An Unlikely Friendship

Ringling Museum Windows

I cannot believe I am even putting any thought into the topic of transgenderism.  It blows my mind to think that it is “a thing.”  How did this bizarre notion of wanting to change your sex ever come about?  From drag queens and gays to this.  When did all this happen?  Why do they choose to do this?  What influences their course of action?

I was a freshman in high school when I first became aware of homosexuality.  It sounded gross to me.  Again, it was never a concept I ever considered, until I heard boys using “queer” as a derogatory remark.  It was the worst thing a boy could call another boy.  I had a guy friend that used to be picked on and was called “homo” and “queer.”  I only heard boys call him names to their friends, under their breath (never directly to him), as they walked by him.  When I heard this, I just stared at them, then rolled my eyes and shook my head.  I hated bullies.

But unfortunately, having been bullied as a child, I was not going to draw attention to myself and stand up to them.  I did not defend him.  His name was Paige.  (I thought that name did not help his case.)  He shrugged it off okay, though.  I had to admit, he was a little different.  I did not know whether he was attracted to boys or not.  It was a “don’t ask don’t“ situation.  But he did seem a little effeminate, though tried to act tough, not caring the criticism to which he was subjected.  Otherwise, he was soft spoken, and kept to himself.  He liked art and music.  Something we had in common.  I knew him from the sailing club my family were members of.  His parents knew mine.  We only had one class together, and that was science.  He sat by me at the back of the class.  I was one of the few people he was comfortable around because he could be quite chatty with me.

One day, I had to make up a science test that I had missed from being absent the day before.  Since our desks were against the wall, and I sat behind him, he would sometimes sit sideways in his chair with his back to the wall.  I was the last person in that row.  Paige noticed I was skipping answers as I took my test.  I always did that if I was not sure of the answer and went back to it after I got to the end.  But Paige thought I did not know the answers and tried to help me out.  I told him to shut up and turn around, he was going to get us in trouble!  I was fine, just let me work.

The class ended, and I handed in my test.  The teacher did not even look at it, he just tossed it in the wastepaper can next to his desk.  I was shocked.  I asked why he did that.  He just looked at me and said, “Because I saw you cheating.”  I was flabbergasted and loudly defended myself and said, “No!  I DID NOT CHEAT!  Paige was talking to me, and I told him to turn around and stop talking.  But that was it!”  Paige was waiting at the classroom door for me to walk out of class and heard the whole thing.  He came into the class and told Coach that I did not cheat.  He said he was talking to me, even wanted to give me the answers, but I just told him to be quiet and turn around.  He came to my defense.

Coach told me I was getting a zero on that test.  I told him I had no need to cheat, science was one of my best classes.  (I had an A up till then.)  But he would hear none of it.  Paige and I walked out to the hall and stopped at my locker just down the hall from the classroom.  I slammed my locker door and called him a Ba*@*#*!!  Well, unbeknownst to either of us, coach was within ear shot and dragged me off to the principal’s office.

The next day my parents were called in to meet with Coach, a counselor, and the principal.  They met in a small meeting room, just outside the library.  As luck would have it, I helped in the library during my free “study hall” period.  I saw them all go into the room.  I lingered out in the hall to try and listen in.  I was shocked and humbled by what I heard.  Coach was defending his actions of not accepting my test for cheating.  My parents, especially my dad, loudly proclaimed I was not a cheater OR a liar.  Both my mom and dad said they fully trusted me.  And if I said I did not cheat, then I did not cheat.

A settlement was reluctantly agreed upon.  I was to be given a sixty-nine.  The highest failing grade.  It wound up making my A average, a B.

I learned so much about friendship, parental love, and trust that year.  The reason I had missed school that ill-fated day was because I skipped school.  Yep!  For the first (and only), time in my life, I skipped school.  I skipped school with my neighborhood friends, leaving the bus stop, telling them the dramatic story about how my mean and unjust parents had grounded me for lying to them about where I was the night before.  I was forbidden to see Mark, my boyfriend, for six long months.   I had been with my boyfriend, in his car, and not at his sister’s where I said we were going.  That one and only lie and action caused so much turmoil in my young teenage life.  But getting caught in a lie was the best thing that could have happened.  For only three days after that horrible scene at home, where I made my mom cry and my dad threaten the belt, they sat at a table at my school, defending me, accused of cheating, and lying.  Even after finding out from my little sister, I had skipped school.

I saw Paige, later that day in the hall, and told him the outcome of the meeting with my parents and Coach.  We had won the battle, sort of.  We shared the experience of knowing our parents had our back.  His parents understood him also.  He graduated and went to Ringling College of Art and design in Sarasota, Fl.  Some years later I found out he died of Aids.

Our brief friendship gave me a glimpse into someone struggling to find himself in a personal world of confusion.  About the angst all teenagers go through, one way or another.  Older and wiser, I never judge anyone for their choices.  I just pray they find a better choice.