My Gender Identity: Part 9 (Exploring My Childhood)

TRIGGER WARNING:

Sexual, emotional, and psychological abuse.

Only read this if it is safe for you to do so.


Keeping a child alive to adulthood is the bare minimum of parenting—the “participation trophy” of parenthood, you could say. Perhaps because of my own upbringing, I realize how much actual effort it takes to raise a kid. And that’s part of the reason I never had any of my own. So let’s talk about my childhood, Internet, and how it might play a part in my identity.

My mother would always deflect any questions about herself by saying we’d read about it when she wrote a book about her life. This was usually after she’d say something like, “You don’t know what I’ve been through!” to us when I’d call her out on her behavior—to which I’d say, “Well, tell me!” Funny now that I’m actually writing all these blog posts about my life. Looks like I got there first, Ma.

This type of deflection matches a lot of my mother’s other personality traits and beliefs. Growing up, there was no way my brother or I could have had any kind of mental illnesses. “Mind over matter” was one of her favorite catchphrases. We didn’t talk about our feelings, as I learned from a very young age. Which was odd, considering she constantly said, “You can come to me about anything. You can tell me anything.”

Yet when I told her about my molestation when I was ten, I was told to “go back to sleep”. (She later handled it. Poorly, but she did remove the abuser from our lives.) I’m not saying all this to condemn her or paint her as evil. I used to be angry, but I’m not anymore. I’m just kinda sad about it, I guess. She has lived her entire life in this negative, bottle-it-all-up state and I can only imagine how that has impacted her quality of life all these years.

But I am angry for myself. Because her mental illness affected my quality of life. I lived by her example well into my late twenties without even realizing it. I still have a lot to unlearn from her example, to be honest. One of the most prominent unhealthy habits I carry from my childhood? “When the going gets tough, take a nap.” My mom used to sleep constantly. And now I do, too. I just sleep to escape all of my problems. Yes, I logically know they’ll still be there when I wake up. But that’s the only way I know how to get relief. (It could have been alcohol, guys. She was an alcoholic, too.)

Not being able to talk to anyone about my problems also made a huge impact on me well into my adulthood. No therapist to talk to, because my mom refused to believe her kids needed one. No mother to talk to, because she never really listened. And if she did, she’d use it against you when she was angry. There was no trust between us, that’s for sure. (I actually told my friend about my molestation before I told my mother, if that tells you anything. Fifth grade. But my friend freaked out and wanted to tell someone, so I told her I lied.) My mother once even threw my molestation into my face when she was angry with me. I’ll spare you her exact words, but just know she insinuated it was something I wanted.

I had my baby brother, but honestly I felt more of a parental responsibility for my brother. Too much to talk to him about my own issues and burden him with that when he should have been growing up. Obviously, I wasn’t the best “parent” to my brother, as I was a child, but I did my best nonetheless.

To put it in perspective, I didn’t talk to my mother about what she felt about me concerning my molestation until I was eighteen. And even then, it wasn’t a serious heart to heart. I didn’t have anyone to speak with about that trauma until I moved in with my sister when I was nineteen. With her help, I was finally able to move past that trauma and process it. Finally, that huge wall wasn’t up anymore and I was able to explore who I was in a safe environment. I started deconstructing everything I was raised to believe, not because my sister pushed me to do that or anything. But because I finally had someone in my corner I knew would never use my confidence in them to hurt me when they were angry. I had my first safe and secure relationship with someone in my family who was older. Someone who could be a real parent to me.

My mother is pissed.

This was the turning point for my entire life, in my opinion. If I hadn’t had that experience with my sister, I wouldn’t have felt safe enough to explore who I was and my place in the world. She gave me support and security. Knowing she wouldn’t abandon me or that her feelings wouldn’t change no matter what I believed or who I became was paramount in not only my recovery, but in me finding myself.

I converted from Christianity to paganism in my mid-twenties and, though she is very much a Christian, we survived the change. Did we argue about it occasionally? Yes. There was even one blowout argument about it. But guess what she didn’t do? She didn’t use one goddamn personal thing against me in any of our disagreements. Not once. She never said she never wanted to see me again. She never said I was going to hell. She never said anything that could deeply and irrevocably hurt me. That might sound like common fucking sense when you love another person, but it wasn’t my truth growing up. (Holy hell, I’m legit crying while writing this. I love my sister. Thank god for my beautiful, caring sister.)

Alright, I’m calm again. Phew! Anyway, as much as my mother likes to say things like… Well, here’s a Facebook message from her from when I told her I was trans last year:

how does [sister] feel about this man thing sence u refur to her as ur only family ===hummm what i thought bright fast track life ruined ur mind and half ass people agged u on see why i was strict on y,all growing up shit like this would not have happened if u was with me

My Christian mother, everyone. “Half ass people” egged me on, you see. She doesn’t get it. My sister never encouraged me to be gay or promiscuous or trans or pagan or any of those things. In fact, she is the complete opposite of all those things and even disagrees with my beliefs at times. But she still loves me. She still accepts me. (Shit, crying again. God, I love her.) My mom likes to think her “strict” parenting kept me on the straight and narrow, but all it did was give me deep-seated issues that stunted my development and keeps my therapists in business.

What my sister did was create a safe, secure environment for me to be anything or anyone I wanted to be. Something my mother always told me, but never put into practice. “You can do anything you set your mind to,” was something my mother always told me. Yet when I tried to be a writer as a teenager… We were an impoverished family, first of all. So during one of these low financial periods, I told her that if my book were to get picked up by a publisher, I could make a $5000 advance. I was a child, everyone. And I didn’t know much about publishing at the time, as much as I thought I did. But I had told my mother this and, in the face of our eviction at that time, she said in a complete rage, “Whatever happened to that five-thousand dollars you said you were going to get?”

Never fucking do this to a kid. Not fucking ever. It made me feel like a failure in so many ways. I couldn’t be a writer who made money from their writing? I couldn’t provide for my family? I let everyone down with my stupid dream. That’s how I felt. So, no, mother. I don’t especially care about your opinion now that I’m 32. Chew glass.

Oh, and might as well share this message from mommy dearest while we’re at it. This was also at the same time I told her I was trans:

GOD WILL STOP UR BOOK SELLING AND JOBS WILL GET HARD FOR U UNTILL U COME TO UR SENCES SORRY TOUGH LOVE HAS TO BE GOOD BY

Huh. Funny enough, God didn’t seem to give a shit that I was trans. And I’m about to close on two real estate deals that will just about clear that $5000 you were so keen on, mother. AND my book is still selling just fine! Better than I thought it would as a debut, honestly. (To piss off my mom, feel free to pick up your copy of my book here. Lol) Also, remember when I said:

I’m not saying all this to condemn her or paint her as evil. I used to be angry, but I’m not anymore.

That didn’t age well…

Fuck. Okay. The point of this post is to explore my childhood in relation to its impact on my gender identity. As you can see from the above, I did not have a stable, secure, safe place to explore who I was. For all of my childhood and most of my twenties, I was in survival mode. Money, money, money! You could lose everything at any point! “Don’t live beyond your means” was a constant chant in my childhood. People who were doing well were “living high on the hog” and that was a bad thing. The message I received all throughout my childhood was: “Live as cheaply as you possibly can. Don’t want more for yourself.”

And I lived that way. The cheapest housing, the cheapest food, the cheapest phone, the cheapest everything. A new laptop? Why would I go buy a new laptop when this one still works? Yes, it’s six years old and the battery is bad, so I have to keep it plugged in, but it still works! Why should I buy a $600 phone when this $200 phone with the cracked screen still makes and receives calls/texts? Yeah, I have to delete an app and most of my photos to download a new app, but it’s fine. Why should I try to rent my own apartment or purchase a home for myself? I should just rent rooms from Craigslist for $300-$400. All I need is a place to exist, after all. Never mind how unsafe the roommates might be or that I don’t have enough room to turn around.

I bought a new laptop a couple years ago, guys. Relax. And I’m buying a $600 phone this year, because I’m a real estate agent and I need a lot of apps. I’m going to buy a home for myself this year, too. I deserve more. I deserve everything. I work hard, always have. I chose the most bottom of the barrel jobs all my life, because I didn’t think I was worth more than that. I’ve continued the pattern of poverty I was raised to believe was the only way all my life.

Not anymore. It ends now. This year.

My mother thinks having more than the bare minimum makes her children “highfalutin” (it means “pretentious”, I’ve just learned) or higher-than-thou. She doesn’t appreciate my sister because my sister is successful. My mother wanted children that stayed as low as she is so that they would never leave her. That’s what I believe. But children are meant to grow up and leave and become their own people. If you’re a good parent, they come back and spend time with you when you’re old and your teeth are falling out of your head. But you weren’t a good parent, mother. Not when I was a child and not now that I’m an adult.

My relationship with my mother and the home life I experienced as a child is why I never knew I was trans as a kid. It’s hard to think about being gay or trans when you’re trying to help your mother figure out which distant acquaintance our whole family can move in with rent-free. It’s compounded further in a strict Christian upbringing where sex, gayness, and transness is constantly painted in a negative or perverse light. “That doesn’t look right,” I remember my mother saying when I was wrestling with the boys at twelve years old. I didn’t think of it as anything sexual, but she sexualized that experience. And sex was bad. Sex was dirty.

When I was fifteen and had my first boyfriend, I legitimately fled when he French-kissed me. Partly due to my sexual trauma as a child and partly due to “sex is bad!” all through my childhood. I didn’t lose my virginity until I was 26 and it was a one-night stand in the front seat of my car on a busy street. On purpose. I went out that night with those exact plans in mind. I was done “cherishing” my virginity at that point, having spent time deconstructing my negative connotations with sex. I wasn’t Christian by that time, either, which helped me throw out all the “sinful” ideas about sex.

In our house, gay people were spoken about in hushed voices. They were shameful people. I remember walking through town with a friend once and she said as we passed a house, “Lesbians live there.” Lesbians were apparently very bad. I didn’t see the problem, personally, but I knew from the tone the reaction that was expected. I also knew I couldn’t have a good life in my home or in these towns without parroting the beliefs of those around me. I never said anything bad about gay people, myself, but I also never spoke up when someone else said something bad about them. Because what if they thought I was gay, too?

Now I’m just like, “Hey, bitches, who likes butt stuff???” Lol

So this is why I never knew I was trans growing up. For a long time after I came out as trans, I struggled with the fact that most trans people knew they were trans from a young age—six or seven years old in most cases. If I was trans, shouldn’t I have known it way earlier than 31 years old?

And now I know, to put it simply, that I just had a lot more pressing shit going on when I was a kid. That helps me combat that doubt about my gender identity. That helps me move past yet another trauma and process it, too. My childhood is not my fault. I was a child. It’s hard when you’re eighteen or nineteen to think all of that wasn’t your fault, because you don’t realize how young you were. It’s hard at fifteen to not think you should have been more mature at ten years old to stop your own molestation.

As kids or as new adults, we think we are more mature than we actually are. “I’m not a little kid anymore! I’m not a child!” We truly believe that when we say it as kids. But we aren’t that mature, I can tell you that from my high up place of 32. We were still too young to understand when we were being manipulated or used or abused. We didn’t know. Read that as many times as you need to. Even if you thought you knew, you didn’t truly understand. You were too young to know the weight of your actions or the actions of those around you.

At 32, I know I was a child back then. Yes, I knew being naked with a grown ass man was bad, but I just thought I was getting away with something. I was being sneaky. Isn’t this fun, keeping a secret from mother? That’s how I thought. It was a child’s thinking. I know that none of it was my fault. I know all of my childhood—not just the sexual trauma—was not my fault and that my mother failed me. She failed herself, too, by not seeking out therapy for herself when she so desperately needed it. Her parents failed her by raising her the way they did and giving her some of the same deep-rooted emotional issues I now struggle with today.

We’re all victims. But we can all be our own champions, too. We can get help when we need it. We can stop being so hard on ourselves for being children without access to the tools and skills we now have as adults.

So, hello, Internet. My name is Luke Evans. I’m 32 years old, my childhood was a nightmare, and I’m a gay trans man who practices witchcraft. May this blog post give you the strength to process your own traumas and live your most authentic self.

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