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.”