” she added.
And so, I did. Well, I didn’t change on the inside. I still liked images of naked men, but now, I began to hide them almost expertly. I changed a lot of things about myself. I forced myself to watch sports and cheered when my team won. My parents genuinely thought I had become a new man. And sometimes I tried, wanting to make them happy and be accepted by the world around me.
It didn’t really work.
I remember hearing, reading the worst things about myself by people who don’t even know me. They judged me and I wished they had no right to. But there they were, condemning me before I could even understand me. These judgements trained my family to loathe the idea of me before they discovered who I was.
I just wanted to hug them and scream: “I’M NOT A MONSTER! DON’T HATE ME!”
I remember myself at my weakest, tears filled my eyes as a stranger pinned my hands to a strange couch. He was strong and smelled of sweat as his perspiration dampened my back. I had screamed for a long time but the echoes were killed by the hand clamped over my mouth. My mind had turned the pain I was feeling into an old injury, everything felt distant except the hand that held me down. I felt the hold more than anything else. It burned my flesh and I wanted it away from me. I could have done anything to get his fingers off my face. If he could have let me speak, I’d have simply begged him to let me go. I was raped by the first man I ever visited. I was convinced it was my fault as he insistently told me.
I had teased him way too much. He could not control himself. Somehow, I consumed the words.
I proceeded to isolate myself for a year, deleting my access to social media.
I remember growing to hate myself and my body on a whole new level. I hated my skinny body. I hated when I added any weight. My body could never really please me. For a long time, I was disgusted by myself.
I remember discovering drugs and alcohol. They were my new kind of happy, my escape and my quiet place.
I remember almost dying. I wasn’t sure if I’d done it on purpose. I just wanted silence.
I remember healing. The light was finally in sight when I met him. His smile turned something on – or did something turn off? I couldn’t really tell.
I remember falling in love, my head in the clouds, my feet off the ground and my heart in his hands. I had never felt more right, more happy. He looked at me like I belonged in the stars. He touched me like I belonged in a garden. He loved me like my body belonged right next to his.
I remember sitting at the back of a church. I watched him put the ring onto her finger and I watched her do the same. My heart shattered into a thousand glass daggers. The crowd erupted in happy cheers as the couple waltzed out of the church. His beaming smile faltered when his gaze lanced across mine. I smiled back, sadly, remembering. The man I loved had just made an eternal promise to another. With tears in my eyes, I had begged him. He didn’t flinch; a resolve on his face to be accepted into a spectrum of masculinity. I threatened to walk away from us if he married her. I don’t know what I was thinking. Life isn’t a movie and I never stood a chance. So, I left the church that day and kept my promise to leave him.
I remember them, cutting my heart into tiny pieces. Each new man with new and innovative ways of being the devil; seeking, killing and destroying parts of me. I wonder what trauma they’ve gone through themselves; how broken their own hearts are.
So, I remember taking up the sword. The kill-list is endless. Letting me down seemed so easy even when I didn’t want to walk away. But I walked away anyway, before they could; cutting hearts before they could see how fragile mine is. I left a trail of blood in my wake. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.
I remember the pain and all of the good times too.
Do you? Do you remember how you got there; to the resilient royalty reading this? Do you remember all the pain you’ve hidden in your fingertips just because your body isn’t strong enough to handle any more?
Do you remember discovering others just like you, people who’ve shared your pain, your aches and your joys? Their scars look just like yours; a blemish on your skin that makes you even more beautiful.
Do you remember the day a smile spread across your face and you said the words for the first time; a little fear in your voice: “I AM SPECIAL.”
There’s pride in your belly, your head is raised higher, your shoulders lift you off the ground, and your walk shows off all of your confident secrets.
Do you remember that in the midst of how hard it is to be different, you would not change it for anything?
Do you remember finally understanding what pride really means?
Written by Abrams