When I was five, my mom decided it was time for me to go hunting. Perhaps the gun and cowboy boots would knock some machismo into her Barbie-carrying, Madonna-loving, Disney-obsessed son (it didn’t).
I don’t remember a time in my childhood when I didn’t walk on eggshells. My town inhabited the manliest of guys: from football quarterbacks to religious nuts who trained sons to be warriors for God.
My family ranked at the bottom of this construct, not because of our lack of football knowledge, but because everyone knew their son was a fairy.
How can people expect a person to know themselves when they’re too busy knocking them in the head with expectations that aren’t even theirs, but the world’s? Growing up, I was picked on because of my walk or the lack of interest in girls. What I didn’t realize at the time is that my parents were going through the same issues. They’d receive growing concerns from their church group, neighbors, friends, or family members: “I saw David looking at the boys in the park,” or “David said some disturbing things to my son I think you ought to hear,” or “I think you better get him into sports.”
It wasn’t long before mother and father put me in football. I lasted a day. Baseball was next, which lasted a bit longer – three, four days at least. Each and every year, they pushed me towards manly activities expecting me not to question their motives. I loathed every second of it and over time, I started to resent them for it, sometimes on the verge of hatred.
As I got older, the feeling of unworthiness grew. Everything I did came with a price and it was usually at the expense of my wellbeing. I went against what felt normal, what felt natural, what felt safe, for what felt unnatural and completely unsafe. I was force-feeding myself and I resented the world for making me believe I had to. The worst part is it wasn’t until years of reflecting I even knew what was missing – that’s the power of brainwashing.
Most of my young adulthood was spent searching for an identity. I was never given the chance to find it as a child, so the time I could have spent focusing on what I needed to do as a career or in life was spent figuring out who the f**k I was. My parents spent years and thousands of dollars trying to move me in a masculine direction. So much so they failed to introduce themselves to me. I was an outsider, a loner, even in my own home – this followed me into adulthood.
I look around today and see countless of teenage boys reliving my childhood, whose parents refuse to see anything except what’s lacking. Never mind the beauty and value of what he has to offer. If it doesn’t give them parenting points at PTA meetings, they’d rather paint over the cracks to try and deceive the world. Hopefully, it could also deceive their son. It did for me.
For the longest time I thought I was exactly who my parents told me I was because I didn’t have anyone else telling me different. All I had were my feelings. I knew they conflicted with who I was getting forced to be, but there were no supportive voices around that encouraged me to investigate. The only possible result was to either grow the courage to find answers or live a life full of questions.
One day, I looked at myself in the mirror and wept. Track & Field trophies, football posters (which were hung by father), pictures of my girlfriend whom I hated (who was the daughter of mother’s coworker) and jerseys of players I didn’t know were in the background as I fell to my knees and begged God to tell me why I was so unhappy. Why did I feel so restrained? Why was I so unsatisfied? I didn’t what to call it.
I made up my mind from that night onward not to do anything that felt unnatural or constricting for me. The first thing I did was throw away the jerseys, then the picture of my girlfriend. For months and months, more things were trashed or moved. I found that by getting rid of the clutter, my mind become clearer. When the intellectual property of the world was moved, it made room for my intuitive voice to exist. This ultimately became the foundation I used to restructure the opinions I had on myself.
I love my parents because I know it wasn’t their fault. Parents want what’s best for their children, but not in the way we think. They want them to be successful adults in the world, to be secure, independent and moral, all of which, they think, will bring about happiness. What they fail to see is that happiness doesn’t come from independence. Happiness comes from wholeness. Parents try to raise a man who they think will be accepted by the world. That, to them, is the definition of opportunity.
I’m a living example of what happens to a gay man bred to live their parents dream. We all are. Every day, I read stories about parents force-feeding their son lessons of what it means to be masculine, and they fail every time. “Masculine” is a construct society invented to be able to distinguish value. To paraphrase, we use it to gain self-esteem by stealing it from others. When we see an opportunity to gain power, we take it from the vulnerable. This makes vulnerable ones eager to please, eager to gain their power back and eager to find their place in society, which can only be won by learning the trade. Soon, everyone is a prototype of their parent’s vision rather than the person they were meant to become.
It needs to stop now. If you’re a parent, I urge you to think about the type of man or woman you’re raising your child to be. A person who isn’t whole within his or herself will always live a life of searching. Trust me when I say it’s better to let them find their inner compass – when he points one direction you’re in no place to say, “No. This is wrong. Go this way…” He is a designer of the truth, not you. If you refuse him that right, you are doing it at the risk of his destiny.