According to family legend when I was but two years old, my sister Pam who was around nine or so had a little friend over. They were on the rainbow colored swing set in our back yard when I toddled out in my belly exposing white T-shirt and diaper. “Oh look at you baby brother” said Pam’s little girlfriend “he is so cute”. In response I looked up, pointed my chubby little finger at her and said, “Faggot”. Apparently that night there was a grand inquiry in our house to find out how a precious innocent little baby like yours truly could have learned such a nasty word. Pam broke down and confessed that all the kids were saying it. Apparently I’d known that word since I was two but at the age of ten or eleven I never dreamed it might actually apply to me. Every time I was called fag, I let my subconscious absorb most of the blow. I knew I was being called a nasty word, but I ignored the implications of what that particular word meant. Words like homosexual or gay never entered my head. The only gay person I knew of was my Grandmother’s accompanist. Did I mention my Grandmother was a lounge singer? It seemed normal for me, some Grammas knit; mine sang Tiny Bubbles at the Holiday Inn. The point is as I entered puberty I had no idea that what my body was going through was the same yet different as other boys.
As soon as the sixth grade started I knew I was in real trouble. I started to notice that other than my cousin Sean, I had no friends at school. In my desperation not to be different I even joined the soccer team with disastrous results. Once in the fourth grade after being forcefully coerced to play football at recess, I mistakenly scored a touchdown for the wrong team. Let me tell you something people, little boys don’t let you live that down. The same boys, who acted as if I’d broken into their homes and gunned down their entire family that day, did not want Cooper the Pooper Scooper on their soccer team. They froze me out. I was totally invisible, except to the coach who point blank asked me “why are you even here?” “Good question coach! You think I want to be here? Well think again, tubby! I’d much rather be at home giving Barbie a sweeping up-do, but no, we don’t live in that kind of world do we coach? Way, to nurture children there A-hole” ! A particularly low point came for me when I realized I had been sitting day after day on the bus with a girl who put scratch ‘n sniff stickers in her hair and ate her scabs.
I think the word I would use to describe myself at that age would be effeminate.Not feminine like a dainty flower, but bold and brassy like a pre-teen Liberace. I sang “The Rose”, that’s right folks Bette Midler, I’m sure you are just shocked! It was accepted by most that this was a result of being brought up in a predominately female household. Of course this theory is complete bullshit but for years it was the excuse I clung to. There was nothing wrong with me; I was not going to grow up and become gay. Gay was word that was still hurled at me from time to time, especially when I was in social settings with kids I didn’t know, but the word did not apply to me. I was effeminate. I was not gay. However, the boys I started high school with saw things differently.
Needless to say that most anyone who had ever paid any attention to me growing up would have known that I should never have gone to an all-boys high school. Almost all of my best friends were girls. Personally I wanted to go to the Youth Performing Arts School but was to chicken to really fight for it. I decided, under the pressure of tradition to go to Trinity, an all boys’ catholic high school. There are two major catholic high schools for boys in Louisville, and I was brought up to believe they were my only two options. My mother told me to really think before I made a decision, but it is hard to shake off fourteen years worth of conditioning. Plus I was now operating under a false sense of security. My sisters Renee and Pam had gone to Assumption, an all-girls school. I loved their uniforms. They wore maroon skirts and vests. I always thought they looked just like the uniforms the girls wore on The Facts of Life, which of course was my favorite show. I used to go through my sister’s yearbooks and learn people’s names, and wonder what high school would be like. I still don’t think it has completely sunken in that I will never be going to Assumption. In my head Trinity would be just like it only with boys. On the first day of high school I, like most freshman was apprehensive but excited. My cousin Sean was starting there too, and my cousin Christopher was already going there, At the end of the first day I was certain of one thing. I’d made a horrible mistake. I was terribly uncomfortable around the other boys, not to mention somewhat terrified of the male teachers, all of who reminded me of my dad. I just did not know how to communicate with anyone.
The real trouble stated on day one. I had been teased before, even taunted. One summer when I was twelve I was somehow talked into going to a church camp. I had to share a cabin with four other boys who hardly spoke to me. By the middle of the week I was miserable and after being forced to play kick ball where I was of course chosen last, I sneaked off to daydream in my bunk. When I grabbed my pillow it was wet. My pillow was wet and it smelled. One of the boys had peed on my pillow. Teasing was one thing, but this was an act of hatred, and I had done nothing to merit it. Years later I saw Pee Boy in the mall parking lot and I was more than a little tempted run him down, I even revved the engine a little.
The pillow incident was the first time I felt truly humiliated by another person. I felt it again the moment I started Trinity. The impression I’d grown up with that all boys at Trinity were preppies with their ties and blazers and shiny white teeth was inaccurate. Don’t get me wrong those boys were there but so were others. There were two boys that can only be referred to as redneck yokels who decided right away that I was going to be there victim. These types of mullet sporting guys who I am sure had confederate flags on their El Caminos and loved to go a huntin’ found in me vulnerable prey. They appeared to be in every one of my classes including the unique one of a kind hell that is Freshman P.E. It was a 60 minute nightmare in which these two boys took relentless, giddy delight in the way that I ran. They kept calling out Fag and pointing. I remember how no one came to my aide. No one spoke up, and they were crafty enough as kids can be to do it in a way the teacher never catches it. I knew I was on my own. The taunting continued, so much from these two boys that I couldn’t shake off the more benign insults I was getting from other kids, the kind of harmless ribbing most boys get from their peers. I tried to bear it out, but it was coming at me too fast, I was also falling way behind in my school work too because I could not concentrate. I stopped being able to sleep, I would sneak out of my room every night and watch old cable re-runs, bad infomercials, and VH1 until it was time to get ready for school and I would immediately feel the need to vomit. I only lasted at Trinity for two months and I felt like a failure for not being able to hack it. I was tripped and hit with spitballs and forced to eat lunch alone. Children can be vicious. It’s like they are trained at birth to reject anything they don’t understand. Even kids who are raised to be open-minded could turn on you if that is what the pack decides. Only three months into of my freshman year of high school and I was broken. I was only fourteen and so depressed that my mother took me to a shrink. That was where I got the biggest shock of my life!