Today, Lesbiatopia brings you a special story from a good friend of mine and FTM transguy, McLovin. You may remember when McLovin first wrote about his story, Pretty Fly for a Trans Guy, about his decision to transition from female to male. Here's the next installment in his story.
I’ve got nothing to hide. Really. I try to be as forthcoming as possible without freaking people out. My level of honesty startles me sometimes. When someone asks me questions, I just blurt out the answer, I have always been like that. I’m not shy about who I am or where I come from. Of course, being a transguy and also being in the military means I have to bite my tongue, but I don’t really find myself biting it as often as I should. In fact, if I were not as well liked as I am, I am quite sure that I would have been in serious trouble by now for some of the smart ass things I have said and done. I have always been very forthcoming about everything… well, almost everything.
As a teenager, I used to roll down the windows of my rusty '87 hatchback mustang and drive with my hand out the window until it was numb. When I first got my license, I loved going out to the back roads in the country in Kentucky and turning up my music and screaming at the top of my lungs, blurting out everything I couldn’t say in front of others. The cold air rushing in and freezing the tears to my face, my hand would be so numb and useless I could barely roll up the window after I was done. Sometimes I would stare at it, red and chapped, and watch the blood seep back into my skin, or sometimes I would stick it to the overworked heat vent and feel the stinging and pricks all the way to the nerves. I had a lot of anger inside me and I couldn’t process it, I couldn’t even tell anyone about it. How are you supposed to tell anyone you are angry because you were born the wrong gender?
My best friends little brother, Joey, used to ride along with me. I didn’t want to admit it at the time, but he was the one who was truly my best friend, and his sister, Angela, was more the object of my affection. Joey and I could talk about sports statistics, compare dream cars, and sometimes, if we were both in foul moods, he would dare me to drive faster and faster, and then to dip my tire off the side of the road, and finally he would ask me to run the car into a tree. At which point I would slow down and we would turn up the Ramones and forget our hatred of this world we called home. It was my only way of connecting with the reckless nature of teenage boys, something that lived inside me, but which I was not able to let loose. My brother tried to suppress it in me, as did many of my male friends because it intimidated them. They had long since abandoned the idea of me as friend and put me in the ‘other’ category, you were either datable, or ‘other’ if you were a girl. So, younger guys were my primary source of entertainment. I served as their leader and they served as my… well, I lived vicariously through them.
When I was 18, I decided I needed to get myself ‘fixed’, exorcise these demons tormenting my soul. I joined a youth camp which did charity mission outreaches throughout the world. Part of the application read in big bold letters, “Mark here if you have ever had homosexual contact, or desired homosexual contact.” I remember filling out the entire application and then leaving it on my desk for months unfinished because I didn’t know how to fill that part out… If I checked yes in the box, would they tell my parents? My ‘to be’ roommates? Would they try to put me in counseling? I thought my temptations were just my friends who I had crushes on, such as Angela, and I thought if I could just get away from them, my urges would go away. I figured at the ranch where I would train, the temptation would subside and perhaps God might heal me and set me free… No, I decided, no one had to know about my desires. After all, there was not a box on the page asking straight people if they were virgins or pure or how many ‘bases’ they had rounded in their teenage years. Asking about homosexual contact seemed a little inappropriate since others were not being asked about their sexual history. I checked ‘no’ in the box and mailed it in.
At the camp, I started at the lower level, the beginner level, if you will. This course was called a discipleship training school, teaching us how to become closer with Jesus and know him better. Due to my religious upbringing, I was better educated on biblical and spiritual things than most of the other 96 students, and even many of the counselors, so I often got bored with the lectures and would draw or write letters to my new found best friend, Melody. I didn’t have a crush on Melody, she is one of the first female friends in my memory that I didn’t have deeper feelings for. She made me laugh and helped me when I cried, even though I would never tell her what was wrong exactly. I made up excuses about be angry at my mother, missing my family, and just hating that my parents were divorced. Her parents had split up too so she understood why I could be so upset about such things.
Twice the subject of being gay came up in my 5- woman small group discussions, and twice I allowed the other girls to sweetly gay-bash and spout misguided thoughts and scriptures without saying a word. We regularly prayed for those in our class who we suspected might be homosexual. Oddly, I never felt awkward doing this, since deep in my heart, I think I knew that being gay was not even close to my actual problem.
At one point, our counselors, who were mostly rather close in age and experience to many of the rest of us, decided we would hold a bon fire and burn our ‘vices’.
“Whatever you feel is holding you back, you will write it down and then throw it in to the fire in front of everyone.” announced Evelyn, one of the female counselors (who later actually tried to get me to confess my homosexual inclinations to her by throwing herself at me while we shared a bed on our mission outreach trip). Hearing this, we all shifted uneasily, and Evelyn continued, “You don’t have to confess it out loud, but we strongly encourage you to denounce it with your voice for all to hear, we believe it increases accountability and it increases the spiritual power which you have to resist it.”
We were allowed fifteen minutes to go back to our dorms and grab up something or write something down which represented the things in our hearts which held us back from getting closer to God. We all returned, some people had CD’s of bands like Marilyn Manson, or pornographic magazines, which were forbidden on campus. Some girls had pictures of boyfriends from back home, some had packets of cigarettes, a few turned up with drugs and liquor, which were also not allowed and were grounds for getting kicked out. Most held sheets of paper with words written on them, crumbling them in sweaty, nervous palms. The counselors turned up worship music on loudspeakers and lit the fire and a few at a time, my classmates were going up and throwing their symbols of bondage and chains into the fire and shouting declarations such as: ‘I will no longer let *blank* have this power over me!” or “I am free of the oppression of drugs!” or “I will no longer listen to the lies of this!” One girl had a diet book in her hand and announced to everyone that she was anorexic and needed serious help, so the counselors scurried her away and put her on a special program. Several people, mostly the men, were silently dropping in tokens of their pain which they didn’t wish to announce, one guy dropped in his favorite t-shirt and later he was kicking himself for doing so.
While I enjoy and fully believe in a metaphoric ability to release oneself from vices, in hindsight, the emotional manipulation and strength of peer pressure was nearly overwhelming in this case. Noticing most of my close friends had already had their turn, I sat there, debating what I might say or proclaim as I threw my sheet of paper in the fire. Melody nudged me and I stood up and walked toward the flaming barrel of trash, pouring black smoke from the plastic melting onto the wood. For a moment I had the words, and then they left my brain and I blurted out, “I forgive my mom for abandoning me!” People clapped and cheered and I got a pat on the back and some hugs. But I sat down realizing that this place was not going to help me with my real problem. What I had really written on that sheet of paper, now burning, was not about my mother at all.
I imagined the symbolism of a sweet burning sacrifice to God, the aroma pleasing to his nostrils, as the old testament put it, turning to a wretched stench hanging in the halls of heaven as my paper was swallowed by flames, carried upward by my lying words. My tongue, meaning to speak truth over my life at this moment in a healing way, had turned the entire event for nearly 100 people into a laughing spectacle. My heart was heavy because what I had written on that paper, I was too ashamed to admit even in the face of a promise of complete redemption: “God, heal me from being attracted to girls. I have tried everything. I’ll even fake it if you give me the right chance. Just help me.”
Being much older and slightly wiser now, I do not think that God had to clothespin his nose at my confession that day. After all, I did in fact, harbor some serious resentment for my mother, and that could very well be root to some of my many short comings. However, being attracted to women, I found, was certainly not a manifestation of ‘mommy issues’ nearly as much as it is a part of the fabric of my sexuality. After this camp, I spent another two years in denial and in pain, trying to force myself into a non-queer, gender-conforming lifestyle. I donned makeup, allowed guys to come on to me, including a man I met at that very camp, whom I thought was my ‘answer,’ This ended up making me feel more guilty and unnatural than ever before. Somehow, it felt as if my acting straight were the sin and embracing a ‘sinful’ yearning would bring the redemption and peace I truly sought.
In retrospect, learned many things from my experiences at missionary boot camp, and probably the most important thing would be that I no longer wanted to hide the one thing I had not allowed myself to blurt out for all those years. If I had to do it over again, I still wouldn’t check the ‘homosexual’ box, though. I would instead, write in a Transguy box and mark it with a capital ‘X’.