Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The modern day Pat…

Ever feel like everyone is looking at you..   trying to figure out who or what you are?  I feel that way a lot. 

The sneers, the dagger gleams, the shooting beams, the awkward stares…   It pierces through my entire body, makes feel less confident, and creates an overly extreme existence of anxiety. 

The worst is when I have the urge to use the restroom; I hold it as long as I can when I am in public places.  Unfortunately sometimes nature wins and I have no choice, I must go.  The closer I get to the doors with the gender signs that read Men or Women, Boys or Girls, Gents and Ladies, my heart begins to race… my palms sweet…  it gets harder to swallow.  I take a deep breath, straighten my shoulders, and push my chest forward trying to reveal my barely B’s, my perky little breasts… just hoping if someone is staring or someone is on their way out…they see my booblets and not question, “Why on earth did “that” person open the door with a skirt on it!”  

If you really want to know… I sit to pee, I belong in here, I have all the right parts….but to many I just look like teenage boy.  Sure that might seem like a compliment in a way just turning 40, yup I get carded to purchase booze, but really it is awkward and uncomfortable. 

There are so many others…like me.  The ones that dress and look like boys.  I know I choose to dress the way and keep my hair short.  I always preferred slacks over dresses, boots over heels.  I am so comfortable being me, the tomboy next door and it hasn’t been easy.  

Growing up sometimes was hard; don’t get me wrong here I had a truly amazing childhood.  I played every sport I could, when the sun came up I was outside until my mom whistled for me to come home for dinner.  I explored caves, swam in the creek, and played army in the woods….I loved every minutes of it.  My brother got all the cool toys, the cars and the G.I. Joes, while I got the Barbies and the dolls.  I got cool stuff too, like my dirt bike, softball gloves, and whatever music I wanted to listen too.  I don’t resent my parents for buying me gender appropriate toys; I love them for supporting me and trying, and oh…let’s not forget cleaning up my wounds from playing rough like the boys.  I did play with my Barbie’s, just not as much as some of my other friends.  Barbie married G.I.Joe and not Ken in my fantasy world. 

When all my friends started to wear makeup and bras in middle school and I was still playing in the dirt and wearing wife beaters under my shirts.  When we had to start changing for gym class; I was shy, embarrassed, and underdeveloped to say the least.  I always waited for everyone to leave the dressing room before I started to change.  I was bullied for being a tomboy, for being different.  I started hating going to school and my 6th grade year I would come up with ways to come home sick.  I had very few friends back then, some of which stuck up for me when the other girls were mean to me.  I will never forget them for doing that…that had such an impact on my preteenhood  to teenhood, they taught me how to rise above the hate and the bullying, and that not all girls are mean. 

My tomboy awkwardness followed me into High School, but I found Track and Field, a sport where I could be an individual athlete and a teammate, exceling in both.  By trial and error coach finally placed me where I belonged and I was really good in my events…as a freshmen I moved up to varsity in the middle of the season.  This helped boost my confidence, but it didn’t take away the anxiety of changing in the locker room.  If I got there first I could change quickly, but if I got there when others were there I would change in a bathroom stall or I was late to the fields changing after everyone else left.  Track was like a huge family, they accepted everyone and their uniqueness.   I made so many friends and had the time of my life being a member of the Track and Cross Country teams. 

I went to a Baptist college where the student lobby was divided by athletes, religious groups, and book worms.  I wore my hair super long and in a ponytail back then.  I still was a tomboy that dressed in girl clothes, even had a boyfriend here or there, nothing serious. Believe it or not, I even wore pink, but I was so uncomfortable and didn’t understand why.  The best part about being a girl in my mind during the college years was ladies night at the night clubs where girls drink free.  I didn’t come out to myself until my junior year of college and it took several years after that before I came out to my family and close friends. You couldn’t be gay and live in the dorms at a Baptist college at the time, I don’t know if much as changed there since I attended.  So I stayed in my closet at school; only some of my cloesest friends truly knew….the rest just pondered or assumed. 

Right out of college I got a job for a small company thanks to my college softball coach.  I was very lucky…but I still wasn’t publicly out.  The tomboy in me was dying inside day in and day out as I dressed business casually for work in blouses and dress pants.  I don’t like wearing clothes that are tight or form fitting.  It’s not that I don’t’ like my woman parts.  I just didn’t like that I was a toothpick a stick holding up clothes, so skinny, some people even thought I was ill. I am a very modest person.  I like to wear clothes that are baggy, lose fitting.  Basically what I am trying to say is the grunge era was awesome for me.

During this time I played softball several nights a week.  Fast pitch, slow pitch, competitive, non-competitive, co-ed, womans… whatever softball team I could I find, I played.  I went through a lot short term relationships over those years, all the while not being out to my own family.  It wasn’t until I was in a long term relationship that didn’t work out, my heart was broken and I needed someone to share the experience with. That was when I came out to my family.  I was 26 years old, I just took a new job at a much bigger company, and I was going through so many life changes all at once….it was then I realized I needed my family more than anything.  It was then I also realized my fears of coming out to family were all for nothing, my family embraced me with open arms and accepted me in every way.  It was fresh start for me in so many aspects.  My grandpa asked me if I was happy, and even though I had just been through a bad break up and proudly answered “Yes”.  My grandpa grabbed my arm, pulled me close, and said, “That’s all that matters to me, you will always be my princess.” It was then I knew everything would be OK.

My new job was business attire; it was hard for me to shop for new clothes. Did I mention I am not a fan of wearing woman’s clothing? This make shopping for clothes really hard.  I started off at my new job keeping quiet about my personal life, but after a few happy hours and someone outing me to my team, there was no reason to hide.  Shortly after starting the job, we moved buildings and our attire changed to business casual, then shortly after that my team merged with a group that wore khakis and logo polo shirts.  Things couldn’t fall into line more perfectly to help me with my uncomfortable attire.   It was then when I stopped shopping in the woman’s department for everything except bras and swim tops.  Then…I turned 30 and it was time for another change.  I walked into a salon with a picture of Sharon Stone with short hair and said, chop it off.  The hairstylist was nervous, I would be losing 6 inches of long, thin, straight hair.  She said once it’s gone, I can’t put it back on.  I didn’t care, I wanted short hair.

I was completely comfortable for once in my life now sporting a hairstyle that suited me well.  It was about that time when people in the office who worked in different departments starting giving me strange looks, especially when I used the restroom.  I remember I was coming out the bathroom and this woman that was walking in asked me if I was finished in there.  I was confused as to why she would ask that, and then it dawned on me; I was in Khaki pants and a logo polo that means I must have been the maintenance man working on a broken toilet. 

Several years ago I changed positions within the same company and went from wearing uniform polo’s and khaki pants back to business casual again.  When I pulled up the dress policy for women, I cringed as I noticed it had not changed since I started there.  What am I going to do?  I went shopping for clothes; it was so hard for me.  Luckily I had Sara to help me out; she loves shopping and thinks I am hot in just about anything especially if I wear something form fitting, so it was fun for her.  I settled on a few woman pairs of slacks and blouses, grabbed a pants suit, and lady shoes.  I was terrified in these clothes and it showed.  When I showed up on the first day of my position a friend who was my coworker replied, “Hamilton, what the fuck are you wearing?” as soon as he saw me.  It took everything I had not to cry, I was already embarrassed to wear these clothes even though that was what I was supposed to wear.  I soon started going back to khakis and button up shirts because my management didn’t care what I wore and after a few years the company is now business casual.  I still don’t really fit in the woman’s category for casual wear, but its close enough. Even though I work for a strong LGBT supporting company and there are only 5 other women who work on my floor…I still have to stick my chest out when I use the restroom because woman from different floors come down/up to use our restroom.  Really?  Go back to your floor then I think to myself.

One would think after all the years of stares and sneers; I would be numb and over this fear of using public restrooms, but it is still there.  I don’t flinch much when someone calls me sir, buddy, or young man, but the bathroom is like a booby trap you know that there, but you can’t avoid it.

Two weeks ago we attended the 14th National Fragile X Conference in Orange County California.  So many wonderful families, doctors, therapists, even teachers attended this wonder event that occurs every two years.  Thanks to Facebook, blogs I follow, and many other opportunities I have met many of these amazing people who are living life the Fragile X way, just like my family.  I feel like I have known so many of these people for most of my life, they are like long distance relatives you get to see once in a while and wish you could see more often.  I have read several fellow bloggers posts on their take of the conference and the experience they had since the conference. They are honest and talk about the anxiety they had when meeting new people for the first time, how it affects them physically and emotionally.  They are excited because for one week they feel that no one is judging them when their child melts down in the lobby of the hotel because everyone there has been there, done that, or in their same shoes.  Love, ultimate support, validation for all that we do for children for one full week, it is a wonderful feeling and experience to share.  There were so many times I felt exactly that way during the conference, but not to take away from their amazing blogs or experiences there were so many times I felt the exact opposite.   This was our second conference, so I have met a lot of people in the Fragile X community before this trip. The love and support I received from those who already know me…know Sara…know Jackson far outweigh this feeling of judgment.  I hope you  know who you are… some belong to our support team in St. Louis, some our relationship has formed over social media, some I met you for the first time at this conference.  I cherish these friendships so much and look forward to getting to know more about each of you personally.  When will I see you again? Miss you already!

Maybe I am over reading things…maybe there weren’t stares or glares, but some of the facial expressions I received when making eye contact on the way in or the way out of the ladies room made it hard not to assume.  I encountered a mother and daughter in the restroom and the mother’s reaction was verbal between the stalls.  I am sorry if I scared the daughter, but I was not out of the bathroom before the mother made some very hurtful comments to her daughter on why there was a boy in the girls bathroom.  After this incident, I started going out of my way up to our hotel room because it was do difficult to deal with my anxiety.  I am not sure if this mother follows the Fragile X webring, but I hope that if she does, stumbles on my post, takes this experience as a learning experience, maybe judges less, and teaches her children acceptance of everyone.  This experience encouraged me to write this blog and I went back and forth about even posting it, worried I might offend someone.  

I heard from so many other parents at this conference that one of their biggest fears is their child being accepted by their peers or how they get anxious when people stare at their family when their child has a meltdown, or the mom has to take their teenaged boy in the public restroom because he doesn’t have the motor skills to wipe or pull up their pants all way.  I believe it is important to also hold ourselves accountable to accept those around us just like we want other to accept our children.  You don’t have to agree with my lifestyle choice, but know this…I am happy with my life, I love my wife, my son is my world, and I am proud of my choices.  If you have a question about why I dress the way I do, or why I have short hair, I will point you to this blog post or tell you in a different setting other than the bathroom I am having near panic attack in.  Over the years I have contemplated just going in the men’s room, it would probably be easier or more accepting of others....


  1. You, my dear, I so want to reach through my computer and hug you right now! Not that polite hug but that knock you over tackling hug like the one you gave me as I was dying in the hall way right before I asked you for a life saving Sprite. Even in my near death experience, that hug totally made my day!

    You are so phenomenally incredible and brave - this brilliantly written piece is simply a reminder of that. I don't know if you are at a point in your journey of life to see the positive impact, the spark of change you are leaving in our world - but many of the rest of us already see it and thankful for it.

    While I don't know the feeling of the challenges you may face, I know challenge and anxiety. I know how it is to be judged based on my appearance and the actions of my children, although for completely different reasons - the heart stopping, panic attack anxiety is well understood and something I would not wish upon anyone, especially a friend. While I wish you didn't have these struggles, I appreciate how much you have opened my eyes to them and hope a difference is made because of it.

    What I have learned in my 40 years, mostly the last 11 since the diagnosis is that what is easier and more accepting of others isn't usually what is right and rarely what is best. While it's often harder, doing what is right, is much more worth it.

    I am blessed to have you, Sara, and Jackson in my life. I am a better person for having your family as part of my bigger fx family and especially as my friends. I see your family and see just that... a family. 2 people with so much love who are amazing parents to the most spectacular little boy. I love to watch the adventures and growth of your family and often beam with pride. I see 3 amazing individuals who belong together as 1 amazing family.

    While it's mind boggling to me that anyone cares about where or how you pee ... I sadly understand that it is a true reflection of the world we still live in. I hope, one day soon this is a struggle of the past for those who face it instead of the reality of the present.

    I honestly do not care where or how you pee... I just prefer you not pee your pants. :-) And don't hold it in, that causes UTI's (no idea if that's true but I heard it once and it stuck with me, so don't risk it!).

    Sending love and the best hugs I have... thank you for your bravery, your honesty and your friendship.

  2. It was such a pleasure to meet you at the conference, though I know we only talked for a few minutes before a session. I was hoping to get a chance to meet Sara and Jackson later and never had the opportunity. (I'm REALLY bad at approaching people!) I think our FX community is blessed to have your family as a part of it and seriously saddened that you felt so unaccepted by some. We as a community should more than know what it feels like to be on the receiving end of those looks and stares, rude comments etc. - it is never acceptable. I am so glad that you posted and I hope the mother in question IS able to see this and realize how hateful and hurtful her words were.