This is a follow-on post from Sissy That Walk! If you haven’t already then I recommend reading that, it was my first blog post on here and it was the first time I discussed anything even slightly personal.
I didn’t realise, until recently, how much my parents had shaped who I have become. I knew they have influence and I knew I take traits from them and their parents – the basis of genetics – but I didn’t realise just how much social interaction with a person can change how you behave.
My parents didn’t let me have long hair until I had finished compulsory education. Their reason for this was that they didn’t believe long hair looked neat and presentable and they were trying to raise a child that would go to school looking smart and neat. I took exception to this at the time but there was nothing I could really do about it.
Flash forward a few years.
Nineteen years old, attending University and have shoulder length hair. There was something therapeutic about straightening my hair. It was a nice time that I could listen to music, straighten my hair and actually feel like I was having an influence the way I looked. I was at home one time and going out to meet some friends. I was running late and the hair straightening wasn’t as easy or as relaxing as it had been before because of the time constraints. I asked my dad if he could give me a hand because I couldn’t see the back and it would go a lot quicker than trying to do it myself. He flat out told me “No”. Not rude or obnoxious, just a simple “Nope.” When I asked him why he simply told me “I’m not going to help my son straighten his hair.” And so when I asked that if I were a girl would he help me then? His reply was “Yeah, of course.” Which was basically like him saying “You’re not the son I wanted.” He didn’t have to say those words, that’s what it felt like. And no, he never did straighten my hair.
The reason I bring this up is because I came out to my parents in April of 2015. In April 2016 my workplace was having a non-uniform day as part of their efforts to raise money for a local charity. I was ready to go to work although I was unable to drive myself because my car was being worked on at the garage. So my dad agreed to take me, my mum works just around the corner from where I work so it wasn’t an inconvenience for him. Well, I came down the stairs in my jeans, trainers and Dolly Parton T-shirt – A T-shirt I loved and had bought when I went to see her in concert. It was my first time wearing it and I always liked to convey a little bit of my personality through my clothing when possible. My mum’s reaction was “You’re wearing that?” To which I told her that I was. She replied with “It’s a little bit…” With a hesitation. I didn’t fill in the blanks for her, I wanted her to say it. “Gay.”
And this isn’t the first time in history she has made similar glib and off-the-cuff comments. I bought a T-shirt whilst at University – Nothing fancy, just a black t-shirt with stars on it. Well when I went home to visit I questioned why my new T-shirt hadn’t come back with the rest of my clothes. “Oh” My mum replied. “I thought it was a girl’s t-shirt.” And I never wore the t-shirt again.
I did drag one time at University. It was phenomenal and I loved it. My parents knew I was doing it but they didn’t know at the time that I was gay. (All three of my older brothers had done some sort of drag fancy dress party before so it wasn’t strange that I would do it too). However, when I got home my dress and heels that I had worn suddenly weren’t my clothes anymore. They were my mum’s clothes because I had just worn them for a themed night out, it wasn’t like I was going to keep them. I never saw them again and I still don’t know whether she has them or threw them away. I still miss them, particularly the heels because I have to admit that I love a good pair of heels.
I know why my parents do this too, and that’s possibly the most painful part of it. It’s not bigotry or prejudice, it’s just them wanting to protect me. My mum has said it a whole load of times, “we’re your parents, we don’t want anything bad happening to you” which is a sweet sentiment but it does, when you look at it, sort of make sense that for a long time in my head being gay was a bad thing. Even when I learned to accept that I was gay, I was very careful that I wasn’t going to be “too gay” because that came with negative connotations. I’m still, to this day, very conflicted about what’s in myself and what my family has ingrained into me to be acceptable.
I only write this because I have two nephews – one will be four soon and the other is coming up to eight months – and already I can see the gender norms being enforced on them. It’s not dramatic things, just passing comments like “dresses are for girls” or “those are for little girls, you want the little boy ones”. I dread to think if either of my nephews have any of the same thoughts I do when growing up because they are already being subtly repressed by their parents and grandparents and the binary gender foundations are already being put in place before they even start school.