Root Cause Analysis

Observing pieces of my childhood through the eyes of a father is a brutal experience. Even with all I’ve shared on this site, most of my stories remain untold. Plenty of material left for future creative efforts. In the meantime, I’m digging deep for this final installment. Looking for all those shiny nuggets of emotional damage that contributed to my current and future self. Not long after this episode, I had my eighth birthday party in the same house. A few months after that, my sister and I were watched for the summer by The Monster’s 16-year-old sister. We’ll call her Victoria, though I have no idea what her actual name was. My sister was free to do whatever the hell kids did in 1978 sans supervision. My freedom had conditions.

As soon as Amy headed out to hang with her friends, Vicky had a special game for us to play before I could do the same. We used my small twin bed with the Star Wars bedspread, flipping through Penthouse and Playboy magazines. We’d lay there side-by-side, fully-clothed, and discuss the attributes of the models. She’d ask me if she was as pretty as they were. Of course she was, every inch. Curvy and cute with all the soft femininity my developing sexuality envisioned in my most private thoughts. It wasn’t the first time I looked at those pages and thought of my “aunt” on display instead. That she wanted to play such games with me was both flattering and frightening. I’m well-endowed today, but I couldn’t have been much of a snack at eight.

Nevertheless, the game always led to our clothes slowly coming off and a fairly pedestrian missionary position with me on top and her patient encouragement of my amateurish attempts at replicating the scenes we saw in the magazines. Even as I write this, I’m conflicted because it was a game I enthusiastically played each weekday that summer. I never considered how wrong it was to be abused in such fashion by a teenager twice my age. Why wouldn’t I be thrilled to play? She was beautiful and gentle and the main subject of my sexual fantasies long before she was given the freedom to bring them to life. Literally a dream come true in living color, warm flesh and whispered moans.

The long-term trauma from those three months turned out to be far more damaging to my fragile psyche and uncertain future than the physical abuse I faced at the hands her brother. I could always take a punch.

Being nonbinary has been around as long as humanity itself, but we really didn’t have the language to describe it in this country until relatively recently. Being molested at such a young age almost certainly caused my two spirits to diverge into parallel identities, with my male half taking total control and my female half receding into the background as if she didn’t even exist. I leaned into aggression and anger as my standard response to external triggers. I couldn’t change my physical appearance, so I would be bullied without mercy throughout my childhood for being the smallest and most sensitive kid in class until I dropped out of school my senior year and went to Job Corps in Reno, Nevada. The debasement would continue with only the slightest of pauses.

Beyond embracing the more toxic aspects of my male persona, I lost all ability to speak to girls I found attractive and spent most of the years since devoid of female companionship except for a series of close friends, my sister and my mom. That left me open to increasingly dangerous influences from the male delinquents I often found in my social circle until I joined the Navy at almost 21-years-old, though trading delinquents for misogynists and homophobes wasn’t really an upgrade. The confidence and character I gained in uniform didn’t extend to my love life. I remained alone except for the occasional one-night stand or truncated long-distance relationship that didn’t require anything from me other than the courage to walk away when it got too real.

This wouldn’t change until I met my kid’s mom in 2005.

More than eight years after our separation and divorce (largely driven by my demons) that paradigm hasn’t changed. I’m hopeful my recent understanding and acceptance of my true gender identity will fix that once and for all. It’s already making me more aware of the subtle hints that a woman might be into me. It’s allowed me the freedom to wear clothes I might have otherwise avoided for being too feminine, embracing my skinny genes by wrapping them in skinny jeans and sparkly things and no small amount of pink. The positive response to my style choices has been equally transformative. I actually started dressing that way not long after my kid came out, testing the waters of the forgone conclusion I was already swimming toward.

While the roots and results of my sexual abuse as a little “boy” are fairly typical, the turning point in my journey of discovery and healing definitely aren’t. I mourn for all those lost years and stolen moments, but I couldn’t be happier to finally put it all behind and focus on the fabulous new path stretching out before me.