Photo by massimo ankor
I was a chubby cheeked kid that was socially awkward growing up in the 80’s. I knew that I was not a typical kid because I would become a little too fascinated with a few of my female classmates. Mainly it was that they had pretty hair and smelled nice. But even before I started school, I knew I liked girls, I remember there was a time when my mom would come home with her girlfriends from a night out of dancing and I would find a woman in my bed with smeared makeup, smelling of smoke and sweat from dancing the night before, sleeping off her night of fun and adventure. Nothing horrible happened – they just decided to crawl into bed and sleep off the night. But you know strangely, I would lay there sun brightly shining in and early in the morning, I would look at the woman in my bed and think she is very pretty laying there much like a painting – then I would slide out from under her arm and head over to pour a bowl of cereal and watch Saturday morning cartoons like it was nothing.
I never quite understood what I was going through in school, the secret crushes, since I was so shy and a late bloomer. I tried liking boys, but I was too much of a tomboy myself. I never pursued relationships like some of my friends, nor was I boy crazy like a lot of my friends. I was a girl who had more worldly pursuits I would say – more to life than this kind of thinking. But none the less, I still had my mad crushes, I remember in Junior High, I made my way into a little group of friends because I liked one of the girls – I just wanted to be friends and get close. Creepy right? No, it is typical for kids to do that stuff, so we became friends and then the following year she got a boyfriend who was a skater and had long hair and everyone thought he was so cool. I remember we were in the auditorium – we hung out there a lot because we all played music. And he came by to watch her play her instrument when our teacher called for a break – we went to sit in the audience chairs to and hang out – that skater boy had made his way over to our group and I just ignored him. But she was so into this stinky boy. Next to me was a French horn player and I had turn to him and asked if I could try out his instrument -- being a string player myself, I was curious how much sound I could get out of it. And so as my friend and her boyfriend were talking, I took the instrument and gave a super loud blast to both of them! I know that was mean, but I was crushed! I know she gave me the look – I said sorry, I had no idea it would be so loud. And from that moment on that crush stopped. And soon afterward, we parted ways as friends.
Then life goes on, in high school I went to a performing arts magnate school on the west side of Los Angeles, total culture shock since I mainly grew up on the Northeast of Los Angeles. Much more open to a lot of things over at that school. I had met quite a few gay friends. But I had not yet made my way out. It was that time during my life that I accepted myself, I knew whom I was fully, I knew that I could not change myself and I had to let it be – but I still had my teenage angst in full force. I eventually came out to some friends and in my mid-twenties fully came out because my first girlfriend ever decided to break it off because I was not out yet to my family. Those were very hard times and also very liberating times too. By then my mom had passed away from a fight to cancer and I had been living in Palm Springs to help out the family and eventually I was kicked out of my home for being queer by someone who had been a parent and in my life for over 20 years. I have forgiven, but I will never forget.
Fast forward to today, now I teach for a living, so I’m in a classroom and different schools every day. I meet so many students all the time. I went to a school in Huntington Park – I was teaching biology for a month, I had this one student who loved make-up, dress up and everything fashion. He was beautiful, I mean simply beautiful. (All my students are beautiful. Even the diamonds in the rough and I get a lot of those.) But for some reason, maybe it is my personality or how approachable I am. He came to me during a lunch break with his little group of girlfriends and hung out in my room. Then he said, “Ms. B. I want to be a girl. How can I do that?” He asked so many questions, like if it will hurt and about places to go, being a transgender. In my work, I am always very professional, very mindful of all the things I say to my students and I listened to him very carefully. But how could I answer that question? I bought myself some time and started like this. I said to him, “Well I think you should finish school and go to college first…but I think you know what you want your life to be, and you should give yourself time and grow and be secure with your body and mind. Take a look at the world around you, build a strong foundations now with your family and if you want friends. And when you are fully ready you will pursue your happiness, you will know when that time will be.” I think about that ever so often, did I say and do the right thing? I feel I did. But as many teenage kids are and with a glazed look over his face, he kind of understood where I was going with this. He then turned to his friends and said, “Ok girls let’s go.”