By Billy Brown
After 40 plus years of life I cannot even answer that question for myself. This is my perception on the theory called Equality and mine alone. Growing up in the greater Texarkana area the 70’s and 80’s would have shown me that homosexuality was wrong. That I would burn in hell for just being me. As a child I didn’t know what sexuality was. All I knew was I liked Barbie and when I thought about the future and watched “Days of Our Life” with my grandma I wanted to be a “her.” I didn’t envision myself in a dashing suit standing at the altar waiting for a wife to dance down the aisle. No, I was the dancer walking down the aisle with long flowing lace in every direction. My cousins and I would play pretend and would envision ourselves as the characters from that soap opera and I was always Hope Brady. However, as I grew and became aware of sexuality I realized that the reflection in the mirror was not who I thought I was meant to be.
There I was, a young boy hiding the confusion of a “transgender identity” and never even knowing what any of that meant, until now. I remember that all the kids at school would call me horrible names. I would hear those names my entire life within my own body. Going to church as a kid I would her some of those same names discussed and preached about. How I would burn in hell for being born. How much fear I harbored about being myself. Those same people would say how God doesn’t make mistakes. Yet, there they were calling me a mistake. It would be twenty years later that I would realize that people naturally pick and choose which sins they apply to themselves. In the sixth grade I tried my first of man suicide attempts. The internal conflict of my female soul trapped in a male body was so bloody and damaging that death was what I saw as it’s only solution.
It didn’t help that at the age of 7 I would enter what I now call my loss of innocents from a molestation. That violation corrupted my vision of what love was. Something I am still trying to repair almost 40 years after its occurrence. At the age of 19 I was abducted from a gay bar, held at gunpoint and a pistol barrel shoved down my throat by would be Christians. That was the moment my ability to trust died. So, to cope with life so far in a world full of hate I turned to illegal drugs, around 26. By 27 I had been manipulated into trying meth with a needle and two months later found out that the person had purposely infected me with the virus called HIV. I wasn’t his only victim and even after what I thought were safety measures I was still infected. The man, found dead of an overdose did however, give some closure. I found out he kept a detailed list of who he infected and that he had put his own blood in the water used for making the injections. I dove deeper into drugs. By the age of 30 I finally met someone that I thought would be there the rest of my life. Although, medications and life made me into a body void of any desire and a self-hate I could only describe as the mind of Golem from “Lord of the Rings.”
I hated who I was and who I had become. I hated life and what it meant. I hated people in their limited perception. I hated everything because that is how the world had conditioned me to be. At the age of 40 I became single and had to tell the first person I wanted to date about my HIV status. That is when I learned that even in the gay community I am not equal. That is when I learned what true discrimination was because even my own people wanted nothing to do with me. Then in May 2015 I stood at the foot of my father’s bed and watched him take his last earthly breath. Shortly after a ton of responsibility came crashing in on me and I relapsed into the occasional use of meth. However, seven months later my 18-year-old brother died in a tragic car accident sending me into a bottomless ocean of meth. I didn’t really care because I was happy I didn’t feel the pain life had in store for me and those around me.
Today, I am sober and happiness is there but there are days that it isn’t. I have amazing friends (all straight minus a very few) but even they do not know this entire life I’ve had because to relieve the pain is the ultimate torture on my own fragile existence. To know thyself can be the most difficult hurdle in this short life. As a nontraditional student I have learned that throughout my time here I have stolen from mental disorders a form of coping I call dissociative coping. I have taken something that troubles others and turned it into something that helps me cope for my own sanity. I have learned how to construct mental masks for the world to see however, that seven-year-old boy still exists somewhere inside that just wants to be herself. To be heard and loved for who I am. If she can help even one person in this lifetime, then I will do it even if it cost me my own life.
So for today, I can honestly say that I love myself with all the various masks and scars that adorn my body both mentally and spiritually. I can say that I’ve learned to love myself so well that I no longer seek the love of another because it will forever fall short of how I have learned to love myself. There are still those days that one just wants to hear someone breathing in the night next to them. Or to feel the embrace of love and acceptance from another. However, fear and experience drive me away from such things. The world is already cruel in its randomness that the cruelty of others within the heterosexual community and homosexual community equally can trump the strongest of people. Learning to accept others for who and what they are seems to be something that the human condition has destroyed. Only through loving yourself and loving all those around you as you love yourself will we ever consider each other equal.