Tag Archive | Parenting

The Blood I Cried

Want to read the whole story? Well, now you can! For a limited time (until June 15), Dancing in Hellfire is finally available for sale, for only $3.49. You can buy it here, through this very site, using PayPal or a typical credit/debit card (payment is processed by PayPal, so I don’t see the info), after which you’ll be given access to the book as both a PDF and an ePub.

Introduction

Whether being four years old and watching one of my parents’ friends shoot up peanut butter on our couch and dying before my eyes; whether being effectively kidnapped at the age of eight by my meth-addicted mother and forced to endure a summer of being too poor to buy food, with our water turned off due to non-payment, and with mom being beaten mercilessly by a violent alcoholic; whether coming to terms with her disappearance like something out of a murder mystery show; or whether being transgender in the midst of all of this and trying desperately to come to terms with it while surrounded by a fundamentalist Christian family that forced me to not merely repress who I was but also to forget who I was, I have seen a great deal of tragedy.

It’s strangely easy to forget how devastating all of this must truly have been, even as I was the one who experienced it, because it’s easy to forget how it truly felt to lie awake, crying and listening to the sounds of shattering glass as my mother was thrown brutally through windows. It’s easy to forget how angry I have the right to be at my father and grandmother, for forcing me to oppress myself and attempting to turn me into something that I am not.

Today I am a transgender woman and resident of the state of Mississippi. This is as frustrating, difficult, and dangerous as one would expect, but I survive, and I roll with the punches. I have no choice, just as I had no choice those early mornings as I bore witness to horrific domestic violence.

So this is my story–a story of how low human depravity can sink, but also how the human spirit can stand resilient and refuse to surrender. However, I know that I am one of the lucky ones. The majority of people who endure such childhood trauma, and who are forced by religiously oppressive authorities to repress their own natures, are not so fortunate. Most of the former lose themselves in a sea of drugs that allow them to forget, while the latter often lose themselves to the blade of a razor. Yet I know, because I have lived it, that we can survive the struggles–and not merely survive, but become stronger through them.

Where to begin, in this sordid tale of devils and demons?

My family is exactly what one would expect of a north Mississippi lower middle class / upper lower class white Christian family; it was only a few years ago that I first heard the acronym WASP, but I have to admit: aside from its redundancy, there is no more apt description of my family. They are almost stereotypical in how typical they are of an ordinary white fundamentalist Christian family from the southern United States.

Everyone in Mississippi isn’t like that, however, which is a point I’ve tried to stress in the past: Mississippi does contain many people like myself. As a friend recently put it, “We grew up in an area that is run-down, poor, and stupid, over all, where most of the populace is indoctrinated by religious nonsense to the point where they can’t even recognize rational thought. We pushed through what it takes to fit in here, and we defined ourselves. That’s something to embrace and be proud of.”

My friends and I have reached the end of a long and grueling journey that was filled with adversity and people who would use any means at their disposal—terrorism, fear, violence, and coercion—to bend us to their wills, and we’ve looked back at the paths we traveled and rejoiced that we survived and stayed true to ourselves. Friends are priceless when one is transgender in a family full of fundamentalist Christians.

Both of my paternal grandparents would reject me entirely—they do not yet know, and they will be among the last to know, since I see them only a few times a year. “You don’t know how they’ll react,” I’ve had people tell me. “Give them a chance. Sometimes people surprise you.”

With all due respect, those allies and friends have no idea the type of people we’re really dealing with. My Mississippian friends know better, too; they know that there is no chance that my family will ever welcome me at Christmas dinner as a female. When my grandfather (who, for the record, is on his tenth or eleventh wife) learned that my sister was living with her boyfriend, he wrote her a lengthy letter, wherein he quoted Biblical passages and called her a whore. When my grandmother found girls’ clothes hidden between my mattresses, she wanted to send me to a foster home and asserted that she would not have that in her house. If they had thought I was gay, they would have sent me to one of those awful “pray the gay away” camps.

This isn’t to say that I’m perfect, and acknowledging my own faults and mistakes will be the most difficult part of writing this. I have made plenty of mistakes and stupid decisions that brought people around me severe difficulty and hardship, particularly regarding past relationships.

My memory is also not perfect, and I am likely to make mistakes, and, given that some of the information comes from extremely unreliable sources (like my father), some of that can’t really be helped. It doesn’t matter, though. The point of this is to show how awful parenting shaped me, and the countless lies that my dad told me are part of that. I strive for honesty, integrity, and sincerity in all things. Consider this my vow that everything within is, to the best of my knowledge, the unaltered truth, except that names have been changed.

South Pontotoc

I was born premature, thankfully, since the umbilical cord had wrapped around my throat and I was choking to death. This was surely a result of my mother’s cigarette smoking and eating painkillers while pregnant. My father insists that she didn’t do drugs while she carried us, but… Yeah, she did.

I certainly don’t remember my birth, but I do remember some things from shortly after my birth. Though my family says there is no way I could remember it, my introduction to the world came with overwhelming confusion: I was in some sort of cradle, and the back of my right hand hurt because a number of needles and tubes penetrated my flesh. The details are blurry and fuzzy, as one would expect from such early memories, but the needles burned and itched. They irritated me, and I wanted them out. I was afraid and confused, with no idea why these things penetrated my hand and no understanding of what was going on. I knew only that I was hurting and helpless to do anything about it.

Confusion—pure confusion. I didn’t even have a sense of self. I had no idea that I existed, that I was a baby in a hospital, and that I was a being. I could feel the needles in the back of my hand, and they hurt. The pain, however, was not unbearable, and wasn’t the main facet of that moment. It was confusion. I was not afraid—I didn’t have enough self-awareness for the confusion to make me scared. I simply knew nothing. I was a blank slate, onto which was being written reality in the ink of experience. I didn’t even know that I was a blank slate. I knew only that I hurt, and that I was confused. I was not in the arms of a loving mother whose warmth brought me comfort. I did not stare up and into the eyes of a nurse who was delighted to see a baby growing healthier by the hour. I was not being cooed by an older brother, or rocked in the cradle while a loving grandparent read a story. I was alone and hurting in a room bathed in fluorescent light.

That was my first experience with the world. That was how I was introduced to the universe—in the sterilizing, emotionless light of an empty hospital room, not the gentle and soothing light of a home. I heard the beeps and sounds of monitoring equipment, not the joyous laughter of a loving family. I lie alone in a hospital contraption with the shrill, uncomfortable hospital sheets, not wrapped in a blanket and the arms of a doting mother.

And the worst part—the indisputable worst part—is that I remember this.

The first few years of my life were probably normal, about what anyone would expect from a southern, lower middle class white family that subsisted more on the successes of previous generations than the merits of its own. There were some oddities, though, and signs even then of who I really was, but it was the mid-80s. It wouldn’t really be fair to blame my parents for not recognizing and embracing that I was transgender.

Of course, I was born male, “with a penis and everything.” But whenever all of my underwear was dirty, my mother would put me in my sister’s panties; it wasn’t a punishment, to clarify. Being the clever child that I was, I began hiding all of my underwear, just so that I could tell my mom that I didn’t have any, and so that I could wear panties instead. Somewhere around three years old, I took all of my underwear and threw them into the back of a closet that no one ever opened, and then I reported to my mother that, strangely, all of my underwear was suddenly gone.

So when I say that I’ve been transgender since birth, it’s as close to “since birth” as one can get. I couldn’t have been older than three years old at that point, because my sister hadn’t begun kindergarten herself. I knew then that I preferred women to men: I loved my mother and sister, and, even at that age, I had a deep appreciation for feminine beauty. I also thought that my Aunt Diane was the most beautiful woman I’d ever seen, and my mother used to make fun of me for my enamorment with my aunt.

My experience with men at this point was limited to my father (who was fat and not overly pleasant to look at), my brother (who was thin, but who had nothing on my mother), my grandfather (who was also overweight, and a jerk), and my Uncle Danny (who has always been an asshole). Although it’s typical for young boys to love their mothers, I wanted to be just like mine, and I suspect that had a lot to do it with, but who can say? I was three when it began, and I simply wanted to be a girl.

I had a blanket (what most people would call a “blankie,” though I never called it that), and it was one of those cotton-threaded ones similar to fishnet. I refused to sleep without it and my pillow. The pillow actually wasn’t that important, but the pillowcase certainly was. I rubbed the pillowcase between my finger and thumbnail, sleeping on the central heating vents in the floor and driving my father crazy with all of it.

A Look at My Father

I would love to say that my father isn’t a bad man.

But he is.

That’s a difficult thing to say and accept, but I have to stress that it doesn’t really make me love him any less, and that the dominant emotion I have for my father is pity. Even so, I would be lying if I said that he was a good man who simply made some mistakes; that isn’t the case at all. He’s a bad man who has made some good decisions, not a good man who has made a few bad ones.

His own childhood was no walk in the park, damaged by my alcoholic and abusive grandfather beating the hell out of my grandmother. Though not much of that has been shared with me, I can certainly relate to what he has said, and it’s clear the recollections are as painful to him as it is for me to recall the abuse my mother endured at the hands of alcoholics.

At some point, my grandparents divorced—Go, grandma!—because my grandmother wouldn’t put up with the abuse. My grandmother is easily worthy of her own story, because she is an unsung hero of the feminist movement without even trying. In the sixties and seventies, she left her violent husband and blazed her own path in Mississippi, won the house in the divorce, and then worked at a college until she retired at the age of 67.

True to the family history, my grandmother endured her own screwed up childhood, and was even sent away by her mother to live with Uncle Bill and Aunt Edna on their farm. Evidently, Aunt Edna didn’t like my grandmother one bit, and was very unkind to her. What internal strength caused my grandmother, in what must have been the 40s, to graduate as the valedictorian of her class? What quiet resolve allowed my grandmother to learn the necessary skills to work in the administration section of a college during the 60s?

These are questions to which I would love answers, but I’ll never have them, because they are not things that my grandmother is willing to discuss. Questions about her past are met with short answers, and I can’t blame her for not wanting to talk about it.

On one particular drunken rampage, my father held a gun on my grandfather so that my grandmother could limp out of the house. While I truly hate that he had to do such a thing in the first place, I’m also jealous that he was old enough to do something about it. When my mother suffered under Everett’s hands, I was in the second grade, and too young and weak to do anything to intervene.

For years, my father insisted that he was drafted to Vietnam, and he even talked about how he was called a murderer and spit upon when he returned. Eventually my sister and I realized that there’s no way this is true. Either he was actually the oldest between him and his brother (and thus wouldn’t have been drafted), or the Vietnam War ended when he was 16. In this little alternate reality he had constructed, he had to be older than our mother was (which was blatantly false—she had always been recognized as the older one), his brother had to be lying about his own age, and almost everyone had to have falsified birth records.

He changed his story to say that he was in Vietnam during the 80s, through another offensive that we did, but I have been unable to find any military record for him. Whether he actually fought in Vietnam, he did mislead us into believing he’d fought in the Vietnam War, which is a lie of such magnitude and scope that one has to marvel at it.

He is a religious man, though it’s hard to tell by his behavior: heavy drug usage, constant lies, and steady manipulation. Although he is less religious than other family members are, his secularism is applied selectively, and he’s generally as fundamental as everyone else is. He continues to believe that President Obama is a Muslim, is more or less openly racist, and is a diehard Republican, despite that he’s effectively a ward of the state who benefits substantially from liberal policies.

I obviously don’t see eye-to-eye with him, but we do have some similar interests. It was he who introduced me to Fantasy literature and tabletop gaming, both of which almost immediately became passions for me. In turn, I exposed him to the tenth installment of a popular roleplaying video game, and I’m still happy that I was able to show him to something that he enjoyed so immensely. He must have played through it a dozen times, and he certainly discovered more of its secrets than I ever would have.

There is some kinship between us, and I do love him, despite the numerous differences, and in spite of the fact that he has done me far more harm than good. More than anything, I pity him, because his childhood evidently destroyed him; he is one those who did not escape unscathed. He was swallowed by the mentality that the world owes him something, and oblivious to the reality that the world will never give it.

The rifts between us began because I was not the son that he wanted. He hated that I loved sleeping on the heating vents—I’ve always loved heat. I wouldn’t sleep anywhere else. I had to sleep on one of the floor vents, and the heat had to be on. There in the floor, I had the pillow and pillowcase that I refused to sleep without, and the blanket that I required as I slept.

My father hated all of these things. We went to visit some relatives at one point, and I left my blanket and pillow at home. With no other way to shut me up, my parents took me to a store to get a new pillow, and there I went from one to the next, tearing open the plastic just slightly, and “testing” it until I found one that was satisfactory. When we got back to our trailer a few nights later, dad went outside and told me to bring my pillow.

As I stepped out into the night air, I saw him kneeling just outside the small stone circle beside our front steps. It had once been a flower garden—conceived during one of mom’s highs, when she was bolstered with energy from painkillers. The high wore off, but the flowers remained in that little circle of rocks—at least for a while. Then they died, shriveled, neglected, and forgotten.

Almost like a demon out of a child’s horror story, there was my dad, grinning devilishly and eagerly, urging me to throw my old pillow onto a mess of crumbled newspapers soaked in lighter fluid as he held his flaming lighter above it. “We need to burn it!” he said, but I refused. There was no need to burn it. They were already making me throw it away—they were already making me discard this pillow that I loved and had slept with every night for years. Was that not enough?

“We need to burn it!” he said again, as I ran inside and cried to mom that dad wanted to burn the pillow that I loved. It may seem strange that I had such attachment to a pillow, but I did, and both of my parents knew it. My father certainly knew very well that I loved that pillow.

That’s why he wanted to burn it. Because I loved it.

We didn’t burn random things, and I doubt that we ever burned anything there at all. He wasn’t content to force me to throw away this pillow, the symbol that I was an emotional person and not the crass son that he apparently wanted. The pillow had to be destroyed in flames because I loved it, and because “real men don’t love.” This silly, feminine weakness, this emotional attachment to an object—it had to be gotten rid of, and in the most dramatic way possible.

It was not the pillow that my dad wanted to burn.

It was my heart.

My mother intervened, though my father came inside and continued insisting that we needed to burn the pillow, because he was afraid that I would be able to talk my mother into letting me keep it. One has to wonder why it was an issue that I wanted to keep it. In the end, I placed it gingerly on top of the garbage can in the kitchen and told it goodbye. I hated to do so, and I cried, because it didn’t make sense to me.

It’s understandable that I developed such strong emotional ties to objects, as neither parent spent much time with me, and there was not much hugging in the family. Mom and dad were always high on one drug or another, lying on the couch and borderline comatose. I don’t know how Brandi handled it then, or what she did in order to get through the long and miserable days, but it was surely as awful for her as it was for me. Unlike our older brother, we didn’t have friends with whom we could go hang out. Or, at least, I didn’t. Brandi was friends with a girl who didn’t live too far from us, and I hope that my sister was happy then.

Aunt May and Kay-Kay

For a while, mom did work, as did my father. While Brandi and Eric were gone to school and my parents were at work, I was babysat by our great aunt who lived next door, a relatively kind woman who I remember as mostly humorless. My father fleeced her out of most of her money, just as he did to my great-grandmother, and just as he is currently doing to my grandmother. However, I was too young to comprehend that, and there isn’t much that I remember about Aunt May.

It was horrendously boring at Aunt May’s. There were few places worse for my pre-school self. I wasn’t allowed to take my Nintendo, which left me there alone with an eighty-year-old woman and very little to actually do, because there was no one to play with and nowhere to play at. Aunt May wasn’t unkind, but she was also not particularly joyful. I don’t blame her for that—she was a very old woman, and probably not happy to babysit a four-year-old.

I should have been outside having fun, rather than sitting in a living room with an eighty-year-old woman and playing with paper dolls that she cut out of a magazine. Of course, such things seem droll only from a modern perspective, but I was accustomed to video games and cartoons, the heightened entertainment possibilities of the late 1980s. In the 1880s, a child would have been thrilled to sit on a couch in an air-conditioned house and idle away the hours with paper dolls.

However, imagine the horrified response one would get if a modern child was asked to spend day after day in that environment, with only a very old woman as company. There would probably be allegations of child abuse, though I’m not making that claim. However, many modern parents would likely consider that to be, at the least, borderline child abuse. To me, it was simply boring, and the time passed so slowly that I probably lived more moments there at Aunt May’s house than all the moments I have lived since.

I don’t intend any of this to be disparaging to Aunt May. I have no doubt that she did the best she could, and significantly better than many people in her position would have. Still, I dreaded those days when both parents had to work, and it was routine for me to ask mom each afternoon, “Do you have to work tomorrow?”

Aunt May had a moustache, as well, but I never noticed it. It wasn’t until I was a teenager and I was shown a picture of her that I learned she had a moustache. I was pre-kindergarten when I spent time with Aunt May, so the idea that a woman didn’t have facial hair wasn’t in my head yet, so it seemed perfectly normal to me. My father had a moustache and Aunt May had a moustache. Cars had tires, and houses had walls.

One horrible day, as Aunt May sat in her recliner, concealed from view of the kitchen as I sat on the couch near the front door, there was suddenly a crash in the kitchen. The backdoor entered into the kitchen, and I will never forget the fear that fell over this old woman’s face. Someone had broken in through the back door.

She and I hid in the living room, cowering in the corner behind her chair. I don’t believe she ever called the police (she didn’t have a phone), or did anything about it, but my memory of that ordeal is vague. I recall only the noise, the unmistakable terror in her eyes that I was able to recognize even at four years old, and the hiding.

Because she was very old, it simply wasn’t possible for Aunt May to always babysit me, and I had another sitter called Kay-Kay—a hefty, middle-aged woman who seemed to be doing pretty well in life. She had a house, at least, which I recognized to mean that she was okay—we lived in a trailer, and most of the people we knew lived in a trailer. Living in a house… That was a grand thing to me. I didn’t mind that we lived in a trailer, and I was much too young to know that being the child of two fast-food workers (even if they were supervisors) who raised Confederate flags, shot up heroin, and ate Xanax made me the definitive example of “trailer trash,” but I knew that it was a great thing to have a house.

Kay-Kay was an ordinary woman, and there was much going on beneath the surface that most people never saw. As I sat in one of her bedrooms, playing a video game, there was suddenly a banging on the door and people shouting, demanding to be allowed inside and promising that, if Kay-Kay refused, they would tear the house down.

Although I was shocked and scared at first, Kay-Kay put my fears to rest by handling it expertly. She answered in an almost aloof way, as though she had no concern about it. Even as they banged and screamed, I was unafraid, because Kay-Kay didn’t appear to take it seriously. After a minute or so, the banging stopped, and then the rhythmic pounding echoed through her home, coming from somewhere in the back.

“They’re going to tear the house down!” I shouted to Kay-Kay, scared once more. In my head, I had the image of two enormous, burly, and angry men outside with huge hammers, smashing away the bricks and crashing through the walls.

“Oh, no, they’re not, sweetie,” came Kay-Kay’s reply as she dropped to a knee and hugged me. “They’re just mad. They’ll get over it and leave in a few minutes.”

Sure enough, Kay-Kay was right: they did leave shortly thereafter. In actuality, they probably just had given up on the front door and gone to try the back door. Finding it locked, they banged and shouted some more, and then left. I never learned what it was about, and Kay-Kay asked me not to mention it to my parents, which made sense: that isn’t the sort of thing a mother wants happening at the selected babysitter’s home. I didn’t stay quiet, though, and that was the last time Kay-Kay ever babysat me. It was also the last time that I saw her.

The Rise of Tumult

There was a “friend of the family” called Doc, and I liked him a lot. Everyone liked Doc—he was a friendly, charismatic person. Being my parents’ friend, he was heavily on drugs, but Doc was also in a motorcycle gang, which created a problem, because shooting up was explicitly against the gang’s laws. Just to be clear here: this is the world I grew up in. This was normal to my three-year-old self. On any given day, I was likely to see one or both of my parents shoot up heroin with a buddy who was in a motorcycle gang, smoke a joint or two, and collapse onto the couch in a stupor and droning out “Yeah…” to no one.

I watched my mother, laid out on the loveseat, look to my father on the other side of the living room. She held up, toward my father, a syringe full of some red liquid, and then she asked in a seductive voice, “John, do you want some of this?” And as she spoke, she pressed in the syringe and sent a jet stream of this stuff—whatever it was—flying across the living room. They were both out of their minds, just high as hell.

Disheveled, frantic, panicked, and terrified, Doc stopped by our trailer and wanted to sell my father a half-pound of weed for fifty bucks. My father had twenty dollars he could pay. Knowing my father, it’s amazing that he had any money, but he did, and he explained to Doc what he had.

Doc in turn explained that he had to get out of town. “Had to,” he said, and my father understood what that meant. The gang somehow learned that Doc was shooting up, so Doc had to get out of town before they found him and forced him to run “The Gauntlet.” Because, apparently, that actually happens. My father bought the weed, and Doc fled, but it was to no avail, and he was later found dead.

We frequently drove north to visit my Aunt Diane and Uncle Danny (the man who would later go to prison for murder and, in all likelihood, killed my mother, though there is no body or evidence), as well as our cousins. One of these trips proved to be one of the most traumatic experiences of my childhood.

As Brandi and I rode with dad in his yellow truck, in a secluded area where the road was surrounded by steep ditches that spelled death for anyone who lost control and went over, a truck driver decided to pass us. The trucker blew his horn a few times, and then he went for it. As he passed, he veered to the right—or dad swerved to the left. The enormous side view mirror of the rig crashed through the window beside dad and sent a spray of glass shards through the cab of our truck. Luckily, neither my sister nor I sustained any injuries.

The fault was probably my father’s (driving under the influence of one drug or another), but the reason officially given was that the highway wasn’t wide enough to pass. This excuse came much later in the day, after the trip got significantly worse.

We passed through Memphis as we traveled, and came upon an intersection. Not paying attention, I couldn’t tell you exactly how it happened, but there was shaking and noise. We rear-ended another vehicle. It’s possible that my father didn’t stop quickly enough, and it’s possible that he pressed the gas too hard and too quickly after the light turned green. Regardless, we hit the vehicle hard and sent it careening into the intersection. Reportedly, it traveled fifty feet from the impact.

The woman driving that car died on the spot with a broken neck.

Someone obviously called the police, and they arrested my father. The police placed Brandi and me in the back of the police car with him, which made us feel as though we were also being arrested, and that is terrifying when you’re four or five years old and have no comprehension of what is going on. As though we were playing out a scene in a movie, the very same trucker who had hit us earlier happened upon the accident, and presumably told the police that dad was driving erratically. The next thing I knew, the trucker was banging on the glass beside me, shouting obscenities at us—not just at our dad, but honestly at the five-year-old children, too. I was terrified, confused, and frightened out of my mind, and it didn’t help that dad, with his hands cuffed behind his back, was frothing at the mouth, rocking the police car, and demanding to be let out so that he could fight the truck driver.

My sister and I were taken to the hospital, and police, doctors, and therapists repeatedly questioned us about the accidents. We were separated from our father, but also from each other, and that made the experience more traumatic than it had to be. We were finally told that we would be going into the care of Aunt Diane and Uncle Danny briefly, and they were the ones who picked us up from the hospital. My grandmother acquired a good lawyer for my father, and he was able to go to rehabilitation rather than prison, or something to that effect.

For a long time, my nerves were absolutely shot, and it was nearly impossible to get me into a vehicle, which is probably the normal response of a four year old child after being in two accidents in a single day, one of which resulted in a death, all because the parents didn’t mind driving after eating a bunch of pills. Naturally, their solution was to shove pills down my throat, giving me what they called “nerve pills” that were probably Xanax or Klonopin. This was the only way to get me into an automobile for several months after the accidents, because otherwise I would scream and throw fits. Eventually the anxiety faded, but knocking me out with drugs was the only way to get me into a car for a while.

Things returned to what we considered normal, though that isn’t to say that either of my parents stopped doing drugs. I doubt either parent was clean for any notable period, and they continued inviting friends over. These parties, while they were more or less tame and consisted of people drinking, doing drugs, and playing spades, would not constitute “normal” for most kids.

On one such occasion, one of the people with whom they were hanging out decided that it would be a brilliant idea to inject peanut butter. Presumably, he’d heard that “The high is incredible, man!” and wasn’t much interested in maybe asking a doctor before doing something so horrendously and creatively stupid. According to my father—who is a known pathological liar, it’s worth remembering—the man died on the spot, so they took him home and left him on his couch, dead. I have no memory of this, but it allegedly happened sometime around my fifth birthday.

I started kindergarten, and I loathed it. Up until that point, my life was fantastic. I could wake up whenever I wanted, spend the entire day watching cartoons and playing videogames, snacking whenever I desired, and just doing anything I pleased. Then suddenly I couldn’t do that any longer; I had to wake up at a specific time, go spend the entire day in a boring school, and then only had a few hours afterward to do the things that I enjoyed doing. As early as kindergarten, it struck me as absurd: if the point of life is to be happy, as everyone constantly insisted to me, then why did I have to go to school?

We were poor—dirt poor, as you might expect, given the heavy drug usage. Although both parents were managers at various fast food restaurants at times, my mother eventually quit working altogether and got onto disability for her migraines. It was with tremendous excitement that we were approved for food stamps, and we waited for weeks with palpable eagerness in the air, though I had no idea what it even meant. There are two times that I distinctly recall the entire family waiting anxiously for something to happen, and the anticipation was identical on both occasions; we waited for food stamps and we waited for our cable to be activated with the same sense of impending thrill, as did I, even though I had no understanding of what either meant.

Being approved for food stamps felt like having a birthday, and so did the cable company finally coming out, after weeks of waiting, to connect our cable television. While I understood that having cable meant that we would have Nickelodeon, there was no way that I understood the concept of food stamps, so my excitement was surely nothing more than a mirror of my parents’ own eager anticipations. It was just months after this that I began school, and that mom became convinced that dad was not really working, that he was only disappearing while he was supposed to be at work.

It was a school day when it happened, because we were supposed to be in class, but mom kept us at home. My much older brother, my slightly older sister, and I were told that we were leaving dad, and I’m sure I handled that as well as any six year old child would, which is to say with naked emotion untempered by the jaded self-control we are taught to exercise in later years. I didn’t understand what was going on, but I was devastated nonetheless. First, the life I had come to know and love was wrecked by having to go to school, and then what little semblance of it remained was being irretrievably shattered by this upheaval. I spent the entire day in tears, as did my sister. Whatever was going on between our parents had nothing to do with us, and our lives were being cast into the hurricane because of it.

Too young to truly understand what was really going on, my primary concern was whether to leave my father “the good Nintendo” or the bad one. They both worked, but one of them was much more difficult to get working. Both my dad and I were big on video games, and so was my older brother, and even my mom and sister played occasionally. There were lots of family moments when we all took turns, and we even had a device that allowed four controllers to be used.

I agonized over that decision far more than a six year old should, and my mom didn’t give the situation nearly as much attention as it deserved. My entire world, prior to school, consisted almost entirely of playing video games. That I even debated which one to leave was a tremendous indicator of how much I loved my father, how much I didn’t want to leave, and, above all, how poorly equipped I was to cope with the chaos I suddenly was confronting. Mom was tearing our family apart, breaking it into two pieces, and she never sat down with my sister and me to explain what was happening, to assure us that we’d still see our dad, or to promise us that it would be okay. While to some extent that’s understandable, since she had to pack and load things up, the utter failure to remember that she was literally wrecking her youngest kids’ lives is very difficult to excuse.

To make matters worse, she was cowardly about it, too, because all of this happened while my father was at work. We lived in a trailer on my grandfather’s land, and it’s very likely that my grandfather was the one who alerted my father to the moving truck that was at his home. However, seeing as my grandfather later offered to shoot my mother for my dad, I doubt he would have showed the restraint simply to inform my dad of what was happening.

Regardless, dad pulled up while we were finishing and preparing to leave. The next little bit is a blur of anger, hostility, and shouting from which I am able to pull very few details. In a flash, dad went from anger to pleading, but mom refused to listen; her mind was made up, and she cranked the car, put it into gear, and hit the gas. Dad threw himself into the side of the car and then hit the ground, fell onto his back, and then lie there in the grass. My sister and I screamed and cried—our dad had just been run over!—and mom shouted at us to stop yelling. I gazed out of the back window at my father as we drove away, and there he was, lying unmoving in the grass, and all I could think was the horrible thought, “Dad is dead.”

There in the back of the car, crying quietly, having just watched my father die from being hit by a car, I sat at the age of six years old, being shouted at by my mom to shut up because I freaked out when I saw her kill my dad.

Want to read the whole story? Well, now you can! For a limited time (until June 15), Dancing in Hellfire is finally available for sale, for only $3.49. You can buy it here, through this very site, using PayPal or a typical credit/debit card (payment is processed by PayPal, so I don’t see the info), after which you’ll be given access to the book as both a PDF and an ePub.

Western Nihilism 4: A Dose of Reality For an Insane Society

Just a little while ago, I saw the comment from someone on Facebook that Wal-Mart needs to pay its employees a “living wage” [Note: there were obviously multiple comments like this. I’m simply addressing the one that mentioned this dollar figure and rent] (How about you show some responsibility by not shopping at places that don’t pay their employees what you think is fair?), because one wage of $13.73 (or thereabouts) isn’t enough to afford a two-bedroom apartment in most major cities.

*Record screech*

Two bedrooms?

Why does this person making such a low wage need two bedrooms?

Before we get into that, though, it’s worth pointing out that an additional $1.27 isn’t going to make a damned bit of difference for people making $13.73 an hour. Basic math tells us that this is $2,196.80 across four weeks. Assuming an average of 4 weeks in a year, it works out to $2,196.80 a month. The exorbitant rent that this person claimed the person making $13.73/hour couldn’t pay was a mere $875 per month.

I honestly don’t know what kind of math she’s using, but by my records this person making $13.73 has $1,321.80 left over after paying each month’s rents. Even if they run their air conditioning (perhaps they live in Vegas) 24/7, their electricity bill is highly unlikely to pass $400/month, which leaves them $921.80. A typical smartphone bill with Verizon or AT&T will cost $120/month, bringing this figure down to an even $800–$200 each week. If a person can’t survive, after their electricity, rent, and phone bill have been paid, on $200 each week while also managing to put back a considerable bit of that, then they are absolutely terrible with money and need to learn to budget.

There’s no nice way to say this. At present, I make $300 a week, on salary. Yet I pay my rent, my electricity, my phone bill, my Internet bill, and everything else just fine. And because I’m an anarchist, I refuse to use government assistance (though at a wage of $300/week, I certainly qualify), I pay for 100% of the food that I eat, and I don’t have health insurance. Meanwhile, I manage to put back money toward moving to Vegas, shelled out nearly $2400 to government extortion so far this year, and spend $67/month buying hormones from China. If I can do it on such a meager salary, so can anyone.

Of course, I don’t have kids, and that’s the main point: two bedrooms. Why does this person making such a relatively low (apparently) wage need two bedrooms? It can’t be a spouse, as that would require only one bedroom and the spouse would be able to get a job, thereby doubling their income from $2,196.80 to $4,393.60 a month. If you want to look me in the eye and say that two people can’t survive just fine on $4,393.60 a month and be putting back at least $500/month into savings, then you’re a moron who almost identically copies the character Jonathon of my fantasy novel.

See, Jonathon is from a noble family–the Guilder Estate. His parents died when he was young, but his sister took over the estate with the help of a family friend–a dwarf–named Therekas, who helped keep the filial parasites out of their family’s wealth. Once Jonathon was old enough, he joined the Knights of Raine (per family tradition), and Coreal (his sister) seized the opportunity to get the hell away from all of it by making Therekas steward of the property while she joined the Church of Biena and effectively became a nun. Stuff happened, and they had to flee the Kingdom of Raine, while their estate was seized by Lord Tyrenius. Not long after their journey, they obviously began talking about how they were going to make money, and Jonathon’s understanding of “how much money it took to survive” was so out of whack that the entire group spent a few minutes laughing at him for the idiocy. Whereas he expected it to take 50 or 60 gold coins per person to survive a single day, because he had no metric for understanding what things cost in the real world, the truth was that they could all live in relative wealth with only a thousandth of that.

I’ve lived on much less. It’s only been within the past few months that I was able to get back up to paying myself a salary of $300/week. Prior to that–at this time last year, in fact–I wasn’t on a salary at all, and averaged about $120 each week. And even then, I managed to keep everything paid, though I never had even a spare penny and was constantly digging deeper into the hole. Let’s face it–that wasn’t even enough to cover my rent, so the negative number got bigger every month.

While I was in college, I was married, and my wife didn’t work because we had only one vehicle, which I was using for school and work (my job provided us with medical insurance, whereas hers didn’t, so she quit hers when I started school). I made Minimum Wage. Yet I kept all of our bills paid, our rent paid, and our bellies full. Oh, there’s no doubt that it sucked. We didn’t have extra money often; when we did, we usually used it to buy season DVDs from Pawn Shops for $3 each, as that provided the most bang for the buck. We didn’t have a phone (and definitely not a smartphone) or an Internet connection, or satellite/cable TV. We had a TV, a DVD player, a PS2, a GameCube, and some classic consoles like an NES, all of which we’d purchased years before when we had two cars (before she totaled hers) and were both employed. And we had each other.

You seem to want me to believe that a person literally can’t survive on a wage of $7.50 an hour, when I happen to know for a fact that not only is that false, but a person can support two people on that wage. I’ve done it.

In reality, there are two possibilities when Expenses exceed Income. Sometimes, this is because Income is such a small number. I don’t deny that this is possible–I’ve experienced that, too, like when I made only about $120 a week. It simply wasn’t possible to afford rent, electricity, food, a phone (necessary for work, actually), and gasoline on that amount. Even if I lowered expenses to the bare minimum (which I did), I still didn’t have enough Income to cover them.

However, the alternative is what usually happens in the United States. Usually, the problem is that a person’s Expenses are so high that no Income can reach it, generally because they have “that mentality” that causes them to increase Expenses proportionally to their increases in Income. I’ve seen poor people go from making $7.50 an hour to making $15 an hour with no change in their overall situation (I’ve also been there). I’ve seen people scraping and clipping coupons to make ends meet receive checks of $10,000+ and be broke just a few weeks later. It’s not because Income is too low that this happens; it’s because Expenses are too high, and they lack the self-reflective capability to sit down, identify, and address the problem.

Maybe those two people making $4,390 a month are spending $15/day on cigarettes. And yes, I can tell you from experience that the cost of smoking adds up fast. Maybe they’re buying honey buns and crap from gas stations on their way to work each day. Who knows? But you can’t seriously expect me to believe that two people making $4,390 each month are broke because they’re just not earning enough. The reality is that they’re earning enough; they’re simply spending way too much.

And anyone who has two bedrooms and only one provider has made some mistakes somewhere along the way. I’m sorry, but that’s the truth. I was married for like 6 years and I don’t have kids–that’s not an accident. I’ve been having sex since I was 14 years old, and I don’t have kids–again, that’s not an accident. I was 28 years old before I ever got a girl pregnant, and then I was more than capable of bearing that responsibility, as a college graduate in a place where employment was easy to find for someone with my training and skillset.

The most common criticism I receive for this is the reply, “So you’re saying that children are only for college graduates? That’s so messed up!”

No, that’s not what I’m saying.

I am, however, saying that children are only for people who can actually provide for them. This is the “We don’t understand reality” thing that the title of this post is about.

I fully expect stray cats and stray dogs to have offspring that they can’t provide for. This is why stray animals have such a high mortality rate, too. Not only can the parent not show the offspring to enough food (once nursing is over) to survive all 6-8 of the puppies or kittens, but a good many of them will be picked off by predators because the parent can’t provide protection to them all, either. This is why wild animals have offspring in those numbers: most of them die before adulthood.

Therein lies the rub. Such a high percentage of western children make it to adulthood that I can’t find statistics on it (I could if I cared to look further, but I don’t, so…). I’d hazard that 98% of western children reach the age of 18. For stray cats and dogs, that number is probably closer to 5%, with one out of every two or three litters reaching adulthood. Thanks to the incredible developments of our society (for reference, as recently as the 19th century, most men died at the age of 22 and women at the age of 24 in Korea), we have an insane longevity and a very low mortality rate among offspring. I don’t mean to be harsh, but we’ve prevented nature from doing its job. I think this is a good thing, but it also means that we had to pick up the responsibility, and we failed to do that.

In fact, the idea that parents bear no responsibility or fault for having children that they can’t support is making the argument that huge portions of the population are no better than stray cats and dogs. We expect that behavior out of such low animals, after all. We expect better of humans–or we should. Liberals, evidently… don’t. Their paternalistic, condescending bullshit extends to the point that they are okay with treating humans as though they’re no better than stray dogs. After all, we don’t blame the stray dogs for being overrun by hormones and recklessly having children when the dog knows–on some deep, perhaps instinctual level–that most of its children are gonna die in terrible ways. “It’s just a dog being a dog,” we say. In fact, we’re willing to address that problem: “Spay and neuter your pets so that this doesn’t happen!”

But when it comes to humans? No. We don’t even hold humans to that high of a standard. “It’s not their fault for having offspring that they knew they couldn’t take care of. What do you mean ‘Spay and neuter such people?’ You can’t ‘spay and neuter humans!*’ What the hell is the matter with you, you uncompassionate pig? It’s their right to have children! Children aren’t just for the elite!”

That’s a straw man fallacy, of course. There’s nothing “elite” about taking one’s ass to a community college, which literally anyone can afford to do. And the difference that even a 2 year degree makes to prospective employers is the difference between $13.73/hour and $18.73/hour. People with Associate’s Degrees average $5/hour more than people with only high school diplomas, and that amounts to $200 a week. Not to mention that such jobs usually come with a 401k, health and dental insurance, perhaps stock options, and other benefits.

It’s not elitism, however, to demand that humans act like they’re more intelligent than stray dogs, and fuck you for suggesting that humans act better than stray cats is elitism. Fuck you for suggesting that humans should be treated with the same eye-rolling condescension with which we treat stray animals. We know that stray cats and dogs don’t know any better, and we don’t expect them to consider questions like “How am I going to afford to send my puppy to college?” before getting knocked up. If you don’t demand more than that of humans, then you might be the most arrogant, condescending person on the planet.

I spend about a fifth of my time reminding people that we’re animals and that we’re part of nature, and so the same rules that govern animal behavior govern us. I fully agree that an 18 year old who gets pregnant has been overcome by biological instincts in the same way that the stray dog is. However, I think the 18 year old should bear the responsibility for that, especially in a society that has made it so ridiculously easy to avoid getting pregnant and that spends at least 4 years informing people of what not to do in order to avoid pregnancy.

And that’s the harsh truth. What happened here is that the human was consumed by their biological programming in exactly the same way as the stray dog and the stray cat, and you don’t expect more of them than that. You don’t expect them to say, “Wait a minute… I’m a human being, by God! I can think about this before I do it. I know that I can’t financially support my offspring. I know that satisfying these biological urges by having unprotected sex will cause pregnancy. Woah, woah, fella. Put on this condom, or you’re leaving.”

Instead, the bleeding heart liberal expects something more like, “Wait a minute… I’m a human being, by God! I can think about this before I do it. I know that I can’t financially support my offspring. I know that satisfying these biological urges by having unprotected sex will cause pregnancy. *Shrug*. Oh, well. Yes, dude, let’s have unprotected sex anyway. It’s so hot that you’re unemployed!”

To return to something I said earlier–we lowered the infant mortality rate. That’s a great, wonderful thing. Picking on Korea for no reason in particular, in 19th century Korea any parent who had a child they couldn’t support would have ended up with a dead child. This was true in the United States in earlier centuries, too**. After all, Nature is constantly trying to kill us. So a parent who can’t support their child is literally a parent who can’t prevent nature from killing that child. In that way, Nature took care of the “problem” in the same way that it takes care of the overpopulation of stray animals: they die.

And yes, it’s a good thing that we’ve eliminated that particular problem in the west. I’m not saying that we should let children die. Don’t straw man the points here; instead, absorb them and take them in. The child isn’t to blame that his or her parents can’t provide for him or her. That’s the parents’ responsibility and the parents’ mistake. They are the ones who bear responsibility for that. Since we can’t sit by and watch parents starve their child to death, the onus falls to bystanders and the community adopt the child away from the parents until such time that the parents can actually keep that child the hell alive.

This is not what governmental welfare programs do, but that’s another matter for another day–perhaps the next in this series on Nihilism.

You know what the universe does if you have a child that you can’t feed? It kills the child. That’s reality. That’s the world we live in. You can’t change that with good feelings, and pretending like that isn’t true is the very definition of delusional. The universe doesn’t give a shit about your feelings. If you can’t feed the child, then the child dies. It’s that simple.

Luckily, we humans are more… enlightened… than stray cats and dogs. We have this thing called “empathy” that leaves us unable to stand by and watch (in most circumstances, though our lack of concern about the children killed by American bombs in the Middle East calls this point into question) while a child dies. If you want to provide for that child, so be it, but don’t pretend like it’s okay or normal for the mother to just shrug and say “Fuck it–someone will feed Little Billy for me. Someone will take care of my problem. I’m a helpless child and can’t do things for myself, and need the government to take care of me.”

Pretending like it’s totally okay for humans to have offspring they can’t support while curtailing Nature’s solution that problem is a recipe for disaster, because it creates a net drain on society and productivity. Someone has to put in the effort to acquire that food; manna doesn’t fall from the sky. And what do we know is the long-term effect of net drains? They build up. It’s not a big deal to be $100 in the hole for a few months. But do that for 10 years, and you’ll wind up $12,000 in the hole. What may seem like a trivial, inconsequential thing ultimately adds up to society. And what do we call it when society collectively has fewer resources to go around?

Why, we call that “an increase in poverty.”

And because no one is doing anything to actually address or fix the problem, it means that the reckless people who have more children than they can afford are passing along those genes and tendencies, such that even more people will have children that they can’t afford. This is called “evolution,” and it didn’t stop because humans invented electricity. Whether there are alleles that make a person more or less likely to behave irresponsibly has not been determined (to my knowledge), but given that poverty is primarily hereditary, circumstantial evidence suggests that it does play a role. After all, resisting the inclination to spend more money–$10 here, $15 there–is a daily battle for me. Is it a battle because of genetics, or because that’s how I watched adults behave my entire life? Nature or nurture? Really, it’s not very important, because if we aren’t even admitting that it’s a problem, then we certainly aren’t addressing it, and the problem perpetuates and, because of the nature of procreation leading to population growth, constantly exacerbates itself.

Well done for eventually destroying western society.

Bravo, liberals.

Bravo.

* I agree entirely, and am just making the point.

** Actually, because of Puritan origins, I’d venture the guess that the mother would end up homeless and destitute, but someone would have taken in the child, but I’m not an expert on colonial America. My point isn’t that big of a deal anyway.

Educating = Parenting; Teaching = Child Rearing

As part of Dancing in Hellfire*, I get a bit into parenting and how, to be perfectly honest, the overwhelming majority of parents in the United States are doing it wrong. There’s a reason that I don’t have children. I was married for like six years and was with the girl for two or three years prior to that, and I have only once gotten a girl pregnant–and that was a legit accident, and only a year or so ago. Against my wishes, she aborted; c’est la vie.

It’s not that I don’t want children, or that my sexual identity or orientation get in the way of that; neither of these things are factors. For the longest, it was that I wanted to be able to give the child a stable home life, and there were so many things that I still wanted to do. When I was married, I was playing in a rock band and trying to make something happen with that, while going to college and building a career. This is where I diverged from a large chunk of my generation, as it seems that many, many people in my generation thought that it was their life’s purpose to start pumping out children as soon as they finished high school. Honestly, I’m one of about five people I know my age who don’t have children, and almost everyone else has one or two children, most of which are about ten years old, some even older.

Most parents would gladly say that their primary focus is what is best for their children, but the sky high divorce rate in the United States tells a different story. I’m no traditionalist–obviously–and don’t care if you’ve got two men, two women, or a goddamned lesbian witch coven raising a family; the important aspect is stability. That’s not the end-all-be-all, of course, since there must also be love and attention, and that’s my next point. The high divorce rate shows that stability is not a concern for most parents in the nation, and if stability isn’t a primary focus then the children aren’t a primary focus.

It was difficult enough to juggle my time with my spouse. I have a lot of hobbies. I make music–you can click the embedded music players to hear it. I’m a writer, and try to write daily articles. I’ve written three novels, two nonfiction manuscripts, and miscellaneous short stories. I’m a reviewer with Cubed3 and an editor with the same site, and occasionally I write guest articles for places like eBuyer. The only really pointless hobby that I have is playing video games, and those don’t really take up much of my time these days. It helped that my ex-wife played games, too, because we could spend time together playing games. Oh, god, the thousands of hours in Super Smash Bros. Melee, Mario Party, Mario Kart, and World of Warcraft that we put in together. Not to mention Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and just about any game that we could play together.

Which of those was I willing to give up in order to give my time instead to a child? None of them. I can’t help myself but write, and if I don’t regularly make music I act increasingly weird and become melancholic.

And that’s where parents get things wrong. They don’t have that mindset. They don’t think they have to sacrifice their time. I know one guy who goes to work every morning before his sons wake up, returns home and… watches television. His wife helps their son with their homework, but there was a years-long period where the husband would sit in one room of the house while the son sat in another, each watching a different television, while the kid was like 5 years old. This guy would say there’s nothing more important to him than his kids, but that can’t possibly be true. He preferred television so much that he and his son sat in different rooms every evening while the mother was at work.

Although that’s probably an extreme example, nearly every parent I’ve ever met is at least similar to that. Dealing with the child is a hassle. The child asking a question is met not with “Yes, love?” but instead an exasperated and frustrated, “What?!” that the child dared speak when it wasn’t a commercial–“I’m watching Game of Thrones, goddamnit! You know you’re supposed to wait to a commercial!”

It’s a sad reflection on the state of affairs that that’s even a thing–the notion that a child should wait for a commercial to get attention from his or her parents is disgusting, but it’s so common. My parents did it, too. And I’m sure your parents had at least one show that you weren’t supposed to make noise during, unless it was a commercial. We must fall to our knees in subservience to the bright glowing box.

So what am I getting at? Because television isn’t the problem; it’s a symptom of the problem.

The problem is that we no longer have any fucking idea what parenting is, so go ahead click play to this next one, and I’ll let you in on a little secret.

There is no difference between teaching and child-raising, between educating and parenting.

Parents delegate so much of their responsibility and facetime with the child to schools, totally failing to grasp the significance of what they’re doing. For the average kid, though, assuming a 6:00 AM wake time and a 9:00 PM bedtime, the child will spend equal time with the school as with the parents. But that time with the parents won’t actually be spent with the parents. Dad’s gonna watch television, mom’s gonna cook dinner, and somewhere along the way one of them might actually sit down for twenty minutes and complete the laborious, tedious task of helping the kid with his homework.

And let’s not forget that the average child watches, if I recall correctly, four hours of television a day, while the average American watches five fucking hours of television every single day. These are gargantuan amounts of time to be sitting down and doing nothing. But, again, this isn’t about television. Or is it? It may be, but I’ll discuss it another day. Regardless, the child will get home from work, eat a snack, and jump straight on something with a screen for the next several hours. There’s no parenting going on, no direct one-to-one time with the child, no going for a walk and spending time in nature.

People talk of homeschooling as though it’s some bizarre, unusual thing, and let me tell you–I don’t see parenting or education the way most people do.

See, I think the public school’s only useful function is to serve as a daycare while the adults are at work–an unfortunate reality of life in the United States, but a reality all the same. The knowledge that it teaches is so slowly conveyed that it takes 12 years to cover ground that other countries cover in only six. This is really hard to explain, so let me tell you why I advocate homeschooling, why I don’t yet have kids, by telling you what it will be like when I do have a kid.

I see the kid and me walking through the woods, stopping for me to explain why the leaves are normally green, and why they’ve turned brown–educating the kid and parenting. Because, again, they’re one and the same. The teachers at your kids’ school are parenting your kids. Whether they mean to be or not, whether you’re aware of it or not, and whatever euphemisms we use, that basic fact remains.

“No, Johnny, it’s wrong to hit people. You don’t get recess today.”

Kids are not just getting dry science facts and learning math. They’re learning the rules of our society, they’re learning our moral values, and they’re gaining role models, learning how to live and function. They’re being raised, and they’re simply being taught science, math, reading, and stuff through that process. There is no way to separate the two. Public education is turning your kids over to the state to be raised, and it can never be anything else. It never stops at just education, because it cannot stop at just education, unless you hire a private tutor who you give explicit instructions to avoid all subjects besides math, science, and language.

Parents in the United States turn their kids over to the state and then bear almost no responsibility for it. They pat themselves on the backs for being great parents, when the school has done at least as much parenting, and probably more, given that the television eats up so much of the time at home. It’s always a boarding school, but the roles are reversed–the school is the child’s true home, and the place with the parents is just where the kid watches television and sleeps. The place where the child is raised, brought up to be a fine, upstanding cog in the machine–that is the school. And the parents play almost no role in it.

There is a stigma against homeschooling for a few reasons. First, some parents use it as an excuse to utterly fail their children and shirk their responsibility to raise their children. I knew a few kids like this growing up, who were “homeschooled.” Except they weren’t. They didn’t have any school.

That’s rare, though. The real reason is that it makes the other parents feel like shit, because they know–they must know on some level, deep down inside–that they’ve effectively turned their parenting duties over to strangers. Because they didn’t put their kids first, they react in anger and hostility to people who did, because those people inadvertently hold up a mirror into which they have to look. “Oh, I’d love to homeschool my kids, but I just don’t have the time…”

I love that argument, though, that it turns kids into weird, isolated socially awkward rejects.

That’s so true, you know? Because everyone knows that before the Department of Education, we were a society full of weird, isolated socially awkward rejects. This happens with almost everything that the government does. The government took over mail delivery–“But how will we get our mail without the government? We need the government, or we can’t have mail!”

“But muh roads! OMG WHO WILL BUILD THE ROADS”

Libertarians hate roads.

So now we have “public education,” which basically means that I, a person without kids, get to pay for the education and parenting costs of other people’s kids. And when I challenge them on this, they reply that they just can’t imagine any other way that they could possibly have education for their children–partially because they lack the time to educate their children.

I’m sorry, what?

Isn’t that kind of like the mother of four who is pissed off and angry at the world because she can’t afford to feed her family with her minimum wage Wal-Mart paycheck? What happened to individual responsibility, foresight, and thinking shit through? “Should I have children? Well, hm… I don’t really have time to properly raise the child. So… No.”

People say this shit with a straight face, man. We can’t abolish the public school system, because they don’t have the time to homeschool–they don’t have the time to be parents. And I’ll give it to you that one won’t be able to devote 24 hours a day to being a parent, and no one is asking anyone to do that, but the idea that someone with a child doesn’t have the time to homeschool is both stupid and wickedly irresponsible. It’s the equivalent of saying, “But I need my foodstamps, because otherwise I can’t feed my kids.”

What is the matter with such people? Why would someone have children that they can’t fucking feed? This is where sympathy becomes nihilistic, because if we send our minds back to early homo sapien, what would have become of a woman who had four kids, no specific mate, and no way of acquiring food for her four kids? That irresponsible, reckless behavior would have caused her death–but probably not the kids’, honestly, because our species has never been able to turn away from crying children in a wide enough scale for it to matter, and it’s a red herring to demand 100% anything–and her kids would have seen that and said, “Shit. We better not be great big fuck ups like mom was, because that didn’t work out very well for her.”

Similarly, why would anyone have children that they don’t have time for? They do have time, though. We all have 24 hours in a day–16 minus sleep. So that bullshit that someone doesn’t have time? Yeah, that’s bullshit. We all have exactly the same amount of time in every given day as everyone else. No one has more or less time than anyone else. If anyone has ever had time to properly raise their children, then it means, ipso facto, that everyone has the time to properly raise their children.

What they really mean is that other things are a higher priority, and they aren’t willing to give up part of their time and spent it raising their children. They don’t say that, but they can’t possibly mean anything else, because, as I said, we all have exactly the same amount of time as everyone else. I don’t have five more hours in each day than other people, and homeschooling parents didn’t manage to magically conjure up 31 hour days.

So I don’t really advocate homeschooling.

I advocate people taking responsibility and owning up to their decisions and choices. I advocate people having the self-awareness to say, “You know what? I do have the time. I just can’t be bothered. Tell you what, why don’t you pay for my kids?”

The first step of fixing our supremely messed up society is to drop the euphemisms. There’s no such thing as “public education.” There’s only sending kids off for other people to raise so that the parents don’t have to. We can examine whether or not it’s actually necessary for some parents to do this, and we can discuss whether it’s beneficial to the parents and children for it to happen, but before we can discuss that, we have to call a spade a spade. Public schools aren’t “educating” children. They’re raising children.

What is really the difference between homeschooling and public schooling? In real terms, the difference is that in the former the child is raised outside of the state apparatus; in the latter, the child is raised communally. I’m not here making the argument that either one is really better than the other, although I would certainly say–based on mostly gut feelings, though–that homeschooling is vastly superior to public schooling, because the parent knows the child as an individual and can cater directly to the child’s needs, while the teachers cannot. If a child is to be taught to their potential, then that is a task that only the parents can accomplish.

* I heard back from the agent about two weeks ago, informing me that she had a very busy end of the year and hadn’t read it yet, but that she is going to and will get back to me. That’s twice now that my instinct about this agent were correct, which I take as a good indicator she’ll ultimately take it.

See You On Sugarcandy Mountain

I wasn’t quite of voting age when Al Gore lost the 2000 election to George W. Bush. Actually, I was barely even a teenager, but that also made it my first “real” election. In 1996, I would have been too young to have any concern or interest in paying attention to what the adults were talking about, but around 2000 I was at least watching the news. What an introduction to American politics–an election that seemed to just drag on and on, with everything down to a single state and a relatively thin vote margin.

That’s nothing like what we have today.

I don’t recall any attempts to force recounts in 2004, 2008, or 2012, though I do remember the secession petitions that came online almost as soon as they were made possible by the Obama Administration. I also recall the Obama Administration’s sickening response to the petitions–that the founders intended the union to be perpetual, as though what dead people wanted when they decided things two hundred years ago must dictate our lives today. This was actually the moment when I realized how stalled our “liberty education” was.

Of course, prior to that, all I’d heard was that we lived in a democracy, and my high school civics class didn’t even come close to approaching anything important. We went over all of U.S. history–laboriously and methodically, as we had a teacher who calculated five pages of reading per day, no excuses, so that the entire book was covered through the year–and we glazed over the system of governance: it was something about federalism, something about checks and balances, something about a republic, and something about democracy.

What did it all mean?

Nothing.

They were just empty words, far removed from anything relating to our daily lives and personal experiences. We were, of course, not brought up in anything that resembled a democracy or a republic; in our actual lives there was no Constitution, and certainly no checks and balances. We were carted from one tyrant who was judge, jury, and executioner, to another, and told all the while that all of this was taking place in some glorious system where our rights were respected. Well, not yet, but one day–once we turned 18! Then our rights would be respected!

Except it wasn’t really that simple. It wasn’t just “turning 18.” You had to both turn 18 and leave high school, one way or another, and move out. For me, “turning 18” was the last of those three gates through which I stepped, thanks almost entirely to the tyrannical behavior of both my parent/legal guardian and the school. We don’t like to think about it, but we have terribly warped ideas about children and rights here in the United States, almost to the extent that children are considered the property of their parents.

In fact, it’s not really that unusual that a parent tries to do some wicked, evil thing to their child as they shriek, “It’s my daughter, I can do what I want!” This link is certainly an extreme example, but it’s still just taken as a given that a parent hitting their child is “totally different.” How about this man who boxed his son to teach him a lesson? How about this woman who caused her child probably a fair bit of actual trauma by threatening to kick him out for voting for Trump in a mock election at school? Now she claims it was a joke, of course, but if you’ve seen the video you know that’s bullshit.

One of the central themes of Dancing in Hellfire is that most people aren’t very well equipped to be parents. I’ve seen this far too often, and not just from my own parents. I’ve never met a parent who didn’t say “I put my child’s needs first–that’s all I care about.” Yet in my personal experiences, I’ve never found that to be true. Invariably, what the parent puts first is the emotional itch that the child is scratching for them. I think more consideration should go into people’s thoughts before they choose whether or not to have children, and I think that conscious acceptance that this is the end of your life would do people a lot of good. Because that’s true–once you have a child, your life is over; your dedication must be wholly to your child’s life.

Anyway, that’s not the way we treat children here in the west. We treat children like property. Parents can take away their child’s possessions, invade their privacy, restrict their communication and rights. Parents can assign whatever arbitrary rules they like and inflict virtually any punishments they want. The parent is judge, jury, and executioner, a tyrant who dictates what can and can’t be done, and this is the child’s first lesson in “rights” and “freedom.”

See? I can’t even make a statement like that without people thinking I must be joking. I most certainly am not.

We know that those first ten years are critical in forming a person’s ultimate worldview. Without getting into the Nature versus Nurture argument, American parenting is basically the finest example of a victim going on to become a bully that we would ever need. It should come as no surprise that most people who support spanking were themselves spanked. It’s rather similar to how my grandmother had no choice but to force fundamentalist insanity onto me–she was herself a victim, and she was victimized to the extent that she didn’t know what else to do but pay it forward. ‘Round and ’round we go; the cycle never ends.

Then we’re plucked out of our homes and told that we have to go to this thing called school. This is something I remember very well, and I also wrote about it in Dancing in Hellfire, because I hated school. It made absolutely no sense that I was brought into this world and then–“Oh, hey, by the way, I hope you liked those first five years of fun. Now you have to go to this horrible, boring place seven hours a day almost every single day for the next thirteen years.”

I was given no choice in the matter, but damn did I try to force one, especially after the separation. No one was able to give me a single good reason why I had to go to school, but my mother insisted that I had to. Of course, it didn’t take too long to learn that she had no choice in the matter, either. She wasn’t the one who was forcing me to go to school. Something called “the government” was.

Soon as you’re born, they make you feel small
Giving you no time, instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
Working class hero is something to be

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you’re clever, and they despise the fool
They’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules
Working class hero is something to be

When they tortured and scared you for twenty odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
But you can’t really function you’re so full of fear
Working class hero is something to be

They keep you doped with religion, your sex, and TV
You think you’re so clever and classless and free
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see
Working class hero is something to be

There’s room at the top, they are telling you still
First you must learn how to smile while you kill
If you wanna be like the folks on top of the hill
Working class hero is something to be

Of course, Lennon was a communist, but… he’s not wrong. That is the way we do things.

And what do we find at school? More arbitrary rules that must be obeyed. And if you are accused of breaking a rule, there is no trial–there is only the teacher, for a small enough infraction, and the principal. Regardless of which you face, they are judge, jury, and executioner. Break the rules during Civics Class for Maximum Irony.

There were plenty of rules that I broke, especially during high school. I had a really bad habit of smoking on campus and speaking out loudly against the new uniform policy. Generally, I was a troublemaker, but there were a handful of teachers who would have defended me as far as they were able, because I was a straight A student. I didn’t do half the crap they accused me of, but it never mattered–a lesson I learned as I sat in In-School Suspension, accused of smoking because some teacher “saw smoke” where we were standing, though the reality was just that it was freaking cold outside. They didn’t find as much as a lighter on me, but it didn’t matter.

“Guilty By Accusation,” proclaimed the kangaroo.

Such a minor and trivial thing, but it doesn’t stop there, does it? No, because a woman was just arrested while waiting on a ride because the cop thought that “she looked like she was soliciting prostitution” and the woman had prior arrests for prostitution. Just as they accused and found me guilty–Double Jeopardy if ever there was such a thing–so did they accuse her and find her guilty. She knew just as I did that it didn’t matter what we said–what I said about smoking or what she said about waiting on a ride.

“Guilty By Accusation,” proclaimed the kangaroo.

So from the time we’re born, we have cognitive dissonance imposed on us. The adults tell us about some magical world far removed from our everyday experience. It is a wondrous place, where the state can’t just do whatever it wants, where trials are fair and seek only justice, and where our rights are respected. It is Sugarcandy Mountain, for all intents and purposes, and our parents and teachers have taken over the role of Moses the Raven. Of course, they offer another Sugarcandy Mountain on top of that, in most cases–no matter how bad this life is and no matter how badly we humans screw up everything by lying to one another about what reality actually is like, it’s okay, because when we die there is another Sugarcandy Mountain waiting on us.

And that’s what it is–we’re constantly waiting for Sugarcandy Mountain. When we’re kids and teenagers, it’s that magical age when we’re out of school and out of our parents’ home, out on Sugarcandy Mountain at last where our rights are finally respected and we’re finally given fair trials by a jury of peers, where “guilty” means more than “stands accused.” And this delusion works–for a while.

It works until you’re arrested in your neighborhood while waiting on a ride.

It works until you’re standing thirty feet away from your car at two in the morning while five police cars swirl around you, searching your vehicle, shining lights in your face, and demanding to know whether you’ve been drinking–even when you haven’t had a drink since like 2014. It works until you’re a homeless schizophrenic man being beaten to death by cops while you beg and cry out for your father to help you. It works until police unload bullets into your back while you flee their psychotic violence and then plant their taser on you. It works until police from 19 states bear down on you and strike you with water cannons in freezing temperatures.

Because we’re not on Sugarcandy Mountain. And as long as we delude ourselves into thinking we are, we will never remove the boots from our necks.

An Open Letter To Parents and LGBT Teens

A few months ago, I sent a friend request on Facebook to this teenager I know. He’s the son of this couple who are some of my clients, and they manage a hardwood company, more or less, and he’s about the gayest person I’ve ever met. I don’t mean that as an insult by any means, but you immediately knew what I meant, didn’t you? I value clear and effective communication far more than I value political correctness. So yeah, this teen is, by a wide margin, the gayest person I’ve ever seen.

85bb2416-2052-4151-bbf0-5d5d2000c2e1e8962366-2f61-476d-aec4-c5c67d89f3abAnd his parents are in absolute denial about it. He and I have had a very brief conversation, and it was after this that I sent him the friend request, though I retracted it after a few hours, because I realized… that his parents screen his communications almost entirely, so he can’t befriend someone on Facebook without them knowing. I just wanted to tell him, because I wasn’t able to during our conversation… that things do get better. He will get out of that house, and he will be free.

He’s homeschooled, and he wants nothing more than to go back to school. His parents say that it was because he was bullied, but that’s not the case at all. They did it because they want to control what things can influence him. He can use his mom’s phone to some degree, but you’d better believe she reads all communications, and his laptop was taken away from him for an entire year. They’re essentially trying to shelter and oppress the gay out of him, as my grandmother and dad tried to oppress and shelter the transgender out of me.

Dear parents reading, that never works.

You cannot change your child’s sexual orientation, gender, or anything else by oppressing them. At best, you will corrupt them, twist them, and destroy them by forcing them to not merely live a lie to you, but to live a lie to themselves. But the truth will always come forward; it cannot be hidden forever, and it cannot be repressed forever. If your child is gay, deal with it, accept it, and move on, because there’s nothing you can do to change it. And anything you do to try to change it will be destructive, and it may very well grow into bitterness, resentment, and hatred.

It is only because I pity my father and grandmother that I do not hate them for what they did to me. By all rights, they should have sat me down and told me, “Look, you’re wearing girls’ clothes. If that’s what you want to do, then do it. Whatever makes you happy. Fuck whatever anyone else says. We have your back, no matter what, because you’re our <child/grandchild> and we love you.” But they didn’t. They threatened me, grounded me, nearly assaulted me with violence on a few occasions, oppressing me and forcing inner conflict into me until I could only resolve it by living a lie and by lying to myself, culminating in nearly two decades–twenty goddamned years–of wasted time that I will never get back.

I will never be an 18 year old chick partying with her friends on a Friday night. I will never be a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding. I will never have any of the things that a teenage and young adult female gets to have; those things were stolen from me. I will not get to be a gorgeous, sexy, young minx. Well, I will, because I’m not actually that old, I’m only in my freaking twenties, thank the fucking gods, but still. I did have a lot of time stolen from me.

And I am angry about this, parents out there reading this. I am bitter. I am pissed. I resent them. I hate their religion, and I hate their god*. It is only because I pity my dad and grandmother that I don’t hate them. So think about that–I am what your kids will become. They will either pity you for being so misguided by fucked up religions and ideologies that you would literally oppress your child, or they will come to hate you for oppressing them. It will not end well, and they will not stay “changed.” You cannot pray the gay away, and fuck you for trying to.

Take a good, long, and hard look at this website, parents. I am the result of that religious brainwashing, that religiously motivated oppression, and that bullshit that places loyalty to the tribe over love for the children. And, of course, at every point in this, my dad and grandmother would have said that they only wanted what was best for me, and that is why they did what they did. And they would still insist on that to this day. If you’re oppressing your kids for being LGBT, then chances are that you’ll say the same.

But you’re full of shit, if that’s the case. You’re completely full of shit.

Because the simple fact is that I’ve been transgender since I learned to walk. One of my earliest memories is of hiding all of my underwear so that I could wear my sister’s panties. Based on the timeline I’ve constructed for Dancing in Hellfire, I could not have been older than four, and I was almost certainly three years old. For all intents and purposes, that is “since birth.” There was no cultural influence that could have corrupted me; at that age, there is no way that the devil’s evil television and mainstream media could have deceived me into believing I was transgender. I was three. My exposure to culture consisted of practically nothing; we didn’t even have cable then, and no one on television was talking about homosexuality or transgenderism in 1989 anyway. So there is literally no way that the devil you believe in could have corrupted me into sin.

This means, beyond any doubt whatsoever, that your god made me this way. So what is the argument here? That your god made me desperately and sincerely feel as though I should be a girl because he expected me to resist the temptation to sin at the age of three? Is that the contention? Your god made me transgender at the age of three because he wanted me to resist the sin? I have to quote Maynard James Keenan here when I say, if that’s the case, then “Fuck your god.”

This is Christianity in a nutshell, isn't it?

This is Christianity in a nutshell, isn’t it?

That’s the equivalent of starving a child, poisoning their dinner, and then putting the poisoned dinner in front of the child without even telling them not to eat it. Because I was three, remember? No one had yet beat into my head that it was, for unknown reasons, a sin for me to wear softer, polyester underwear instead of coarser, cotton underwear. No pastor, parent, or teacher had told me that it was a sin for a man to dress like a woman. So I had no idea that the dinner was poisoned.

And it’s entirely accurate to say that I was starving to wear girl’s clothes and to be a girl; I always have been. There’s a reason that it has always popped back up in my life and that I’ve never succeeded in repressing it for more than a few months. And believe me–I’ve tried. My ex-wife and I had been together for like five years before I just straight told her that I was about to put on a pair of her underwear. Until that point, I’d hidden it pretty well, but I still had to do it occasionally, after she went to bed, or when she was gone. It’s a deep, pervasive hunger that has always been there.

I wouldn’t expect you to understand that. Honestly, I wouldn’t, and I don’t expect people like my dad and grandmother to understand what I mean when I say that. But it’s true–it might be the truest thing that I’ve ever said. To deny me that was to starve my soul**. Even people who aren’t like my dad and grandmother won’t necessarily get it–many of my friends have expressed the sentiment that they don’t care why it matters to me. They don’t mind that it obviously matters to me, but they don’t understand why it matters to me.

Why does it matter to me? I don’t know. It certainly doesn’t matter to most people, since most people are born the correct gender and don’t run into any problems there. Why does it matter to you what kind of music you listen to? What kind of movies you watch? “It just does.” And it does, parents. Whether your kid is gay, bisexual, transgender, or lesbian, it matters.

Put it like this. Why does it matter to you whether you’re getting oral sex from a man or a woman? It feels the same, doesn’t it? You can’t tell whether it’s a man’s tongue or a woman’s tongue. So why does it matter? Who knows? But it does matter.

My ex-wife frequently called me gay because I like butts so much–seriously–and, according to her, I might as well like guys, too, then, since guys also have butts. It’s hard to even know where to begin dissecting that particular illogic, isn’t it? Guys also have hands, so if I want to hold her hand I might as well just hold hands with a guy, right? Guys also have lips, so if I want to kiss her then I might as well just kiss a guy, right? But no… It matters. Some people find it strange, considering that I’m transgender, but I’m solely interested in women, and I have no attraction whatsoever to men. I wouldn’t touch a guy sexually, I wouldn’t hold a guy’s hand, and I wouldn’t kiss a guy; the thought actually repulses me^.

These things matter.

So no, you can’t simply make your gay son kiss a few girls and hope he’s cured. If he’s gay, then he’s gay, and he’s just as repulsed by the thought of kissing a girl as I am by the thought of kissing a guy. We have no control over this. It’s not something that we can help, and it’s not something that can be changed. It is simply who we are.

To the Teens

I’m so sorry.

I’m sorry for the situation you’re in, and I’m sorry for what I’m about to tell you. But the simple truth is that… you’re going to have to live a lie to some degree. You’re going to have to hide who you are, keep secrets, and deal with oppression. They’re your parents, and you’re the kid. Sadly, American society has absolutely no respect for the rights of anyone under 18–your parents can oppress you all they want, can invade your privacy all they want, and can go all in with their attempts to destroy who you are.

But if I could say one thing to you, and only one thing, it would be this:

It gets better.

It sucks, and it’s going to continue to suck for a long time. You’ll be miserable, and you’ll likely fall into depression throughout all of your teenage years. You will probably be forced to lie to them, to hide things from them, and to have a false identity just to keep them off your back for five freaking minutes. I get it, man. Believe me, I get it. I totally get it.

But stay true to yourself. Don’t lose sight of who you are, and don’t ever forget that you’re simply wearing a false identity. Don’t ever forget that you’re simply wearing a mask to appease the oppressive adults in your life, and that the day will come when you can remove that mask. Because that day will come. Hang in there. You can always reach out to me. My goal is to create an Internet web of people who are there for LGBT teens in the south, or anywhere with oppressive parents, so that you can be reminded by me, or someone like me, that it will get better. No matter how much it sucks, no matter how bad it gets, and no matter how depressed you become, don’t lose sight of that fact. Once you graduate high school and turn 18, go to college, and be yourself. Remove the masks.

A lot of people will say to go ahead and forcefully come out, make your parents accept you, but that isn’t always an option. Consider your needs, first and foremost. Ask yourself that one simple question: “Will my parents kick me out? Will they send me away?” You know your situation better than anyone. Go with your gut.

Those same people will probably say “If they can’t accept you, then screw them. You don’t need them anyway.” I don’t understand why people say things like that. A few months ago, someone told me that about my clients. Since my clients will drop me the moment that this transition can no longer be hidden, he said “fuck them,” and that I don’t need them. I honestly don’t know what world these people live in, but it’s not the real world. Back in real world, I do need those clients. Those clients keep my bills paid, keep me fed, and keep a roof over my head. This isn’t a movie where you can just be yourself and saw the hearts of the ignorant, convincing them to come around to the side of tolerance and understanding. The real world doesn’t work that way. Ignorant people will remain ignorant, and you will, in many case, need those ignorant people.

Work hard so that you don’t need those ignorant people. And the moment that you don’t need them, then you can tell them to deal with you on your terms. Yeah, if I was making even $2000 a month from writing, I could tell my clients, “I’m transgender. And if I’m going to continue working for you, you need to understand that all future service calls will be done by me ‘as a female.’ And if that’s a problem, then we need to our separate ways.” But back in the real world, I can’t afford to do that. Thanks to how the Vegas bullshit made me lose 90% of my clients, I need my clients more than ever.

And the fact is that, yeah, you do need your parents right now. You might have a friend whose parents wouldn’t care, who you could stay with instead, but before you take a leap like that, you need to put a great deal of thought into things. I would say that if it is possible for you to be you, then do it, no matter the cost, as long as you can survive. If you can’t survive, then… you’ve just gotta wear the mask. And I’m sorry to say that, but…

Wear the mask. Don’t become the mask.

* Though I do hate their god, this is unrelated to my being an atheist.

** I don’t believe in souls, either, but, again, I value effective communication, and you immediately know what I mean when I say this.

^ Homosexuality doesn’t repulse me, to be clear. Obviously, it doesn’t. The thought repulses me because I’m not attracted to guys in the slightest. As far as my sexual orientation goes, there’s no difference for me between the thought of kissing a guy and the thought of kissing a dog. That’s not meant as an insult to men–I’m not comparing men to dogs. I’m simply making the point about the significance of orientation.

A Look At My Father

Taken from Dancing in Hellfire: The Story of a Transgender Woman in Mississippi, this is another little bit I’ve decided to share because it really highlights how shitty some parents can be. It’s interesting to ponder which of my two parents is actually worse, but I think the victory must go to my mother–she did, after all, straight abandon my sister and me and then disappear off the face of the Earth after getting on crystal meth. It’s hard to be a worse parent than that, really. It’s difficult to find passages that can be easily shared because they don’t require context from something that occurred previously, but this one is sectioned off by itself, so it should be okay. Hope you enjoy 😀

A Look At My Father

I would like to say that my father isn’t a bad man, but he is. That’s a difficult thing to say, and a difficult thing to accept, but I must stress the point that this doesn’t really make me love him any less. But I would be lying if I said that he was a good man who simply made some mistakes; that isn’t the case at all. He’s a bad man who has made some good decisions, not a good man who has made some bad decisions.

His own childhood was no walk in the park and was tarnished by my alcoholic and abusive grandfather beating the hell out of my grandmother. My father has not shared a great deal of this with me, primarily because I can imagine what he’s talking about, and also because I’m sure it’s as painful for him as it is for me to bring up memories of my mother’s own abuse at the hands of alcoholics.

My grandparents divorced at some point—Go, grandma!—because my grandmother wouldn’t put up with the abuse. My grandmother is worthy of her own story, because she is an unsung hero of the feminist movement without even trying. In the sixties and seventies, she left her abusive husband to blaze her own path through life, and won the house in the divorce, and she proceeded to work at a college for the rest of her workdays, finally retiring at the age of 67.

True to the family history, my grandmother endured her own screwed up childhood, and was sent away by her mother for undisclosed reasons to live with Uncle Bill and Aunt Edna on their arm. Aunt Edna, it seems, did not like my grandmother very much and was not overly kind to her. What set of circumstances caused Jennifer—I never heard my grandmother refer to her mother as anything other than her first name, which was “Jennifer”—to send my grandmother off to this farm? What internal strength caused my grandmother, in what must have been the 40s, to graduate as the valedictorian of her class in those circumstances? What quiet resolve caused my grandmother to learn the skills necessary to work in the administration section of a college during the 60s? Did my grandmother go to college?

These are questions that I would dearly love to have the answers to, but I’ll never get them; they are not things that my grandmother is keen to discuss. Questions about her past are usually met with short answers, and I can’t blame her for not wanting to talk about it. She lived a difficult life, but she’s also the strongest woman I’ve ever heard of. I would dearly love for her story to be sung, but that’s what makes her so remarkable: she doesn’t want her story to be sung. Her humility and sincerity are matched only by the resolve and strength it must have taken to craft her life as she did at a time when women were “not allowed” to be more than housewives.

On one day of drunken, uproarious rampage, my dad had to hold a gun on my grandfather while my grandmother limped out of the house. While I truly hate that he had to do such a thing in the first place, I’m also jealous, in a way, that he was old enough to do something about it. Because when my mother suffered the abuse beneath Everett’s hands, I was in the second grade and too young and weak to do anything to get in the way.

My father will tell you that he was drafted to Vietnam, but it’s clear from the involved timelines that this clearly isn’t true. This was a fact my sister and I only recently realized, when he brought up the Vietnam War again; since we’re both 80s children, it never occurred to us to wonder whether the timeline of the Vietnam War lined up with my father’s professed timeline, but one day my sister raised the question and said that she wouldn’t be surprised to find out he had never been there.

I thought about it for a moment, and we quickly realized that… No, he had never been in the Vietnam War. We quickly caught him in a lie: either he was actually the oldest between him and his brother (and thus would never have been drafted), or the Vietnam War ended when he was 16. This line of thought led us to uncover a number of lies about his past, and in the little alternate reality he’d crafted around this lie about Vietnam he had to be older than our mother (which was obviously false—it was and always has been common knowledge that mom was 4 to 5 years older), his brother had to also be lying about his age, and they had to have falsified both of our birth records.

He then retconned his story to say that he was in Vietnam during the 80s, during another offensive that we did there, and I have no idea whether that’s true or not—I know that I was unable to find a military record online, and even signed up for one of the paid services that do that, but this doesn’t necessarily mean it didn’t happen. Whether he went to Vietnam or not, he did mislead my sister and me into believing that he’d fought in the Vietnam War, until we knew enough about it to realize that there was no way that he did.

The entire reason my sister and I came to discuss it was out of curiosity why our father, who has several medical problems that are probably quite serious, has not gone to a VA doctor or VA hospital to seek treatment—or even a checkup. He’s nearly in his sixties now, and I don’t believe he’s been to a doctor for a checkup since we stopped running around and buying painkillers together. No, that’s not a typo.

He is a religious man, though it’s hard to tell by looking at his past, which is filled with heavy drug usage, lies, and manipulation. He is somewhat less religious than other members of the family, but this only applies in certain ways, and, generally, he is a WASP as much as any other in my family—he continues to believe that Obama is a Muslim, is more or less openly racist, and is a diehard Republican despite being effectively a ward of the state who benefits substantially from more liberal policies.

However, he and I don’t see eye to eye, and we’ve never really been on the same page. I wouldn’t go as far as saying that I’m Bobby Hill to his Hank Hill, but that’s not terribly far off, though we do have some similar interests. He was, after all, the person who introduced me to Fantasy and tabletop roleplaying, which are things that I continue enjoying today. In turn, I introduced him to a particular tenth installment of a wildly popular roleplaying video game, and I’m still happy that I was able to show him to something that he enjoyed so immensely. He must have played through it a dozen times, and he discovered far more secrets than I ever would have.

So there is some kinship between us, even though there are far more differences than similarities, and even though he has done me far more harm than good. He is also still my father, and I still very much love him, despite everything that has happened and everything that has been done. Truth be told, I pity my father, because the traumatic childhood he experience seems to have destroyed him; he left it with the mentality that the world owed him something, whereas I left mine with the feeling that the world owed me something and with the knowledge that, whether it owed or not, it would never give it willingly.

At some point during all of this moving around with mom, and while I was still in kindergarten, mom agreed to allow me to go spend some weekends with dad, which I very much enjoyed doing then. Back then, dad and I got along together pretty well, and we both loved our video games, so we almost always had something to do together.

My grandfather owned all the land in that area. Well, it may be that my Aunt May owned all that land and it passed to my grandfather after her death, and I think this is the case because, as always, there was quite a lot of hostility and a number of new rifts in the family following Aunt May’s death. At any rate, my dad didn’t stay for very long in the trailer in which we’d all lived, and I can’t say that I blame him for that. I’ve lived alone—it sucks. And living alone shortly after your wife took the kids and left… No, I don’t blame him, whatever his reason was for moving.

Luckily, all my concern about which of the Nintendos I was going to leave dad was for nothing, because he didn’t waste any time in buying a new one and replacing the one that was a pain in the ass. He introduced me to Ice Blue Kool-Aid, though, and it immediately became my favorite, because it was pretty good.

One evening mom had to go to a wedding, to act as a bridesmaid or something like that, and I didn’t want to go. Mom took me dad’s, and took Eric and Brandi to to the wedding. As I was playing a video game in the living room, dad lie on the couch and my grandfather sat in his recliner. “Just say the word, John, and I’ll have her taken care of. One shot—bang. All it takes,” my grandfather said, referring to my mother.

“Get up and go to Aunt May’s,” dad immediately said to me. “I’ll be there in a few minutes.”

I objected, because I didn’t want to leave my stuff, but dad shouted, “Now!” in a tone that I knew better than to argue with. As I walked to Aunt May’s, there was a loud bang—an unmistakable gunshot. I ran the rest of the way to Aunt May’s, terrified; I don’t recall what I told her, but dad sure enough showed up a few minutes later and got me. As we drove to the wedding, he explained that my grandfather had threatened to kill my mom, and then had shot at my dad when my dad tried to get his keys.

This was before my grandfather stopped drinking, and he was thankfully too drunk to aim properly, but there was also no telling what he was going to do. I saw Brandi outside and told her, terrified, “Grandaddy’s going to kill mom!” I was in kindergarten then, so I was six years old, but that’s still before we have it ingrained in us that overreacting in public must be avoided at all costs (for whatever reason). I’d argue that there was plenty for me to react to, though, because my dad took it seriously. And I don’t blame him—my grandfather had already shot at my dad at that point, so even if he hadn’t been taking it totally seriously before that, he certainly was after.

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If you liked it, I wish I could say that the full manuscript is available on Amazon, but it isn’t yet. It will be a while before I finish it, I think–probably another month or so. I have someone working on what will hopefully be a pretty awesome cover, though. But you may be interested in buying my short story from Amazon, or in checking me out at GoFundMe. Or Liking the post, subscribing, sharing, all that good stuff. lol. This sort of thing at the end of posts is starting to take a rather long time.

Thanks for your support! It means a lot. I’ve already experienced a few emotional throes that I couldn’t readily explain, so the hormones are starting to do their thing. It will take a while to do their thing, of course.

Oh! Be sure to check out www.ebuyer.com as well, because I’ve been asked to guest write an article for them. The article will be delivered via eCard for Valentine’s Day, so I’m hoping that will boost some exposure, and I’m honored to have been asked.