I have a chip on my shoulder the size of Kentucky. Why Kentucky, you ask? Because it’s the state of my birth and the birthplace of my state of mind.
One of the earliest demeaning names I remember being called is ‘sissy.’ You might say it was the forefather in a lineage that would later include ‘faggot’ and ‘queer.’ That insult (because that’s what it is) was often uttered by an uncle of mine e.g. “Come on you little sissy;” “What are you, a little sissy?” It was an offensive term uttered by a teenager to a child. Although to say I knew it was offensive at the time would be incorrect. What I remember about being called a sissy was how angry it made me. I knew that a sissy was not something I wanted to be even without knowing why. I remember feeling ashamed of myself when he would call me that. Angry and ashamed.
I doubt my uncle meant it as negative as my elementary school classmates did when they took up the name calling torch and ran with it. I would like to believe that he was just picking on me because he got a reaction. As for the classmates, well, they meant it. It was a slur hurled at me like an arrow whose tip was laced with disdain and disgust. It was meant to wound. And it was so funny to the name caller (the bully) and often funnier to those within earshot around him. But it wasn’t funny to me. On top of feeling ashamed, I felt embarrassed. I didn’t understand why I merited this label, title, moniker ― whatever you want to call it. I was just a kid growing up in a small town, trying to be himself, constantly in fear of what kind of verbal (or physical) retaliation that might bring.
I was an effeminate child. That is true. I admit it. I knew I was different but didn’t exactly know why. I didn’t yet understand my sexual orientation. What I did know was that the term sissy was negative and I didn’t want to be a sissy.
I didn’t want to be a sissy then and I don’t want to be a sissy now. I desire to embrace it ― embrace myself ― but I still hate it. There’s a mélange of emotions, mostly negative where that word is concerned, that slosh around in my mind. I’m feel like I’m spinning “right round, baby right round like a record…” Somedays the record plays smoothly and other days it skips. Those days are the toughest. I do seem to encounter more moments of acceptance (from others, from myself) than non lately. But I have to keep mustering my courage to reveal myself before I can even begin to see the acceptance. And obviously I’ve still not fully accepted myself. I’m on loop. It’s a vicious cycle. Hence the spinning.
I want to wear eye makeup whenever/wherever I choose. I want to wear high heels whenever/wherever I choose. But I’ve got a serious complex (part of that chip on my shoulder) when it comes to acceptance. I’m finally beginning to understand this. It’s part of my fear; part of what keeps me from getting out of my own way.
Is there a club or group for people like us? Preventor’s Anonymous, maybe?
Me: “Hello, my name is Michael and I stand in my own way.”
Group: “Hello, Michael.”
No matter how many times I present myself to the world, I’m still afraid of the world’s perception of me and its reaction toward me. More specifically I’m afraid of the reaction of gay men. (I know. I need to get over it and stop caring. It’s difficult.) Gay men don’t want to be with women. We are attracted to men. So where does that put me as a gay man who enjoys a bit of makeup and high heels? I am not a woman but I am gender expansive and am far more fem than butch on the spectrum. And don’t even get me started on how the “Masc for Masc” and “No fems” requests/requirements of the residents of Gayville effects a person like me.
There is something about being an effeminate man ― a sissy ― that makes me feel undesirable; not good enough. But not good enough for whom? The person who doesn’t like me because I deviate from his idea of normal? The man who isn’t attracted to me even though he probably wouldn’t be even if I was hella butch? The man in the reflection in the mirror? Ah, maybe he’s the one I’m not good enough for.
Other people, other gay men, can’t matter now. This is my journey. I have to accept myself and explore this side of me. I have to explore it. I have to stop fearing it. I have to face the self-loathing that keeps coming to the surface and say, “Fuck you! You’re weighing me down. I’m moving on from this.” I have to knock the chip off my shoulder. And I most definitely have to stop caring what other people think.
I am a sissy: an effeminate boy or man. By its definition that is clear. And while my courage to be me doesn’t come easy it is coming in small increments every day. Small steps are taken. The skips, while still present, disrupt for shorter periods of time.
I read an article recently in which President Barack Obama said something that struck me, after a little tweaking, would be a good personal mantra: I “reject cynicism, reject fear, [and] summon what’s best in [me].”
I want to be the best man, best sissy, best me, that I can be. I am on a path to understanding myself, accepting myself, and being comfortable in my own skin. No shame. No anger.
My journey continues…