Happy fiftieth anniversary?
1968 is as memorable a year for me, personally, as it is for the USA, as a nation. It was then that my gender identity issues began.
Fifty years ago.
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A week ago, looking through pictures on my computer, I saw the class photo, below, from when I was in fourth grade. Since school pictures were taken in the autumn, that means I was nine years old at the time.
We lived in Hart, Michigan, having moved there in 1964 from Montague. We would live in Hart just shy of four years, returning to Montague in 1968. This class picture was taken at almost exactly the halfway point of our forty-six months in Hart.
I had just begun second grade when we moved to Hart. I have only a couple of vague memories of Montague before that. My memories of Hart are many and magnificent, resounding in resplendence. I consider them my first memories of life.
So wonderful was 1964-68 that by the time I got into high school I fondly remembered our Hart years as one long vacation. As with the best vacations, there was nothing about those years that I didn’t love. (Well, I was scared witless of the basement of our house. It was a Michigan cellar—dark and musty and cobwebby, with a low ceiling, and because it could only be entered from the backyard I was convinced that escaped criminals were regularly using it as a hideout.)
As with a grand vacation, my memories of the setting, the people I got know, and the events which filled those Hart years all were the stuff which stuff cherished photo albums.
Our neighborhood was loaded with kids. We were always playing baseball or football, fishing in Hart Lake, amusing ourselves with kick the can or hide and seek, going to a movie or riding bikes, sliding down our neighbor’s driveway or skating at the community rink.
I had wonderful pals: Doug and Rhonda, Glenn and Bob, and many more. The typing of these names floods my mind with pictures of some of the places I enjoyed their friendship.
These were the days when school was still a breeze for me. School was easy, so it was as fun as summer vacation.
Ours was a home where our parents gave us plenty of love and affection, provided us with rules and discipline so that we knew the score, with a healthy balance of everything.
I knew my place in our family, among my friends, in school, and in town.
Safe. Content. Joy-filled. Happy. Loved. The list could go on with all of their synonyms and not a one of their antonyms.
If any of my guy pals had told me that he secretly thought he was a girl, I would not have known what to do with that information, just as I did not yet have any clue about same-sex attraction. While I was still young enough to find gross anyone kissing in a romantic manner, I certainly knew that I liked girls in a way different from how I felt about boys.
And I knew that I was a boy. Of course, I was a boy. Girls don’t stand on the hill behind their house and have contests as to who can arc his pee just so, with the most force, to go the farthest down the hill, and find it great fun.
Just before we departed for Montague, there was one thing that happened during those Hart years which did trouble me. Indeed, my memory is so vivid that I recall where I was when I found myself pondering the event a few days after it happened, trying to grasp how it could have happened, remaining terribly troubled by it.
It occurred fifty years ago this June. Bobby Kennedy was shot and killed.
I couldn’t get over it. For days. Then weeks. And months. (Perhaps because it was the first trauma I ever experienced, I feel that I never got over it. I recently watched the Netflix documentary, “Bobby Kennedy for President,” and when they got to the shooting, I cried hard.)
I was six-and-a-half when John Kennedy was killed, a bit too young to feel the impact. I have only one memory from that, when the caisson carried Kennedy’s casket.
Martin Luther King, Jr., had been killed only weeks before Bobby Kennedy, but I don’t recall that having bothered me. Vietnam, turmoil in our country, the political strife of the summer of 1968—none of that landed on me.
But, when Bobby Kennedy was killed, my little brain grew up to adult things, and my little heart felt the loss, and my little life took the first step toward maturity.
Two months later, we left Hart. It was Labor Day weekend.
As we proceeded out of town, we drove by the Oceana County Fairgrounds, where the fair was underway. I had enjoyed the fair a lot. As we drove past, I began to cry. I felt the coming loss.
All of the losses flooded my heart; the entire town and the vacation-life it gave me.
As I began to cry, I recalled how I hadn’t cried when we moved to Hart. Seven-year-old Greg didn’t sense a loss when we left Montague—at least not enough for it to tug at the emotions. Now, eleven-year-old Greg was sad to leave, and wondering if he would pick up in Montague where he left off, with the same friends.
While I would take up with none of the same friends—they had formed new bonds—resuming life in Montague was easy. New friends came quickly. I loved being back in our old house, in our old neighborhood, with the same families and the many kids which filled Wilcox and Sheridan Streets, and Mohawk Court.
Sixth grade began, and soon I took note of two girls in my class. I found them cute and pretty. I liked their clothes and hair and everything about them.
And I wanted to be either one of them.
And thus began the thought, which turned into the dream, which erupted into the nightmare.
“All I want in life is to be a girl.”
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It’s the fiftieth anniversary of the beginning of my questioning my gender.
Might it finally be a thing of the past?