When I was a little boy I loved to play with Barbies and dolls. Though my parents were supportive and loving, they could not shield me from the world: It didn’t take long for me to realize these toys weren’t meant for me, whatever that means. It didn’t take long for me to realize I risked verbal lashings or physical violence from other kids if I didn’t learn the role I was meant to play.
So, I played with Barbies and dolls in secret, behind locked doors and under covers, always scared that I would get caught. I was terrified of what it meant that I liked “girl toys” instead of those that were meant for boys, and confused about how my childlike inclinations could make grown adults so ill at ease.
I wish I could tell him not to waste his time pretending to have crushes on girls or forcing himself to walk with what he thought was the gait of a man...
I wish I could go back, knowing what I know now, and tell that little boy a few things. I wish I could tell him that he need not feel shame for doing what makes him happy, and that people being uncomfortable about what toys he plays with only speaks volumes about them, and reflects nothing about him. I wish I could tell him all of the times life was going to try to tell him to be one way, and how he always had the option to be himself. I wish I could tell him not to waste his time pretending to have crushes on girls, or forcing himself to walk with what he thought was the gait of a man, or feeling angry that these things did not come naturally to him. I wish I could tell him that while the threats of violence he feared are real, and that he would be called a ‘faggot’ more than once - lots more than once - or made to feel ‘less than’ based on something he could not control, that he would one day create a life where he felt comfortable being who he was.
I wish I could tell him that he wasn’t alone, and that he’d never been alone. I wish I could tell him there were people at that moment who were fighting and risking their lives to make things better for him, and that one day it would be his job to do the same thing for the other people who needed it.
I wish I could tell him that the world was big, and not always so scary, and it would one day open like an oyster, despite the times he tried to close it, and that he deserves love from other people, yes, but most importantly, from himself.
Seamus Kirst is the author of the memoir, Shitfaced: Musings of a Former Drunk.