Today is simply the most interesting day I’ve had in a very long time. I had to go and get a Texas driver’s license (shut it), and because I haven’t had a license in the state of Texas since 2002, I had to take the written test over and my first driving test is in March. That’s right. I didn’t have to take it the first time. When I took Driver Ed, if you got above a certain GPA in the class, you graduated with your license rather than getting it from a DMV test. If you think I am un-amused by this, you would be wrong. I am the driving instructor’s best case scenario. I’ve been driving since I was 16, I am funny and pleasant (most of the time), I speak English, and I bathe daily. I have to tell myself these things because I am so afraid. Seriously. I hate driving tests. Hell, I hate driving with other people in the car. If I’m going to embarrass the crap out of myself, I like to do it solo. However, in order to continue driving without other people in the car (right now I am only eligible for a learner’s permit since I haven’t taken the driving part of the exam), I have to take the test. Catch-22:………………. social interaction needed to maintain isolation, coupled with gut-wrenching fear.
When you go to the DMV to get a license, they check your vision. The first time I took the test, I forgot that my vision was monocular. When the clerk told me to read the numbers from left to right, I did, and she said “there are three columns.” My heart dropped into my stomach a full second before I remembered that I’d be able to see all three if I closed my right eye until I got to the second column and closed my left eye. “Ok,” I thought. “Problem solved.”
Yeah. Not so much.
I somehow managed to fake it, but we went straight from the DMV to the optometrist. My optometrist (Anh Doan in Missouri City- seriously the most brilliant optometrist I have ever met in my entire life bar none, and I have been to what seems like thousands) confirmed what I’d felt in the DMV. My alternating lateral isotropia wasn’t alternating anymore, because my left eye had gotten so poor that my right eye was literally telling my left eye to fuck off and get out of the way. It had made my life so much easier, because my field of vision wasn’t, well, alternating. But I didn’t know what was different, just that it felt easier. That feeling came with a cost.
We went straight from Dr. Doan’s to the mall, where I got new glasses made with prisms to strengthen my left eye and to keep them both from drifting so far. My glasses are tiny to accommodate the prisms’ functionality…. However, I made a big show of getting glasses and flirted with all of the salesladies (one of them cruised me back, holla!) because I am way too insecure to talk about how I feel about this…. so I cover it up with bravado. It works really well. I can talk ALL DAY LONG to people I don’t know…. which is handy because I don’t know a lot of people…. by this I mean that I have lots of acquaintances and few friends.
My dad said that I was masterful with the woman at the DMV (SQUEEEEEE compliments from Daddy!!!!) because I was a little bit frustrated that they took my “marriage license” from Oregon the first time around as ID and they weren’t taking it now. I said, “if you can’t take it, you can’t take it. I’m not going to be mad about it. I’ve been mad about it for 20 years. It just can’t matter.” My dad said that he respected my ability to choose which battles to fight (they ended up taking it, btw….. mostly because I sat there until they found the scan they had already taken of the document the last time I was there [yes, it’s a long story]). I told my dad that I feel these battles every moment of every day. To be angry is to stay angry. I can choose to be mad about a lot of things, but the Texas ban on gay marriage was struck down yesterday. It won’t be long. The house of cards is falling.
What I didn’t say because I didn’t think of it until now is that it isn’t the government that bothers me. It isn’t even present day. It is my history. I have been preached to, spat on, called names, asked what I did to provoke other kids’ hatred of me, my only sin being WHO I WAS. When I was 14, I thought my best shot in life was to live with Diane and to actually be able to tell people she lived there. And I just said Diane because she was the one I was in love with at the time. I thought that hiding my gayness was going to last forever, and as it turned out, forever was only about a year. I came out to Diane first, and my trumpet teacher, Theresa, second. For all my Epiphany peeps, that is why I CANNOT EVEN when she plays at our church. I CANNOT EVEN. It takes me back to a tiny PVA practice room where I laid my heart on the table and she received it with all the mother-love she has for Angie and John now. She was the perfect teacher at the perfect time. It was never about trumpet. Never. It was about having a safe place to go with my feelings, knowing that it wasn’t going to get back to anyone. I was out at school (not by my own hand), but I wasn’t out at church except for the people that talked about Diane and me behind our backs. It was a fucking miserable time in my life because on one hand, I was tortured at school. You would think that HSPVA was this gay mecca then, but you aren’t counting on the musicians that come from the black church, the Southern Baptist church, and the fucked up non-denominational variety that run the gamut from A to B in terms of intelligence (thanks, Dorothy Parker).
HSPVA was hell on earth for me because those little fuckers ruined every single day for me. I told a girl I liked her and she ran to the bathroom to throw up. She and her gang of goons cornered me at lunch and screamed Bible verses at me. One of them kicked me, and I ran to my counselor’s office. When I tried to tell her what was happening, she asked what I did to provoke them. A girl made a flyer and distributed it all over school saying I was a lesbian to be avoided. You’ve read what became of my “home life.” You can’t even imagine what it was like to be me. I was FUBAR in every direction, and I still haven’t recovered from it. To be able to call Dana my wife in front of everyone and not be scared of retribution is unknown to me. I am stuck in my teenage place of having been bullied in every way imaginable and emotionally abused by the one person who was also my angel.
When I left HSPVA and went to Clements, I had a fresh start and I took it. I found a beard. I went back in the closet. Beard wanted to marry me and I didn’t even know it. We were friends for a year before he told me and I told him I’d never sensed any romance between us, even on his part. He told me that it was just his plan to follow me to college and THEN we would be boyfriend and girlfriend. I ran away from him as fast as I could, and once my dad stepped down from the ministry, I started wearing my freedom rings to school every day. My friend James asked me about them on the first day of senior year, and we are still friends today. My favorite response was from a bisexual girl in my creative writing class who said, “do you wear those because you’re a lesbian, or because you’re an idiot?” I told her that I was a lesbian idiot. She was not amused. I did not go out with her.
Coming out at Clements was surprisingly easy, and I am still remembered there for being the first person to do so. I learned this when my sister started at Clements years after I left. There were kids wearing rainbow flags and stuff on their backpacks. Lindsay asked them about it, and they said, “I think it’s for this kid Leslie.”
Diane used to tell me that I was so brave for coming out at such a young age. I realized I had no choice.
Just like at the DMV.