Occasionally I get emails from younger LGBT people concerning coming out, and the reactions of their immediate families. Today I got a good one. A 15 yr old who identifies as lesbian and has just come out to her mother and siblings. Problem is her father, who you can tell she has great love for in the way she speaks for him. He evidently had some kind of mouth malfunction and started ranting about how marriage equality and the LGBT ‘agenda’ were going to be the downfall of America. All shit we as adult LGBT community members have heard before…consistently.
This kid wants acceptance and support of her father. But she’s fearful of his reaction and possible rejection by him. I can hear that in her email. I can feel the palpable fear in my gut. I know her pain and I know it well.
As a young dyke I looked up to my father very much. He was my idol. I wanted to be like him; respectful, honorable and brave. I would watch him shave in the morning and would wish that I could stand beside him and shave too. and there were times that he would take the Gillette shaver, remove the blade and let me ‘shave’ with the empty razor and some of his shaving cream, the best part was the Old Spice aftershave…I still have a penchant for the stuff today..
Anyway, I was constantly seeking his approval in things that I did in school and in sports. Always trying to impress him, or at least get him to notice me. I copied his mannerisms, and borrowed his ethics (for a while). My Dad was a good example in most respects about how to be a good, well mannered, self-control guy. He definitely control his life, and the lives of my mother and us kids, very rigidly. I liked that he had that control, but I also learned to be very controling myself from his example…maybe not always a good thing, but it works for me generally speaking. It works for my lifestyle.
I believe young masculine identified lesbians look for role models; beings to mold their lives after, to follow and to have as mentors and teachers as to how to act and be in this life. It’s not easy being different, being so visible and just out there. As a teenager I was always running scared, but too damned tough to show it for even one minute…I was that sort of Butch scared on the inside which can never be visible on the outside to anyone. I remember it being a painful time in my own life, and I would never want to go back to any age below 35!
This kid talks about being ridiculed at school already, so she’s already experiencing the derogatory comments of her peers sniping about her masculine looks and mannerisms.
I remember being a teenager and being very, very angry at the world. Angry that I could not be who I felt I was meant to be, without the consent of my family and friends. I didn’t think it was right that I had to live under these binary rules of gender. I hated it. I loathed it. I rebelled in every possible way that I could – with the parents, the law, self-destructive behaviors, and finally by leaving my home and family in hopes that in a foreign place I could find out who I was and what to do.
What do I tell this kid of 15 about how difficult her life ahead is going to be? But also how incredibly empowering it will be when she steps into that authentic life she is destined to lead?
How do I explain that the world is cruel, mean and nasty, but that she will learn to navigate under her own sail; it will never be smooth sailing, but it will be swift and true. Some days she’ll wake up in love and feeling good and others she’ll wish she could crawl under the stone she’s made of.
Then how do you explain the mediocre days, when things are just going along and some idiot makes a derogatory comment as she walks by…’dyke’…How do I tell her to just swallow hard and let the anger settle and walk on proudly? How do I tell her that stopping to engage the idiot and possibly getting the crap kicked out of herself is not a good idea?
It’s so hard to tell a kid of 15 that it will be okay; that it will get better. That one day she will look back on her teenage years and first wonder how she survived, then wonder why it all seemed so hard back then. Hopefully, she’ll look back and when she does she’ll remember how her father came around and did give her his full love and support in her journey. I pray for that. I got that with my Dad…a man I look up to very much, who I may not always agree with, but who taught me honor, respect, manners and to walk proud in my own skin.