From the dawn of teaching, every generation of kids has thousands within that have had crushes on a teacher. Did you have one? I had a few. This is about one of mine from long ago. The photograph with this writing is of a Google Map that is looking down upon two of the streets I mention in this piece. In Hudson, New York, on E. Partition where the reddish roof top is on the left half-way down the street, is where I was embarrassed by a friend of the time. The house on the corner of South 5th and E. Partition is where Miss Zambito rented an apartment. Streets were powerful places for me. I miss those streets of my past, almost as often as I miss the people who once lived there.
There are millions of stories about coming out. People may be surprised to learn it's not usually a one-announcement occasion. I feel I have been doing it all of my life. There are family, old friends, new friends, and co-workers to share such a telling. Hallmark should considered a card for the events.
Photograph following this short story is from my personal collection.
Photograph by Jean Schugart-Schild.
My first boy to girl (me) kiss was with my, unbeknownst to me at the time, a cousin at a family reunion in another state. I was about eight years old. There were about a hundred men, women and children, most of whom I had never met before, in my mother's Graham's Scottish roots. This boy and I were egged on by all the kids to steal a kiss, as we played in the hay at 'Aunt Bertha's' farm. Later that evening, when we visited my mother's brother, I saw their son who was forced to sit in a high chair because he 'kissed his cousin.' Me! I felt so embarrassed for him. Imagine creating such shame for that lad in front of me and my family. It was the first time I had ever met him, or his family. My heart went out to him, because all children know what being shamed by others feels like. I'll never forget how be bowed his head when he saw me walk into their kitchen.
I had kissed boys in junior high and in high school. Necked with some. Even got a hickey. A kiss was not a new concept. So why would a simple kiss with a girl, be so earth shattering for me? Because to finally have this kiss was my salvation in a fight against all the shame and guilt that society had heaped upon me by age nineteen, for even having such a desire. Kissing another female was the ultimate embracing of my true identity. It would mean, I had arrived at the threshold of my life.
Photograph by Jean Schugart-Schild.
I write this little piece of my teen past with teenagers in mind. I don't think it is any easier for a teen to come out today, than it was for me when I was a teen back in the 60's. It is still a difficult process for many. But there are more support groups today to help a teen face their family and peers. Try this site for coming out advice and support: www.hrc.org. Go to your local colleges, or sponsored state programs for support of LGBT youth. You do not have to be alone in the process. That is a huge change from the past, thanks to support groups. I wish this were true in all countries.
Photograph by Jean Schugart-Schild
Two years ago, at the annual Eastport July 4th celebration and parade, I sat on the steps of the local Catholic church with friends, to watch what is boasted to be one of Maine's longest parades. I watched as one man and two women carried a banner for Mainers United For Marriage. "Commitment - Love - Marriage for All." I jumped up from the cement steps, as did my partner and we joined in the parade on the spot. It was my first gay march at age 60. It would have been easier years before, when my spine was healthy, but today was to be the day.
As I walked the parade route many people smiled, applauded, and shouted words of encouragement, but others booed, yelled horrible things, and to my great disappointment a woman I turned to and smiled at, stuck her tongue out at me! I nearly laughed but then I saw it was my neighbor who lived one street over from my home. For a long second our eyes met and I saw an element of her own shame on her face. Clearly, this woman who always waved, and said nice things to me, suddenly registered her own guilt. She didn't expect to see me! All I could mouth was, 'Thank you.' I gave her a slight shake of my head, and shrugged my shoulders, as she bowed her head in embarrassment.
A man in his fifties or a bit more, called out something negative and I turned and said, "Come talk to me, I live on such and such street." He bellowed, "I know!" Hmmm. I always wondered who shot and wounded my cat with a pellet, and who left a dead mouse on a broken coconut shell on my front porch steps. Oh well. I'll never know. But I do know hate when I see it, or hear it. I pray deeply for less hate in this world, for all people.
I have to add that there was one other group of watchers along the route who did not smile or comment, this group looked more like they were deer caught in a bright headlight. They simply did not know how to react. Again, there was one family with blank expressions at this gay banner, who were my closer neighbors of a husband, wife and 2 children who knew I was gay. When they saw me, they did a double take, only the wife smiled and waved.
This poem is not about parades but about how I have felt on a deeper level, as I lived quietly in this world.
Photograph by Jean Schugart-Schild.
It is an honor to mention that this writing below was published at the website www.prisonpublicmemory.org. Read the most fascinating stories and research on women's institutions and prisons. For instance, did you know that the late singing-icon Ella Fitzgerald was sent to the New York State Training School for Girls? Read The 'Ungovernable' Ella Fitzgerald at their website. Presently, they are researching NY State but will advance in to other states in the future.
This is a small slice of my experience with the New York State Training School For Girls, Hudson, New York. My mother worked there in the 1960's, and I worked for two summers from college at Brookwood Annex for Girls (at the time). I am sure based on some of the personalities I met back then, that many of these young girls became successful women in their own right. They were wonderful human beings in my book, who touched my heart, and gave me a free education in life outside myself. I begin this piece with an introduction.
Photograph by Jean Schugart-Schild. This was a storefront in Haarlem, a Dutch city known as the capital of the province of North Holland, 12 miles west of Amsterdam. It is considered the heart of the tulip-bulb growing district, thus has garnered the name as Bloemenstad, the flower city. Here are just a few of many excellent sites to visits. www.hrc.org, www.pflag.org, www.thetrevorproject.org
Many years ago I started to write a piece called Baby Girl Normal: An Arc in the Family Circle. I can say it is still a work in progress and has transformed from poem to short story. On March 9, 2012, I received a notice from the Unterberg Poetry Center 92 Street Y in NYC. It read, "Timothy Donnelly, poetry editor at Boston Review, and Monica Ferrell selected my work (this piece since edited by me) as one of the top 50 semi-finalists for the 2012 "Discovery"/Boston Review Poetry Contest. They received almost 700 manuscripts." It was an honor to be chosen.
When I write lesbian/gay themed stories, I write predominately for people who do not understand our lives. Yes, I am a lesbian. If you do have issues with that, go look in the mirror and point a finger at yourself, not at me. But do take the time to read my writings because I write for you, more than anyone else... to help you see we are more alike than different.