When I was around eleven, my parents, probably my dad, enrolled me in a Karate school. It was Okinawan style if I remember right. I had been getting beaten up from time to time in middle school, I don’t think there had been a good reason other than my being a fairly perfect victim.
Then again middle school covers some pretty awful ages where boys and girls start to develop, some ahead of others. The big predate on the small and I was still small then, not really hitting puberty in earnest until fourteen.
My experiences in the dojo were not uplifting. I was so passive that the sensei had to tease and taunt me to get me to actually attack. I was not happy, and felt no great sense of accomplishment in doing knuckle push ups on a stone floor.
My dad hung weights on a doorframe and encouraged me to exercise, this wasn’t a much better success. I remember I did exercise some but not enough to make a difference.
In my last year of high school I started the year getting my first ever job working at a local supermarket. We were paid minimum wage, I recall $2 an hour, and the hours were irregular. My pay was confiscated by my parents for college, but I did get to keep the tips I’d earn carrying bags to the cars driven by women to the market. In that era very few men would be found shopping in a grocery. The tips added up, they enabled me to buy my first 35mm SLR camera.
I got to do all the things a clerk gets to do, disgusting jobs like cleaning out the garbage room (on my very first day), unloading trucks and putting away 60 pound cases of milk, and on one of my last days, cleaning the bathrooms. Toward the end we had an assistant manager who was not ok with me, perhaps being college bound, maybe the kind of kid I was. Who knows.
I also got to learn a number of choice Spanish words including the word for homosexual. It’s unclear what the produce guys who called me that were intending, but it sure wasn’t a compliment.
The assistant manager was a dumbass and really came close to hurting us. At closing time we’d mop the floors by hand and this genius mixed clorox and ammonia (never do this) which causes nasty chemicals to be released that are not good for you. Fortunately there was a lot of open space and a good amount of water, nobody was rendered unconscious or worse.
Fortunately the football season ended and I got fired. I suspect the football jocks were a lot more tractable than I was. I was a lot stronger than when I started – it’s amazing what stacking 60 lb crates will do to a young man’s physique over a period of months. Good feelings and bad feelings both. My male pretender liked it, the girl inside did not.
An interesting guy. He worked as a corrections officer for the state of New York, was a ham radio operator and wrote poetry. He wasn’t a simple man. He always valued education and would do about anything to encourage my achievement.
I think he did what he could to make a man of me. It wasn’t a great success, probably because I wasn’t one. A couple of stories to illustrate.
Like a lot of teenage boys I surreptitiously would purchase issues of girlie magazines. Every teenage boy wants to know what naked women look like. One day I left one out and it was “discovered”. I would not be surprised if my mother had long before found my hiding place for them (I have no idea where I hid them now) but there you go.
I was ready to die as my father flipped through the magazine and made some innocuous comment about how the girls did or did not meet his particular tastes and handed the magazine back to me. I suspect given the next story that he was temporarily delighted to find that I wasn’t gay.
But all through high school I had never dated or even talked about any of the girls in my classes. He must have wondered as some time later he drew me aside and explained he understood and was good with people being gay (or perhaps he just mentioned men). Didn’t understand being bi – I suppose he felt one ought to be able to have a definite choice, and that went along with him often viewing things as either black or white.
It never occurred to me at the time that he might have been creating a safe environment for me to come out to him and them.
Of course I then confused him more I suppose when I brought my girlfriend by and slept with her on the living room couch.
I think the most interesting thing is how portents and signs that didn’t necessarily make sense along the way make sense once one has started viewing them through the lens of experience and in some cases like mine with the understanding that I was living a lie in terms of my gender and likely had at least some same sex interest as a young man.
The Jewish culture I grew up with was not accepting of gay people or LGBT people in general. It isn’t surprising to me that I suppressed any interest I might have had in men.
Yet that would nicely explain along with being transgender why I ran into problems both early and a number of years before I came out functioning well in a heterosexual relationship as a man.
Interestingly, shortly after I came out there was a Victoria Secret Fashion Show of 2012 aired. We watched but I noticed that while I could appreciate the attractiveness of the women it didn’t do anything for me. Most men are moved by underwear models, but that wasn’t true for me, which was a pretty interesting discovery.