I was born on March 17, 1979, in upstate New York, to Irish Roman Catholic parents. My dad is completely Irish, while my mom’s heritage is Irish along with many other nationalities from the Americas to Asia. She has often said that she was “Heinz 57”, and she’s not far off.
Being born on the day of the Feast of St. Patrick was very exciting, especially on my father’s side of the family. They were going to name me Patrick, but they were afraid that children would make fun of me since I was born on St. Patrick’s Day. Mercifully, they decided to name me Mickey instead. All joking aside, I actually like that name because it is androgynous, like me. I never really fit in with anybody.
Well, that’s not completely true, as I do have my family, and my home is like a safe place away from the rest of the world. I love my family, and I have a bond with my paternal grandmother, or Nanny as I call her, especially. When I was a newborn baby, I reached out and grabbed my Nanny’s finger. We’ve been close ever since.
The closeness to my entire family only grew larger months later when I got a severe case of croup. I couldn’t breathe on my own, and the doctors had to put me in a tank ventilator. My mother told me that she would cry when the machine made its breaths for me and that she wanted to hold me and comfort me, but I was stuck in my breathing machine. She did put a toy sun that would play “You Are My Sunshine” by the machine to comfort me. I don’t know if it’s a subconscious memory of being in the machine, or just of my mother’s story that causes it, but I still smile whenever I hear that song.
My sister, Melissa, was born when I was two. I learned to walk pretty quickly, and my mother told me that I taught my sister how to walk by walking while holding her as she walked along with her feet on top of my feet.
I also learned to swim early, but I actually learned to sink first. We have an in-ground pool that my parents put in before I was born. When I was a baby, I fell into the pool and sunk down to the bottom of the shallow end. I was just staring up at my parents from the bottom of the pool, smiling at them. They picked me up and acted happy so that I wouldn’t be afraid of water. It worked because I’m like a fish when I’m in the water. Both my sister and I spend hours in the pool in the summer.
It is actually swimming that made me realize that there was a difference between boys and girls. Girls, like my mother and sister, wore swimsuits that covered the top of their bodies. Boys, like my father, just wore shorts into the pool. I was dressed in shorts too, like the boy my parents told me I am, but I felt oddly naked. I felt that I should wear a swimsuit like those worn by my mother and sister. It’s at that moment that I realized that I was different. I’m told by my parents that I’m a boy, but I felt in my heart that I was a girl.
This only strengthened since then when I was 4 and went to Pre-K. I was enrolled in Catholic school and went to Our Lady of Lourdes Elementary School. The girls in my class all wore a plaid jumper with dainty white ankle socks and mary jane shoes. However, I was forced to wear the boys uniform that consisted of navy blue slacks, a white pull-over shirt, white crew socks, and dress shoes. That remained the uniform in kindergarten and first grade too. I hate it. I want to wear what the girls wear, but I know that I can’t.
Because I was so different, my classmates all mostly ignore me. Well, everyone except for Lauren. We sit on the other side of the room from each other in class, but whenever we’re in the gym, we always team up together. When school’s over we even go to each other’s houses. I love going over to her house because we can play in the cool little house that she has in her backyard. It’s so much fun. Our parents act like we’re boyfriend and girlfriend, but Lauren doesn’t do that.
She treats me just like a girl. We play house, we play hopscotch, jump rope, and sing rhymes. It’s all the stuff that I want to do at recess in school, but can’t. I just sit on the swings when the grass is dry and we are allowed on the playground, or just stand on the other side of the Church parking lot during recess when the ground is too wet and we can’t play there. I look at the girls playing their games and want to join in. That’s why I like Lauren so much. She knows that I can’t do girls’ stuff at school, no matter how much I want to, so we play the fun girls’ games whenever we get together out of school.
I should say that I ‘used to’ do all of the fun girl stuff with Lauren. Earlier this summer, all of the Catholic schools in my town combined, and are all now known as Holy Family. Next year, for second grade, I will be going to Holy Family Primary, way across town in the school that used to be St. Mary’s. I was looking forward to going to my new school with Lauren. But, she just moved away, and I was devastated. Now, I’m left alone to go to my new school with no friends, and no way to be myself.
I should look on the bright side like my Nanny always says. I can’t be myself at school, but I can be myself when I am home. Like I said, my home is my safe haven. My sister is a big part of that. I’m now 7 and my sister is 5, and we play together all the time. In fact, she’s the only person I ever introduced to my friend inside of me. She is named Jenny. My sister has a friend inside of her named Helen. She talks to Helen in front of our family. I wish I could too, but I could never do that. Since Jenny is a girl, we do girl things together. I can’t do girl things in front of my parents. I have to be a boy in front of adults.
My sister is different though. I can be myself in front of her. When we play in her room, she lets me dress in her clothes. She gave me a white leotard to put on, and I put it on quickly, and happily. I stood there grinning like the Cheshire cat, and my smile only got bigger when she told me that I “make a cute girl”. She’s right. Even though I can’t be myself when I’m outside of our house, I AM a cute girl.