So like, I was pretty sure I was gonna come out as gay when I was around 13…
TOTAL. FUCKIN. HOMO.
The clues were all there… I guess.
Honestly, I don’t know what the fuck I was except I seemed to be completely unlike “other boys”, and everyone seemed to be able to tell. I couldn’t seem to connect to boys my age on any level and instead found myself socializing around girls which found me this nonthreatening asexual presence. Yet I was also being palpably groomed towards appeasement and subservience to men and coded as a “faggot” deserving of violence and marginalization without resource for complaint. I was groomed to desire approval from and to appeal towards masculine idealizations. I remember the first time I’d watched Velvet Goldmine, and in that opening scene where child Jack Fairy is beat up and spreads the blood across his lips I remember actually thinking HOLY SHIT WHERE DID THEY FIND THIS FOOTAGE OF MY CHILDHOOD.
A pretty reasonable summary of my childhood.
All I knew, honestly, was that shit that “doesn’t happen to boys” happened to me on a pretty frequent basis.
I found no analogous “shared boyhood” experience to cling to when I was 10 and my male friend broke my nose when I told him he was cute and “reassured” me that he did so “for my own good” to remind me “I’m not allowed” to say such things. Was it just typical “male socialization” when I was 13 and it became a running gag/twisted bonding experience between members of the football team to grope my ass and whistle at me and then threaten to beat me up if I complained? When I spent a night at a friend’s house, 30 miles from my home, and he goaded me into drinking vodka and casually got naked in front of me suggesting we “wrestle”, I’d had no preparation or warning or understanding to work off of.
I learned pretty quick that the same boys in the schoolyard breaking my face open and the boys in the back of the bus goading me to give them handjobs were usually the same. And that somehow that made them heterosexual, and me not. My pre-teen years were spent getting a first-hand custom education that what most people understand about gender and sexuality is 100% bullshit, but not in the way everyone tells you it’s bullshit. More like in the straight women creating gay porn way that everything most people understand about gender and sexuality is bullshit.
…and this is aside of my well-trod-out stories of hundreds of pre-teen nights staying up after my family went to bed to play with makeup, calling myself “Rachel” in the mirror. Mornings after when my dad would yell at me for any detected trace of glitter or color on my face, speculating out loud (and loudly) how many cocks his “son” must be already sucking before “he’d” even made it into high school…
So anyway I was a big old homo and I was pretty sure I was just gonna start admitting it to myself and others and then my parents had to up and divorce. I mean, the divorce was needed and an excellent idea, but it put a serious kibosh on my plans to come out. My parents relationship had been rapidly disintegrating for a while, but had accelerated after the suicide of my uncle Jim, an event that fucked pretty much all of us up, including myself.
One of entirely too few photos I have of my uncle and I.
So anyway my parents split up and it was traumatic and whatever, you know, the typical child of the 90s story. That legendary divorce is such a bore. What it meant to me was that we were relocating from Briggs, Texas to Copperas Cove, Texas, a place where there were people my age that I could feasibly, you know, hang out with and potentially have a normal childhood friendship with. I was 14 at the time and had no idea what that was like and, honestly, I was terrified. I couldn’t imagine anyone wanting to be my friend if I was gay, so that got buried. Between repressing that and my socialized fear of masculinity, I found myself drawn to and embracing bonehead white trash heavy metal music and lifestyle (of which, thankfully, no photos survive).
The duplex we lived in when we first moved to Copperas Cove in 1991.
Amongst all the knuckle-dragging meathead metal I’d immersed myself in at the time, something else had broken through that fall of 1991. One evening after school I’d caught the near-inescapable video for Smells Like Teen Spirit and I was enthralled. I just didn’t even know how to comprehend what I’d seen except that I’d suddenly become obsessed. I wound up scraping the cash together for the single on cassette, and then a few weeks later the album, and studied the artwork and scrutinized the lyrics and just tried to absorb everything I could out of it. For years afterwards I hunted down interviews and tracked down bootlegs to gain a more cohesive understanding of Kurt’s oeuvre.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s get down to brass tacks: here was a scrawny cat with a big nose and a cleft chin with a feminine gender expression, an obsession with anatomical models and other weird antiques, and an obvious chip on his shoulder about toxic masculinity. It was like looking in a mirror or running into the future version of myself or something. I was 15 or so when I first read that legendary statement tucked away in the liner notes to Incesticide:
At this point I have a request for our fans. If any of you in any way hate homosexuals, people of different color, or women, please do this one favor for us — leave us the fuck alone! Don’t come to our shows and don’t buy our records.
I remember thinking wow this is like the opposite of what it’s ok to say these days and filed it away in a place in my brain similar to the place under my bed where I stashed my gay porn. Someplace personal and private until I worked up the courage to address and admit to myself. I find myself periodically reminded of the role Nirvana played in sparing me from white trash induced mediocrity and self-repression. By the time I was 17 and in colllege away from small-town and family pressure I’d moved well past being that weird kid that was painting his nails coral and writing sharpie slogans and had come out as bisexual and began to cross-dress and wear makeup publicly in increasing frequency…
Me at Lubbock punk rock club Einstein’s in 1995.
…but then we’re starting to get into a whole other story.