‘Sara on Being Proud of Who She is’ by Danny Harris

Danny Harris is a DC-based photographer, DJ, and collector of stories. In September, he launched People’s District, a blog that tells a people’s history of DC by sharing the stories and images of its residents. Every day, People’s District presents a different Washingtonian sharing his or her insights on everything from Go Go music to homelessness to fashion to politics. You can read his previous columns here.

“My brother and I were adopted when we were both really little. I am Bolivian and he is Spanish, and we were raised by a Cuban mother and Irish-Russian father in Annapolis. From an early age, I was pretty shy about how different I was. Annapolis was not a very open place, and kids were quick to point out differences. Because of that, I didn’t really learn Spanish, and I also felt uncomfortable with who I really was.

“I grew up in a pretty conservative environment, and being gay wasn’t even an option. At moments, I would think that there was something off about me, but I would grow out of it. I just tried not to think about it. Then, my brother came out of the closet during college. The thing is that he was born and raised as a girl, so I had a sister most of my life. After he came out, he told us that he should have been born as a man. Now, he changed his name, is in the process of taking testosterone, and lives as a gay man.

“Even for me, as a lesbian, it was hard to come to terms with the changes he has gone through. I love and support him, but it is tough to one day go from having a sister to the next day, having a brother. I have all of these memories of a person who I now call another name and refer to with another gender. It took time to embrace the change and it helped me to understand how challenging hearing this kind of news can be for parents.

Continues after the jump.

“Because of my brother’s experience, I wanted to be the one who pleased my parents. I felt this added responsibility to get married and have kids. But I also realized that I would rather be true to myself and struggle, than to live a lie and be ashamed of who I really was. I came out to my parents when I was 23. I told them that even though I was gay, I still wanted to get married and kids, but to do that with a woman.

“My parents were sad and emotional when I told them. They couldn’t wrap their minds around our very queer family and why my brother and I wanted to go to hell. They still try and keep our family structure together and we all get along, but it is hard for them. Their religion conflicts with how my brother and I choose to live and because of that, they don’t support gay marriage. I know that every family has issues and we all have short comings, so I don’t take it too personally. I try and love them and overlook these things. I just wish that they could do the same and accept everything that I am and everything that I want. It doesn’t make sense that I can’t have what they have.

“I think that living in D.C. has really been a breathe of fresh air me as I go through all of this. Growing up in Annapolis and then living in Virginia, I never got to see and interact with a variety of people and have all kinds of experiences. I would walk around and not feel at ease holding my partner’s hand or kissing her in public. Then, I moved to Dupont and feel like the neighborhood is a comfortable, warm blanket. It is so nice to be in a place that is so accepting and filled with gay shops and gay couples. In D.C., I can just be me and be proud of who I am.

“Now, I think it is great to be a lesbian and I don’t understand why all women don’t do it. Really, it’s fabulous! Women are so good at communicating with passion and understanding. So many men are taught early on that is not okay to cry or show emotions. Obviously, this is me generalizing, but these strong gender roles can make relationships difficult between men and women. You see the typical scene of a woman being really open with her feelings and emotions, and the man trying to stay strong and just work through it. Seeing this makes me think that dating a man has got to be frustrating, which is another reason why I love dating women.”

29 Comment

  • really? who cares?

    • SouthwestDC

      I do, for one. I find ordinary people’s stories fascinating and that I why I love Danny’s blog.

      Also, I agree 100% with the last paragraph of Sara’s story. 🙂

  • Wow. Talk about a total crap shot at the orphanage.

    • I know twins, one gay and one lesbian, and I’ve seen plenty of other families where more than one person was gay, but this is the first time I’ve seen it happen with siblings that weren’t related by blood.

      • I have a friend who is gay and so’s her brother. Her brother is adopted, she’s not. It happens!

        I liked Sara’s story a lot. She seems to be making the best of a really tough situation with her parents.

  • Whew, what a journey! Thanks for sharing, Sara. Love to you and your brother. I hope that you both continue to lead happy, fulfilled lives 🙂

  • “You see the typical scene of a woman being really open with her feelings and emotions, and the man trying to stay strong and just work through it.”

    What’s the point of openly communicating feelings about an issue if it’s not coupled with actually working through it and getting a resolution?

    Signed, a man.

    • I think what she was trying to convey is that the man focuses on trying to find a solution rather than express how he feels. Things get worked out, but the woman ends up feeling alienated from her partner because she’s shared so much of herself while she doesn’t know what’s going on in his head.

      • True, but from a man’s perspective (and speaking in VERY general terms. Please don’t flame me), what we see is women presenting problem after problem after problem and no talk of a solution. If it’s causing you such repeated distress, let’s see if we can find a fix.

        And honestly, most of the problems I hear from women are ironically the result of women NOT communicating with each other and instead acting like gossipy little school girls: the stereotypical smile in her face, talk behind her back scenario.

        If your friend is doing something that bothers you, TELL her! Don’t talk trash behind her back and expect it all to clear itself up. One thing about men: if there’s a problem, it’s front and center, dealt with in some fashion, then we all move on.

      • I think you’re projecting.

        In reality, men understand that listening and sharing is part of the solution. We may be different, but we’ve been interacting with our peers of different sexes and genders since parochial school. We get it. If a man isn’t acting like her gets it, it’s obvious he’s not really into her and should be shown the door.

        To me, it’s more a question of style. You can listen to a woman spelling out what troubles her, and sometimes you can find resolution with a joke. That could be the best dynamic for the moment. It could be the best thing for that particular woman to hear. Everyone’s different. There are lots of different paths to a good relationship.

        Sara’s just looking for different constellation of attributes in a person. That’s fine. We can all like what we like as long as we are civil to each other and create space in our communities for people that are different — people like her brother for instance.

  • So not only did her sister want to become a man, but a gay man? So I can assume she (the sister) was attracted to men, correct? Since he (now brother) is living as a “gay man”.
    Call me old fashioned, but I just don’t get this. Not that I’m putting down her brother, I just don’t understand it. Please excuse my ignorance.

    • It’s actually pretty normal (the L Word did a storyline on this), but I also don’t understand what you don’t get. Being a man and being attracted to men are two unrelated things. Being born into the wrong sex body has nothing to do with who you’re attracted to, and you don’t just undergo a sex change because you want to sleep with people of the opposite sex. You can do it just fine as you are!

      Also, sometimes the same-sex attraction doesn’t happen until after the person has had the sex correction.

      • thanks for the explanation. I’m hetero, so maybe I never put much thought into it. But thanks for taking the time to explain. I guess you learn something new every day!

    • Not necessarily. Some female to male transexuals start out identifying as lesbians and continue to be attracted to women after they transition and then identify as straight men. Some start out as lesbians but become attracted to men after transitioning. Their attraction remains same sex, but the sex involved has switched. It’s also possible to start out attracted to guys and continued in that vein. There are all sorts of possibilities.

      And it’s not so much that people want to “become a man” as it is that they want their outsides to match up with their minds and they want to be seen by society in the same way that they see themselves.

  • I’m a hetero woman, and I don’t understand why ALL women don’t want a warm, furry man, one who doesn’t get emotional, but stays strong and works through it.

    I kid, of course. Difference is what makes life interesting. Given that last paragraph, I’m not sure that Sara sees that.

    • I agree, I’m a man and love my warm and furry man. 🙂

    • The last paragraph is interesting. It’s funny that Sara can’t imagine dating a man because it would be frustrating. I can’t tell you how many straight women I have heard say they could never be lesbian because of how frustrating they think it would be to date another woman.

  • as a straight man with feelings and emotions i find this post to be very boring.

  • I dig Sara’s exuberance and am glad she’s found a home in DC. It’s disheartening how difficult many gay people’s lives are around the world.

    And since we’re qualifying ourselves, I’m a man who loves his (female) wife and whose wife (says she) loves me. Love is indeed grand!

  • Wow we’re very similar, me and Sara. Both adopted, with a brother (mine only “came out” as wanting to be European, not being gay), both grew up in Annapolis, both lived lots of life questioning our sexuality.

    (Glad to read one of these that’s not directly related to race/racism… good to have a change of pace.)

  • i always find it so sad that people are so defensive in their beliefs that they start to not understand people that think differently.

    like religious converts.

    still, its great that you feel dc has embraced you. you should be free to live free.

  • bfinpetworth

    As a mature woman (going on 50!) who has dealt with questions about both my sexual orientation AND my gender identity, I see Sara’s perspective as interesting in its simplicity. I have chosen to live my life in the undefined realm of gender – neither male nor female, but rather a mix of both. I remember during my early years of coming out thinking some of the same thoughts as Sara – why aren’t all women lesbians, men are so _____, etc.. Thankfully, over the years I’ve come to see the world in all its shades of grey (and pink and lavendar!). In truth, there are not two genders, any more than there are two shades of skin. The world is filled with an evolving mix of people in all their various means of gender expression and sexual orientation. Experiencing the world through that lens, rather than the “black and white” lens of my early years,is soooo much more fulfilling and enriching. I suspect that Sara’s take on these issues will continue to evolve and deepen too. It’s called growing up!

    Best of luck to Sara and her brother! Not to be cliched, but its a long and winding road, filled with bumps and potholes and barriers. But the journey is so worth it!

  • I get that not everyone agrees with Sara’s viewpoint. I don’t think that is why PoP cross-posts these… It’s about the wide and fun variety of people who make the District home. I only have so much room for blogs in my life and haven’t found time to read the People’s District regularly, but I always enjoy seeing pieces cross-posted from the People’s District to PoP.

    As to Sara, rock on, girl! Your experience as a Q-friendly person who had a tough adjustment to your sibling’s transition was really interesting to read.

  • I liked the story, but as a straight woman who does get VERY frustrated with men sometimes, I think Sara is missing one, key ingredient to dating women: you have to be sexually attracted to them. So while it must be nice to be able to understand what is going on inside your date’s head, it doesn’t mean anything unless you wanna bang bang them.

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