Copyright© 2017 Rebecca Jane
All Rights Reserved.
Author's Note: I know that this isn't something to be read for pleasure, trust me it's hard for me to write. I do hope that sharing this might help someone, anyone... ~Rebecca
Chapter 2-When A Giant Falls
Over the last few years, at least since my transition, I have witnessed and heard many different conversations against someone like myself. They have ranged from, there wasn’t a strong male role model, we weren’t taught properly about God, or even that our parents pushed it upon us by forcing us to play a role against the gender we were born as. On the other side of the argument, from support groups and conversations, I’ve talked to many different transgender people about their varied experiences. Some have claimed they didn’t realize they were different until later in life, while some claim to have known from birth, or anytime in between. The one constant I’ve found is that all of our experiences, while similar, are still very different. I would like to be able to say that I came out of my mothers womb proudly proclaiming, “I am a girl!”, while that would make this much more entertaining to read, that’s not how it happened. There wasn’t anything in my early life that would give reason, or indication, to why I was different. My life back then, was mundanely normal, boring even.
I think that when we get older and look back at our lives, we are able to see things with much more clarity than we had then. I know now, that we were poor, and I don’t mean that we had to limit our eating out to one night a week poor. I mean the kind of poor that most would relate to the epitome of ‘poor white trash’. A small example is that I know now, that my parents would skip meals just so I wouldn’t have to, and often would send me to my aunts to eat simply because there was no food in our own kitchen. Years later, my Mom would tell me that there were times they were severely afraid that I might be taken away, simply because they struggled so hard to support me.
I was raised in an old trailer on family land that had been passed down for seven generations. The plot our trailer sat on wasn’t even directly ours, the land left to my Dad was not accessible, so my parents had parked our trailer on land that belonged to one of my aunts. With my Dad being a disabled war veteran from the US Army, he was unable to keep sustainable employment. My Mom was almost our only source of income, a medical secretary who was keeping our little family alive the best that she could. My Dad with his struggles, while it wasn’t diagnosed back then, would have made him a strong candidate for PTSD, at least from what my mother had finally confided to me. He had seen or done more than he could cope with when he was in Korea. Since his discharge and up to my birth, he had struggled with alcohol and nightmares but had found his salvation in his strong religious beliefs. His saving grace was that he had become a minister. He even had a church long before I had been born, but had given that up to became a traveling minister, speaking at different churches several times a month by the time I came along. My mother also had a strong faith, and how she received her strength was through music. I also credit her for my love of music, since I joke that since she was a choir director, that I have been attending choir practice since before I was born. Literally..
Even with the struggles that I know about now, my memories tell me otherwise. I don’t remember struggles, I remember having two parents who loved me, and showed it all the time. I didn’t remember a dad struggling with issues so bad he couldn’t hold a job, or a mom who was struggling so hard to hold it together that she cried almost every night. I don’t remember being upset at not having new name brand cloths, or seeing my parents feed me without eating themselves.
I remember having a dad who was there… I remember a mom who kept me fed, and in clean clothes… I didn’t know or care if they were thrift or hand me downs. I remember being loved, and safe with my parents. The way I remember things, my life was full. Over flowingly full most of the time.
Since my dad wasn’t employed, I remember that from the moment I woke up, and until I went to bed, he was always there, and I had become his little shadow. I had even been named Robert after him, so we were Bob and lil Robbie wherever we went. With his gifts and skills of mechanical and electrical repair of just about everything, he did odd jobs for the community, often doing the work for free just to help others, but occasionally those he helped were able to pay him. With the large parcel of family land, he also farmed, which meant that when mom was at work, I farmed too. Some of my best memories were spent in those fields. Especially those when he would shut off the tractor, an ancient 1942 International that only he could keep running, and we would sit in the field while he would break open a watermelon over his knee. Sitting there with Dad, both of us covered in sticky watermelon juice, is something I will hold dear to me for my entire life. Even though I’ve eaten hundreds of watermelons since, I can honestly say that I’ve never had one that ever tasted as sweet as those that we ate in that field. While Dad was tall, he was also slight of frame, and due to working in the field he was in good shape. All I knew was that my Dad was my hero, he was the strongest, friendliest, and funniest dad in the world.
My mom, even though she worked every day, was just as important in my life. With her directing music in the church, I was well grounded in the First Cumberland Presbyterian church as a child. She also gave me a strong love of music, that lives on to this day. Even though I was my Dad’s shadow, I took after my mom, with her wit, her humor, and her dedication to family. She was just as strong as my dad, maybe not physically but in other ways. She never would let me know just how difficult things were until much later, but always reinforced that I was loved and cared for.
That was how the earliest years in my life were spent. There were no markers that could lead to suggest that I was different or anything that could be argued as causation for it either. My life was simply going to church, helping my Dad farm, and just being a young child. Another great point in my life was that I had an Aunt that lived just down the road from us, with two of her four children. Whenever I wasn’t with either Dad or Mom, I spent time with my cousins. The two still at home, were Scott and Susan, both only a few years older than myself. While Susie was closer to my age, I spent more time with her than Scott, mostly because with the larger age gap, I was his ‘annoying little cousin’. That being said, yes, I would play with her and her dolls, but she would also play with me and my cars and Star Wars stuff. We also spent a lot of our time racing through the woods, fishing, flying kites, and even gorging ourselves with my aunts fruit trees until we’d make ourselves sick. I honestly didn’t know or understand any difference between “men” or “women” then, I was just a child and all those thoughts never surfaced… At least until I started kindergarten when I was five… It was then, that I started noticing the differences, however slight and barely perceptible. I’m not talking about how girls and boys dressed, that was superficial. The thing that struck me the most was how they interacted with each other. Until then, the only kids I had been around were my cousins, my moms boss’s children, or the children at church.
At first it was fun for me to be around so many other kids, but slowly I’d always find I’d gravitate towards the girls during recess. They were just more interesting, and fun to be around. The teachers would always try to push me back to playing with the boys, but the games they would play would always be very physical and at the time I was much smaller than the other boys. That ended up with me always being picked last for teams, and because I couldn’t keep up they would start becoming mean. While the bullying started out very slight in kindergarten, it was still there. The phrases, “Boys don’t cry”, and “Man up” had already started being used by the grown ups around me. I’d try my best to try to fit in with the rest of the boys, but I’d always end up being pushed down and teased to the point I’d cry. That only made things worse, not only with the boys, but my teachers as well, as they kept trying to reinforce “grow up and learn how to grow up to be a man” mentality. I tried to, I mean my Dad was my hero, I wanted more than anything to grow up and be just like him. I really did.
The girls though were much nicer to me. They wouldn’t tease me after I had ended up crying after the boys would ‘punish’ me for being ‘like a girl’. They’d actually invite me to play with them, either jumping rope, or hopscotch, or any other game they were playing. I’ve learned that later that girls can be just as mean, if not more so, than boys, but it was here where I noticed the difference in how they acted with each other. While yes, if one of the girls tripped while jumping rope, or messed up in any way, they would still get teased. Unlike the boys though, the teasing wasn’t mean, they would then encourage them to try again…
That’s how my experience started, as a small five year old, constantly teased and bullied for being a ‘crybaby’ or being a ‘girl’. I found the insult of being called a ‘girl’ was hurting me less and less, with the way the girls accepted me, not as a boy or a girly boy… They just accepted me as me, and they are who I wanted to be around. The divide between the boy’s and the girl’s grew slowly throughout kindergarten, but I didn’t care. I had my group of female friends, and while I got picked on by the boys, the girls liked having me play with them. That’s how it continued until 1st grade started.
Somewhere between the ages of five and six, the idea of boys being ‘icky’ had started to form with the girls. Maybe it was the conditioning they had to go through, just as I was being conditioned to be a boy. Regardless of the cause, by the time that 1st grade started, I was still a target of ridicule by the boys, and for the first time the girls started rejecting me… Only because I was an ‘icky’ boy… Nothing I tried to do helped, all I could do was sit and watch from the sidelines. Knowing I was supposed to be a boy, I still tried to fit in with them without any luck. Every time I tried only ended up with more ridicule and bullying. I just didn’t understand why they acted like they did, and trust me I tried.
It was during this time, that I told Susie how badly things were going, and how much I hated being a boy and having to try to fit in with them. In our young ages, six and seven respectively, the simple answer was if I was a girl then I wouldn’t have to play with the boys anymore. It was then, that after ‘borrowing’ some of my cousins clothes that Rebecca was discovered. Susie started treating me then like I was simply a girl now and I remember how freeing it felt to not have to ‘be a boy’. We didn’t tell either of our parents about this, for some reason we knew we had to keep it a secret.
For the next year, even though I had to deal with the rejection and harassment at school, whenever I was alone with Susie, I could just be Rebecca. Most of the time, It didn’t even require me to change out of my boy clothes or anything, I just simply was ‘her’ when I was alone with my cousin. It wasn’t perfect, but it helped enough that I could deal with school and being treated like I was. Then came the summer and I was spending a lot more time with Susie, until one day my Mom had come hope early to pick me up from my Aunt’s and found us playing with makeup. She became livid, not only at me, but my cousin and my Aunt for letting it happen. My aunt tried to tell her we were just playing, and it was no big deal, but my Mom didn’t see it that way. I was forbidden to spend much time with Susie or even to go over to my Aunt’s without either Mom or Dad with me. The reinforcement that God made me a boy became so much stronger at home, and I started feeling more and more lost. The sense of wrongness and being corrected all the time to be a boy just grew as I started 2nd grade.
My memories are a bit faded at this point, I think that my mind blocked out most of it trying to protect myself. I do know that my entire world stopped on that day in August 1980. While my mom was still mad at them, It had been long enough at that point, that my cousins were allowed to come over to our trailer and it was there playing on our front porch, when I remembered my Aunt having to rush my Dad to the hospital. He had collapsed in the field and couldn’t be revived. I was left there with Susie and Scott until my Mom came to get me several hours later, the whole time not knowing what was happening.
I know that my Dad never regained consciousness. He suffered a heat stroke while working in the field, and collapsed. I have no actual memory of that or the next several days, I don’t even remember when mom told me that he had died. She had told me how withdrawn I became, and had shut everyone out but Susie. I have no recollection from that moment until the day of his funeral. His funeral sticks out in my memory from the loud report of the rifles, as soldiers gave the twenty one gun salute to a fallen brother. It was that day that a little seven year old boy had to say goodbye to his Dad, his hero, someone who he had thought was immortal, that has been etched into my memory. It was the percussion of the rifles reverberating through my small body that forever etched that memory, on the day we laid a giant to rest.
To be continued as often as I can.
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