Wednesday, September 7, 2016

If They Knew Then...

Humid late summer nights always make me think back to a short space of my life.

In the summer of 1983, I was preparing for my senior year of high school.  I gave up "crossdressing" in early August of that year, burning all of my female clothes.  A few days later, Sabre, the family dog, died.  I spiraled into a deep depression- my first encounter with the Darkness.

Burger King Spring City.  Same basic shape as back then, but very different.

At the time I was working at Spring City Burger King.  That summer was quite an experience for me there.  You see, that spring, several of the most popular guys at my school were hired there.  I helped train them, as I had over a year's experience.  Guys like Kurt, Jim, Steve, and Scott.

Of course, having the popular guys working at BK meant that the popular girls stopped by the store as well.  I knew all of these people, as my high school class was only 275 students.  But something changed.

They talked to me.  The popular guys spoke to me as an equal.  As a co-worker.  As a friend.  That was a completely new experience for someone used to being invisible to everyone.  And it wasn't just that.

They included me.

You see, on the other side of Royersford, a couple of miles from the store, was a housing development called Mingo, where many of my classmates lived.

On hot, humid nights, we would park at the edge of the development, on Cochise Lane, and walk down, then up a dark street to the Nine Oaks Swim Club, diving into bushes if a car came along.  The swim club was membership only, and was surrounded by a high chain link fence.  In my mind, it was something only rich folks could afford.

However, the fence was shorter in the back, near what I guess was a pump house.  There, it was easily scaled.  And that's what we did.  We'd skirt around some trees, through a parking lot to the fence,  We followed the fence to the back, then we'd jump the fence, strip down to our underwear, and go for a swim.

The Path to Swimming.  There were more trees back then.

We were covered in grease from work, and swimming in the pool washed us off.  (I found out months later, that the grease clogged the pool filters.  Oops.)  Now, usually we would encounter other people already there- classmates and such.  However, many times, we encountered popular girls from the school (usually from the grade below us.)  On those nights, there was often skinny dipping.

It was my first time seeing girls naked in person.

My dysphoria was still strong, especially since I JUST stopped dressing.  Seeing the naked girls aroused desire in me, of course.  I mean, I WAS a teenager.  But it also aroused a different kind of desire: Envy.  I so wanted to BE those girls: Young, and beautiful.

And yes, the popular guys would hook up.  I never saw them have sex there, but I was sure it happened those nights, after we all went our separate ways.

If a car came down the road, we'd freeze.  If it slowed down and turned into the parking lot, we'd jump out of the pool, over the fence, and into the trees behind there.  You know, in case it was a cop.

(I heard that one night late that summer, a group of teens were caught there.  They were arrested for trespassing and possession of marijuana.)

We didn't go every night- only on nights that is was sultry and there were at least three of us closing.  And even then, some nights they had other plans.  To them, it was just another fun activity.  But me?

I lived for those nights.

As the summer bled into fall, those nights came to an end.  Several of the popular guys found jobs at a yogurt place (TCBY?) at the King of Prussia mall.  There they could meet more people.  However, when we went back to school, another strange thing happened.  Those guys- they kept talking to me.  I wasn't shunned.  I was no longer included like I was, as we were no longer coworkers, but they would talk to me in the halls and stuff.

I never forgot that.  I always thought that was so very kind of them.  To this very day, I think so.

A couple weeks after school started, I had an emotional meltdown.  I was fired from BK.  I was devastated.  The job had become my social life as well as my source of income.  About a week later, I was told by former coworkers that if I went into to work and apologized for my behavior (I yelled at a manager) then they would consider taking me back.   I did so, and I was rehired.  I remember shedding tears of joy.  Seriously.

I ended up working there until right after graduation in June of 1984.  After that, I went to work for the Spring City Sewage Plant.  Seriously.

So.  What's the point?

What if my classmates knew the Truth about me back then.  Most of them know by now, especially after the reunion back in 2014.  But what if they knew back in the early 80s?

I was messaging with one of my classmates the other day.  She was one of the popular girls- gorgeous, etc.  She was also extremely nice.  When we spoke.  Which wasn't often.  Different circles and all.

Anyway we were messaging a week or so back, when she sent me the following:  "I recall at our last reunion that many people gravitated to you.  You just have that "it" factor."

I sent back: "As for the gravitation, you are correct, but not due to an "it" factor.  You may recall that I was an outcast back in the day.  No, they gravitated to me because I was the "freak show.""

Still, it was nice of her to think it.

I am happy that many people from my school have matured and were very pleasant to me at the reunion.  But we're all in our late 40s/early 50s now.  Back when we were teens?

A quick history lesson.  1980-84 were the beginning of the "Reagan years" with all that implies.  Conspicuous consumption.  Might makes right.  Liberals are traitors.  Reagan's press secretary, Larry Speakes, on October 15, 1982, made fun of AIDS, and Reagan remained silent for most of his terms.

The All American Male at that time was Sylvester Stallone, first as Rocky, then as Rambo.  Muscle was In.  Even Bruce Springsteen bulked up.  The All American woman was Brooke Shields, or was it Molly Ringwald?  Or... you get the idea.

80s manhood

80s Womanhood

It was far from a safe time for LGBT people, especially for Trans!  My school was VERY rural and conservative.  If someone was even SUSPECTED as being gay, there were beatings.

So if they had known I was trans?  I would've been ostracized at the very least.  Tormented for sure.  I would've been targeted for violence as well.

How do I know all this?  Simple.  I'm not the only transperson from my time.  There was another who transitioned in 1989.  And believe me, I heard what everyone had to say about her.  Loud and clear.  And, to my eternal shame, I was a coward.  I didn't stand up for her as I should have.

What's the point of looking back like this?  It's History- my history.  I'm trying to learn who and what I was so I can continue to grow.

I'm a VERY different person from that scared kid in High School.  I've realized some dreams, and watched others wither and die.

But, as horrible as my life can be, and it is, I am my True Self.  And that's something.

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