Today is my Mom’s birthday. I’ve been thinking about her a lot lately.
It was a very long winter here in Northern Maine and I had a lot of free time on my hands. I began reading blogs by other Butch lesbians and somehow that lead to me reading about transgender issues and radical feminism. I have found it fascinating. So many people, with so many diametrically opposed ideas; so much passion and ire. It lead to self reflection and gave the ole brain quite a workout. It also lead me to think about my own childhood and how my Mom reacted to my childhood choices. I’m left to think had I been born in the last ten years instead of 1964, I could have been transgendered. Fortunately, my Mom respected my choices and my presentation and never tried to change me. She supported me when the rest of my family, namely my Father and Grandmother, pressured me to conform and be a “cute, feminine” girl.
My Mom died long before I figured out I was gay. I was a very late bloomer. After all I’ve read recently, I wanted to thank her. I’m sure it wasn’t easy and I know the rest of the family and the public at large gave her a hard time. Lord, knows they gave me one hell of a time, but having her in my corner made all the difference.
I hated dolls. When I was four, my Grandmother sent me a doll almost as big as me with a hideous pink dress. To make matters worse, there was a matching dress for me! I took a pair of scissors and cut all the doll’s hair off and tossed it aside. I did have to wear the dress for a quick picture to send my Grandmother, but after that, it was relegated to a very dark corner of the closet and eventually was donated to some other unfortunate soul. I did love action figures so I received Johnny West, Sam Cobra and Captain Maddox instead. Awesome. Even got the covered wagon and several horses. I still remember flying across the hardwood floors of my house sitting on my Tonka Dump Truck and hooking up a fully functioning fire engine that shot water. And don’t get me started on Legos, back before they came in kits, with instructions no less. A large Matchbox cars collection complete with a garage and jump ramps. I still have strong memories of all the fun I had playing inside on the bedroom floor and outside in a big dirt pile near the house.
I hated dresses. I came home one day in Fourth Grade and announced I would never wear one again. Mom said ok and I never have.
I wanted a cowboy, not cowgirl, outfit for my fifth birthday complete with a pair of six shooter cap guns. I am bedecked out in red jeans, a red and white checker shirt and cowboy hat in my birthday pics.
I was the first girl in Maine to play on a boy’s Little League team. I have a picture of me getting my very own baseball bat for Christmas. She made me close my eyes and caught me a the moment I yelled “A bat!”. Pure joy. I still can feel it today.
The one way you could really piss me off was tell me I couldn’t do something because I was a girl. I did everything the boys did. Came home filthy, and often bloody, from my adventures.
We moved to Virginia to escape the oil price crisis in the 70s. Maine was tough, but I had good friends who stuck by me. Virginia was a special brand of hell. I was threatened with violence daily and if I had a dollar for every time I heard “What are you? A boy or a girl?”, I’d be a wealthy woman.
After 7 hours of hell at school, I came home to Mom who accepted me just the way I was. She gave me the strength to endure each day and I excelled in school. I survived, but I will never go to a class reunion. School wasn’t the real world. After surviving school, the real world was a piece of cake. I’ve never had a knife pulled on me at work, but I did on the school bus.
The only time I heard my Mom question how I looked was when we were in Lehman’s Dept Store looking in the men’s department for clothes. She said she wondered if I liked to wear men’s clothes because she had shopped there. The clothes were cheaper and better made. My mom was frugal and yes, she was straight. I assured her she had no such power over me…I made my own choices and I accepted the price I had to pay for those choices.
I could have dressed like a girl and been a wallflower, but I couldn’t do it. I don’t do it today. I have paid the price, but looking back at all the hurts and sacrifices, I wouldn’t change a thing.
My Mom died when she was 59 from lung cancer; I was 26. My father was long out of the picture and my Grandmother never really understood me. My Mom was far from perfect and she did do some really shitty, hurtful things while I was growing up, but in the end it doesn’t matter.
I accept who I am. I accept I have breasts and had to deal with a period for 40 years. Yea, menopause!! I could have done with the “childbearing hips”, but they are what they are. I was terrified I was going to inherit my Grandmother’s breasts and never be able to sleep on my stomach again. I was ten, what did I know? Mom assured me I’d be fine. She was right, that trait skipped both of us, thank goodness. None of those things have kept me from being my own person. Today, I wonder if she or I would be pressured to transgender me. I know my Father would have preferred a “son” to a lesbian. Not so sure about my Grandmother?
This is one of those times, I’m glad I was born in the 60’s. My Mom would have been 84 today and I feel her close. I miss her. I want to tell her I love her and “Thank you” for letting me find my own way and making the path easier.