The pain of being ejected from the family home after I came out was deep, acute and visceral. A silent alarm went off somewhere around puberty when the scanning eyes of my family and school community which surveilled my adolescence began looking for signs of masculinization.
It was communicated to me through daily admonishments and beatings that I was an embarrassment. I ran away from home at thirteen, for an afternoon and part of an evening. In a panic, I realized I did not know how to erase the incriminating internet history that condemned me as not normal. As one of them.
On my return, after the police had left and a conversation had ensued where my online perusal was not mentioned, my parent asked me the killer question. “Are you sexually attracted to men?” they asked. “No” I lied. “Good” they sighed with audible relief “because I couldn’t see myself saving money for your university education if that was the case.”
Four years later, many hours had been spent watching scandalous films on the lowest volume in the early hours of the morning assuaging my anxiety induced insomnia. Fashion and queerness secretly stacked up in my wardrobe where my desires were barely concealed and the foundational accoutrements of a radical femininity were growing. In one of the heated arguments after my coming out as queer to my parent, they hissed at me: “So what you telling me? You wanna push shit back?”
My possessions were burnt and I left the house without any shoes to escape to Camden where I eked out a life. I slept on the sofas and in the spare rooms of rich white friends who could never understand where I was really coming from. I eventually got a room in a Christian hostel for homeless youth where I met the first trans women I ever knew the name of outside of an episode Jerry Springer. I could finally begin breathing.
I constantly hear parallels in the stories of my sisters. Ashley Breathe of ‘T-Time with the Gurlz’ YouTube fame shared that when her mother found out she was trans her words were: “If you wanna be a bitch, you can be a bitch outside this house.”
Parents shiver, quiver and kill at the thought of their children transgressing gender assignations and/or having queer sex. The Albert Kennedy Trust website cites that here in the UK, 24% of homeless youth identify as LGBT (In the United States, that number is estimated to be 40%) with 77% believing that coming out to their parent was the main factor.
Considering the status quo, the heteronormativity in our communities makes sense:
- Trans girls who police the choices of others are projecting their desire to be that ‘girl next door’. Maybe one day they will just be introduced to their partner’s family as the wonderfully industrious and hard-working woman instead of what Foxx Jazell calls the ‘in house transsexual girlfriend’.
- Gay and bi guys on apps with ‘masc4masc’ emblazoned on their profiles, are doing their best to divorce themselves from the image of the weak faggot; the type they were told to avoid becoming at any cost.
- Lesbians and bisexual women traumatized by abuse and assault throughout their lives expend far too much energy in fighting against their own erasure.
- Trans men have ground their teeth down to jagged plateaus in fear that they may soon be outed as anything but ‘one of the guys’.
- The loneliness and isolation of gender non-conforming folks who are combatting the notion of themselves being an anomalous modern phenomenon is only now receiving the attention it has long deserved.
Parents can still compel some of us to remain closeted and submerge ourselves in a down low life that is physically and mentally destructive to those who have the resilience to withstand such an existence.
Too many die at the hands of a toxic father as Giovanni Melton did recently, or tragically commit suicide like homecoming king Blake Brockington. Countless queer and trans kids fly away from rejection into rootless existences where we fight for our survival in a world that does its very best to make sure we are not accommodated, cared for or valued. The winds of gentrification are destroying the space for the makeshift families we have sought out in urban areas like the Christopher Street piers in New York, the unaffordable areas of Soho in London, the Castro in San Francisco or the Marais in Paris.
Wherever we may be struggling just know that there are ancestral saints looking after us. Mine is Saint Venus Xtravaganza from ‘Paris Is Burning’. No matter what’s in my bank account, whenever the sun hits my melanin, I can hear her whisper “…All of this skin, honey! ALL OF THIS SKIN!”
Kuchenga is a London-based writer, activist, and culture critic. Follow them on Twitter, @kuchengcheng.
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