Each of us is made up of so very many things: all the experiences of our lives, the people we encounter along the way, our reactions to each of those experiences and people in light of our personal outlooks and attitudes. But there are certain things which happen to us which stand out from the rest in helping to shape who we become.
I can think of several pivotal events in my life that have had a profound influence on who I am.
I've often wondered why my sexual orientation is so huge a part of who I am—much larger than probably the majority of other people I know or have encountered. Nearly everything I do or think is somehow related to my being gay. I have always used being gay as a defiance to the arrogance of the straight world. Thinking back, I can trace the roots of my being gay to two events. I'm not sure of the actual importance of the first, but I'm sure it had a definite impact on my attitudes toward females. When I was five years old, I was involved in an incident in which a little girl, in a story too detailed to go into here, inadvertently jumped full-force on my extended left leg while I was lying down, shattering it so badly the bone protruded from the skin. The emotional pain of that event lasted far after my physical recovery. It also contributed to my lifelong hesitance to engage in activities which might cause me physical pain.
A second major factor in my being gay arose from a mental trauma incurred in first or second grade, when a little girl classmate and I played “doctor” and showed each other what was between our legs. The shock and, to me, horror, of that revelation changed my life forever, and while I fully realize how unrealistic, unfair, and downright insulting it may sound to all the wonderful women I have ever known, to this day the very thought of female genitalia makes me physically queasy.
I find this incident a significant contrast to my encounter, within a year or two of the “doctor” incident, with a pedophile who approached me under a bridge near my grandmother's house. I still remember his exact words to this day. Nothing happened; I ran away. But I am intrigued by the fact that I was more fascinated by the approach than repulsed.
Everything in our life is interrelated and interwoven. My sexual orientation firmly established by the time I was six or seven, including sexual experimentation with a male playmate, the second major factor of who I am...my tendency to self deprecation and self loathing...can be traced to an incident somewhere around the time of my encounter with the pedophile. It was mid-summer, and I was in the front yard, probably of my parents' home, happily singing Christmas carols. An adult (I can't recall if it was a man or woman) walked by and said sharply, “This isn't Christmas. Why are you singing Christmas carols in the summer?” And I remember feeling, somehow, utterly humiliated. I have never sung aloud, alone, again.
Self-confidence, a innate gift for many, was never one of mine, and what little I have has always been easily undermined. Even knowing that it was my reactions which did and do more undermining than the perceived cause does not lessen the effect. My dad's threat—which he made when I had pushed him beyond his limits and which he meant only as an admonishment—of sending me to the orphanage to which he himself had been sent for a short period when he was a child totally devastated me, and made me unsure of anything. And when, having left my tricycle on the sidewalk in front of our house when called in to dinner one day, I heard the bell of the tricycle ring while we were eating, and my father, not having heard it, refused to let me go outside to check on it—it had been stolen by the time I did—I became convinced that I was powerless over others.
Silly things. Small things. By themselves insignificant things. But in combination, just as individual drops of rain shape mountains, the incidents and experiences of my life, stirred by my attitudes and responses, and an infinite number of other tiny events have produced the human being I call “me.”