Nick, Charleston, West Virginia
My mother is a woman with little common sense, and my father, a man without a conscience. They divorced when I was three. He moved to Texas where he became wealthy and tan and still lives and golfs today. I was shuffled off to the ’burbs of Charlotte, West Virginia, during the nineties when urban busing was politically popular, and I ended up being one of four white students in my class at a predominantly urban black school. I never made the track team and always felt inferior in gym, but even today I don’t fear black people in large groups. My parents remarried. My mother divorced the nineteen-years young Marine she had left my father for, and married a tower-crane operator and habitual abuser. My father married a leggy blond fresh off her first marriage to a plastic surgeon, the prospecting type, who days after exchanging vows asked if she was in the will yet. I overheard that and it was the end of my relationship with my stepmother. The relationship with my stepfather was tragically closer. He was a true sadist and probably more than a monster. He beat my mother, and when I tried to intervene he beat me too, and locked me in a dog kennel. And, of course, he touched me. My maternal grandparents would always come pick up the pieces. Then, like some Lifetime movie melodrama, my mother left him and moved us to Savannah with assumed names. My mother was always afraid, and this made me unsettled no matter where we were. I came home from school one day and my stepfather was there, and it was like I got punched in the stomach. She moved with him back to West Virginia when I was fourteen. My grandfather later confessed that my father knew all the sordid details, and that he declined my grandfather’s offer to testify against his daughter if he would only bring a second custody suit. He never did, and I never forgave him. I started high school in West Virginia, where I finally made the track team for the first time, had a strong academic record, and was president of the student council. I volunteered with HRO and Equality Forum; I wanted to understand more about what the implications of being gay were. I was dismayed that there was no real established gay history, so I had to learn about it and piece it together on my own. I came out when I graduated. I won scholarships to West Virginia University, and got my BS in advertising during the recession, when work was hard to come by. Of course, the only solution to these sorts of situations is to get a master’s degree, which I did, in social work. As a social worker, I fight for the rights and dignity of other people every day, and, as it turns out, fighting is what this hill-jack mountain queer is damn good at.