5024 – Carmen Barnes

I am 36, but my genes keep me youthful looking. Honestly, I have photo proof.

I came out almost three decades ago. Gay had no meaning to me. Love was the powerful thing I understood. I lived in Europe for most of my childhood and I did not know it was "wrong" to be gay until I moved to the United States. Many of our neighbors in Germany and Holland were gay. I think about it now and I remember noticing how great it was that Luke and Chad had built-in workout buddies and ping-pong partners in each other. They were our neighbors and I knew they were together. No special conversation was needed. Love and acceptance looks like that in a child's eye.

That special day so many years ago is cemented in my brain. It was early in the morning and I walked into the kitchen and asked my mom to sit. She said jokingly, "Carmen, I am the adult and I don't wanna sit!" I pouted a little. She sat down in the living room and folded her towel that she had been using to dry the dishes from last night's dinner. I told her I had something really important to say. She held back laughter. I understand why now. As a whippersnapper I cried wolf, ohhhhhhh dozens of times, and my "important" announcements usually had something to do with the marriage of my G.I. Joe and my sister's Barbie. This was an important alliance, but I digress.

I started to get choked up and I blurted out, "Mom, I'm bisexual." I chose to say this because I had hoped that that would give her a glimpse of hope, or a glimmer of the child that was changing before her, not because I felt it was true. She looked at me blankly. Sighed, bit off a pesky hangnail and unfolded and refolded that towel.

She leaned forward and said, "Carm, what do you want for dinner tonight?" I tried to focus on the hand towel and somewhere in the blue and white stripes of that cotton square, I lost it. I started to cry and yelled, "I don't know what I want for dinner!" She pulled me close and beckoned me to sit on the arm of the chair. She said, "Of course honey. You don't even know who you want to fuck. Carmen, I did not raise you to be greedy. You tell me right now if you are a lesbian or straight."

I cried more and told her I was a lesbian. She kissed my forehead and said, "Tonight we are having chicken and I have always known. I was waiting for you to figure it out."

My mother is one of the best and beautiful beings on the planet. I am happily partnered with a pansexual, genderqueer, female-bodied individual and she tries to understand what all that means. She loves Amanda and accepts us and our love and really that is all any kid could ask for in a mom.

The man she married is a completely different story. Okay, he is also known as my father. He disliked me for a variety of reasons. I came out and that was the proverbial straw. He walked in on something a parent should not have to see (use your imagination – yes that, no, the other thing…exactly), and he yelled louder than he ever had. My mother struggles with depression and an array of addictions (she has been sober now for 19 years, I am proud to say), and at this point in my young life she could be found smoking pot with the neighbor boys or my older sister's exes, and this day was no different. Father hit me hard and I tasted the copper of my first nosebleed. I shoved him back and Mother looked up the stairs with her bloodshot eyes. Weeks later, the divorce papers were signed. I used to think I was the cause of the divorce, but now as an adult and after many long conversations with them both, I realize their relationship was very unhappy for a long time.

I have had many hardships along the way. My father was not the hardest wall I knocked against. I have been mugged, beaten, raped and harassed, all to "teach me a lesson." I am a butch and I have breasts. So strange how many of us butches are blessed with large, full bosoms that actually get in the way of men's dress shirts and ties. This look keeps me in the public eye and that is not always the best place to be. Any given day I am told that I am too "pretty" to dress like a man or I just have not met the right guy. Well, I dress like a Carmen. And my "right guy" is Amanda.
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