By Kevin Burgess
A product of the union of two people in love, he quickly became a pawn in a wicked game to hurt the family of this quiet shy little boy. Ripped from the arms of his loving grandmother he was forced into submission to be a “man” at any effeminate act. The smacks and verbal abuse nurtured the still forming brain of this tender young being. This was the start of his “world”.
But this is not a story about a monster that beat the sissy out of the boy or how he and his mother escaped the terrors of the monster. It’s a story of how the boy found his voice after a lifetime of silence.
Sleeping in his closet and living in his own world created in his young simple mind to escape the outside world. The boy didn’t say much, showed very little emotion and struggled with inner anger, sadness and issues that he didn’t know how to cope with yet. The new step father, albeit more loving and supportive than he was even aware of, became a new source of rage and inner conflict. The boy grew into a self-sheltered loner who was more comfortable being by himself than playing with others. This detachment from the social world around him hindered his ability to form regular relationships with people but it strengthened his ability to ‚ ”create” what he wanted his world to be. Being in a military family, he got to see places and things many others never had the opportunity to experience. Like a sponge, he absorbed everything he witnessed.
Even with the exposure to the outside world and experiences, after twenty years the socially awkward boy became a socially awkward young man. Still struggling with all the issues that formed his world, he was dealing with an issue becoming more prevalent in his life. His sexuality. Living alone, as his parents were living abroad at yet another station. He discovered his first gay bar. Suddenly he felt less different and a sense of belonging. He soon became part of the “gay family” that was ready to accept him. His world opened up and when he discovered drag his world exploded into a fabulous stage production! Lucky enough to be part of a local drag troupe who did AIDS benefit shows, he discovered that he could put on makeup, wigs, beautiful gowns and be the ”sissy” that was beat out of him as a child. He was alive and people adored him. That’s when he found his first voice. His voice was strong and loud. Not in volume and sound, but in the ability to be his true self. Without the mask of drag however, he was still a quiet observer of the world making some people uncomfortable with his silence. This lasted a few years and as like life does, it changed. He was comfortable in his self isolated life and was resolved to spending the rest of it alone. He grew a little older, the drag ran its course in his life and the makeup, wigs and gowns were packed away.
On a business trip, actually a buying trip. Yes, he was in retail, a true gay stereotype. He met a man who would change his life forever. In what seemed like a whirlwind romance he was in a committed relationship with someone his senior. This would prove to be his next struggle. Comfortable with living in his own world for thirty years he was now sharing his life with another person who not only wanted to be with him, but also wanted him ‚ “to speak”, “to talk”, “to verbalize”. Being a fan of Anne Rice novels, nothing much scared him, but the expectation to speak terrified him.
For twenty years he struggled with his fears of talking to a loving, loud, expressive Italian man. The love was always present as was his apprehension to speak. The mask of the wigs, makeup and gowns was long gone. Gotten rid of years ago hopefully helping another young lost gay soul find themself. There was nothing to hide behind anymore and now he just wanted to run and hide.
At this point in his life he finally opened the door to therapy. One therapist, a break, then another and another. It seemed to help at first but the issues of his past still surfaced and were hard to deal with. It wasn’t until he was sitting in his doctors office for a routine checkup, he was giving his usual answers of‚ ”yes I’m fine”‚ “I feel great”‚ that his voice started to come out and like a river overflowing its banks, flooded the doctors ears with how truly unhappy and depressed he really was. Struggling daily with who he was expected to be and how he was expected to act. It was like the weight of the world had been lifted from his shoulders.
A diagnosis of; depression, anxiety and PTSD from childhood trauma and abuse, followed by a regime of medications. A new therapist specializing in this led to more intense therapy sessions introducing different forms of therapy. As more issues surfaced so did his suicidal ideation that he had lived with his whole life but never knew what it was. Not having a ”plan” for taking his own life he was always thinking about it.
Something happened. A dear friend’s son took his own life and that became a thought now in the forefront of his mind. How easy it would be to escape all of this torment. There was a benefit walk for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. He walked on the team in the friend’s son’s name. His life partner saw the opportunity to seek support for himself as a family member of someone with mental illness through NAMI and joined a support group. The partner told him of a class offered through NAMI for people in crisis to plan their own management of their mental health. The boy. The young man. The adult man. The senior man. ME. I am that boy.
This was my time to take charge of who I am and what I am capable of doing. We went to the class and then I took an eight-week course to learn more about my mental illness and how to manage it. My world opened up again. I felt more alive. I was with people who understood me. I could be “Me”. Gay, broken, silent, scared, depressed, fidgety, yet I wasn’t abnormal here. I belonged.
The eight-week course ended and, distressed at the prospect of not being with the people who understood me, I started going to another NAMI support group for people with mental issues. I look forward to the meetings every week. I found my ”people”. My family doubled again. I now have supportive parents, loving partner, other family members, my gay family and now my family of social outcasts that others don’t understand. I belong. I can be who I am without fear of being ostracized.
I AM GAY. I AM DAMAGED. I HAVE PTSD. I SUFFER FROM DEPRESSION. I THINK ABOUT DEATH. I AM HAPPY SOMETIMES. I STILL STRUGGLE WITH UNCOMFORTABLE EMOTIONS. I AM QUIET AND SOFT SPOKEN. I CAN BE FUNNY. I CAN BE CARING. I AM OK JUST THE WAY I AM. I BELONG. I HAVE A VOICE. I AM, ME.
Author Bio: Kevin Burgess (he/him) is a successful metal artist who struggles with issues of growing up gay with an abusive background. Unable to communicate effectively throughout his life, This is his story.