My entire life have been told I was gay. “Oh, Cameron’s a special little boy.” “He is too soft.” “Why does he play with dolls?” “You act like a girl.” You’re gay Cameron, faggot!” These words embedded themselves in my psyche at a young age. The second memory I want to share with you is when I was two years old and going to a very religious preschool.
It was show-and-tell day and I was so excited to bring in my new favorite toys. My father spent every other weekend with me, and for lack of knowing what to do, he would take me to Chucky Cheeses. I loved it! The flashing lights and the clink-clank of the games, the whooping and whirling of sounds from bright colored electronic boxes, the sweet and salty smell of cheap pizza, and the laughter of my fellow kids brought so much joy to my young heart that it made me happy to be with my dad. Which was a rare occasion to say the least. He liked giving me wet willies, yuck!
But Chucky Cheeses was our place, a spot in the world that allowed us to be the typical father and son. Well, at least until it came time for me to cash in my tickets and claim my prizes. I knew it the moment I saw them, these little plastic toy unicorns with colored manes and tails. I picked out the green and purple ones. My father was hardly amused as he had pushed me to get the little foam football, thoughts of bonding over sports flooded his head as I handed over my tickets and got my new prized possessions. I’ll say this about my father, he may not have liked how I was, but he always loved me despite my softer tendencies.
So there I was, show and tell day at school and I was bursting with jubilation to share my unicorns with the class! I patiently waited for my turn, smiling as the other kids shared their prized toys; all the while believing I had the best things to show and everyone would think so too. Finally, my turn to share came, and I jumped up and pulled the unicorns out of my pockets. I told them about how my dad and I had gone to Chucky Cheeses and how I had got the unicorns with all the tickets I had won.
The reviews were mixed. Of course, the girls oohed and awed over them, while most of the boys seemed indifferent to my little treasures. I was shocked that not everyone thought my unicorns were the most significant thing they had ever seen. But shock turned to confusion and shame quickly when my teacher yanked them out of my hands and pulled me into the office. She sat me down, placing my unicorns on her desk, she called my father. “Yes, Mr. Denny? Hi, this is Mrs. (whatever her stupid name was), Cameron’s teacher, and I am calling about your son and his show-and-tell items he brought in today. Yes, those unicorns. Mr. Denny, I’m afraid you must come pick up your son. We can no longer have him attend our school. Well, he is going to be gay, and we cannot have him infect the other children with his gayness.”
I don’t know what my father said on his end, but I know I felt so much shame. I didn’t know that’s what I was feeling then, of course, I just felt sick and wrong, like I was evil. I waited in the office with the office lady as I called her, my precious unicorns in plain sight and just out of reach. The office lady would check and then to make sure the evil gay little boy hadn’t started a big homosexual fire in their holy church, grimacing as she looked at me. I just wanted to go home. My mom had custody of me, so she came and picked me up.
When we got to the car my mom gave me my unicorns, she held her fury at the school back, showing me her unconditional love and support for who I was. I cried, I didn’t understand what I had done wrong. But I knew I was terrible and wrong because of it. My dad was not happy that my mom was raising a gay son. As if she had any control over my sexuality or that a little two-year-old boy could even comprehend being gay. There I was two years old and labeled gay. A label that caused my father to take my mother to court to get full custody of me. It was a label that was forced on me for the rest of my young life into adulthood.
My mother ultimately remained my primary parent and caregiver. But the seeds had been planted, and I now doubted who I was. I even told my mom that I felt like a girl inside. But did I? Could I even begin to understand what any of that meant at two years old? I couldn’t even read yet or say the world “spahyetti”, yet I was already gay. But I liked girls and had so many crushes growing up. However, because of my soft nature, I was defined by most kids and adults as being gay. If people tell you something about yourself long enough, and you don’t have the strength of character and sense of self to claim your real truth, then the realities of others eventually become your identity. At least that’s what happened to me.
Labels are stupid. Sure, they serve some purpose, but to label someone as something based on your opinion of their sexuality is beyond disgusting and unfair. It’s almost criminal because you are robbing them of the right to decide who they are. I spent nearly half my life fighting internally with my supposed gayness and honest attraction for men. The older I got, the stronger my attraction for men became and the more I was called gay. So I took that label on, made it my own, and believed the words of others because I didn’t know myself well enough to say, “No! I’m not gay, I don’t know what I am, and I refuse to label my sexuality!” That would have been a profound statement from a little boy and even a teenager.
At 31 I have come out of the gay closet and realized I like women and men. But it goes beyond that; I am attracted to people that are beautiful inside and out. Call it fluid, call it pansexual, go ahead label me. But I won’t wear your labels any longer. The only label I will ever wear is “me.”