Growing up I was constantly belittled by my father. As an adult I came to realize that he really didn't want children. My brothers and I were a hinderance to him. Since I was the oldest, I received the brunt of his disdain.
|Me (on left) during my self-hating years when I was nothing - a too tall, skinny kid with a too big nose and a cauliflower ear which my father never let me forget|
Now of course I realize that many other people like me had similar childhoods, some worse. But I'm talking about myself here and why I am the way I am.
When you're growing up and all you hear is that you're "stupid", "can't do anything", have a big nose ("beak" was his favorite name for me) and a cauliflower ear; one comes to believe that.
It is interesting to look at my grade school report cards now and see that I did well in all areas except self confidence. I almost always received a "U" for lack of self confidence.
Not until I left home at 18 years of age and joined the Army did I come to slowly realize that I wasn't quite the "stupid, can't do anything, big nosed misfit with a cauliflower ear." Oh sure, when I was in Army Basic Training, that wasn't a picnic either. My name then was "stupid, fucking trainee" but I wasn't the only one. Everyone was a "stupid, fucking trainee." This was different, I had company.
|Stonewall Inn - Greenwich Village - 1969|
Gradually I began to gain self-confidence when I realized that I wasn't as bad as I was led to believe the first 18 years of my life. In fact, in some areas I was actually GOOD.
|The "brave" policemen arresting on of those "criminals" a gay guy who was at the Stonewall Bar|
|"How about some respect here cops?"|
Of course my big shame in those days was knowing that I was a homosexual (the old timey term back in the pre-Stonewall days for gays). I definitely felt inferior because of that unalterable fact. I was ashamed and fearful that anyone would find out. If they did then no one would respect me. I would be an outcast, inferior, garbage.
|"What is the matter with those fags?"|
As time went on during my enlistment in the Army and I was promoted over many of my fellow soldiers, even to assistant platoon sergeant and my own room, and even soldier of the month; I lost most of my inferiority complex that had been drummed into me.
|Specialist Ronald W. Tipton|
I always envied my peers who grew up in a household where they were valued, complimented and told "we're going to send you to college." No, I was always told that I wasn't smart enough, good enough and for sure they wouldn't send me to college so I had better prepare myself for another line of work. That's why I took the commercial course in high school instead of the academic course which all of my friends selected.
Not only was I good enough for the academic course, because I was a homosexual I wasn't good enough to even associate with my heterosexual "normal" classmates. A double whammy.
Now let me stop here and put a qualifier lest anyone think I'm wallowering in self-pity. Bill also had a rough childhood. His father died in a drunk driving accident when he was only one year old. He was raised by a physically abusive step-father. My Mother's mother died in childbirth when my Mother wasn't quite two years old. She neglected and physically abused during her childhood. Many of us didn't get a good start in life but overcame a lot but still never quite get rid of the baggage that has residual effects.
|1963 - The year I came out to the world and regained my self-respect|
After staying in the closet for the first 21 years of my life I decided to come out when I was caught in bed with a married man (father of three small children) by my Mother. I had had enough. Accept me as I am or don't accept me at all. I've written about that drama in previous blog posts but that was the turning point in my life. In 1963, six full years before Stonewall, I decided to stop apologizing for who I was and live my life as I am, warts and all. Either you like me or you don't, that's your choice.
From that day on I refused to let anybody discount me as a human being whether it was because of my homosexuality or because someone just didn't like me because I refused to be controlled by them.
I remember where I was when I first heard news of the Stonewall Riot. I was at the Westbury Bar at 15th and Spruce Streets in Philadelphia, PA. When all of us fags in the bar heard this story we of course were angry. At the Westbury Bar we also went through our share of raids, especially around election time when the local politicos wanted to score easy points with the local homophobe voters. "Hey, let's raid the fag bar. That's easy pickins!" Every year like clockwork the police would come in, the lights would flash on and ID's would be checked. Anyone who was under 21 years old was arrested and led out into the waiting paddy wagon outside along with the bartender who served him the drink. This was all done very matter of fact, like the Nazi Germans leading the Urkrainian Jews to the ditches to be shot. All expected and very routine. The only difference was that the underage bar patron and bar tender were usually released the next day after spending the night in "the tank." No one was shot, as long as you did what you were told.
How refreshing it was then to learn that some New York queens decided they had enough and threw some bottles at the police when they tried to put them into the paddy wagons. I know this sounds like an oxymoron, but I've known drag queens who have more balls than a dozen cops put together. They just had enough that night. Good for them and good for all the homos like me who also had enough. You see folks, they had too much self-respect for themselves to put up with any more of this bullshit.
So in my life I not only had to deal with an upbringing which was not positive but instead beat me down, I also had to deal with society treating me as an inferior. I had two choices - to cower and accept other's verdict on me or to take control of my own life.
|Me (center bottom row) with friends who respected me - 1962|
As I said before, those people who were fortunate enough to grow up in loving and encouraging households, and that includes my gay brothers and sisters - good for you. But there are many of us who weren't that fortunate, straight and gay.
So my friends, if I seem a little touchy (and I am) about the way I am treated by friends, relatives and co-workers, this is where I am coming from. I wish I could get rid of the childhood baggage completely but I have never been able to accomplish that. I wish that I could breeze through life, supremely confident in my appearance and abilities but I cannot because I always have that little seed of doubt.
As I said before, many others have had my experience growing up, many worse. Different people take different paths to deal with their "baggage." Some resort to drugs or alcohol. I don't. Some resort to striking out at others to compensate. No folks, I go through life, even with all my faults (and I have plenty I know), with a happy attitude which is my nature. But once I am done wrong or treated badly, that person doesn't get a second chance. Whether it be a public figure or an individual person. I may forgive the bad behavior but I don't forget. That is not in my nature.
|Me today with friend (straight) who respects me even though he knows I'm gay|
I was brought down the first 18 years of my life and have been on too many occasions since but at this time of my life I have zero tolerance to accept that behavior from anyone.
|"Lady Marmalade" Venture Inn, Philadelphia, PA 1980|
Just like those drag queens at Stonewall forty-four years ago who had enough and weren't going to step into that police paddy wagon just because they were gay, I don't accept being discounted. I had enough. I don't accept being taken for granted. I had enough.
I am a unique individual just like every one of you who is reading this blog. Some of you may like me and some of you do not like me. Those of you who like me, let's be friends. Those who don't, then go away and don't bother trying to change me. I am what I am and at this time of my life there is not much more fine tuning to be done. What you see (and hear and read) is pretty much what you get with me. If I criticize one of your favorite celebs like Beyonce who lip-synchs songs (and thus is lying to her fans), get over it. It's my opinion. If I write about myself in my blog (duh) and you think I write too much about myself...well this is my blog. It's about me. Deal with it. If I bore you, go away. If I interest you, stick around because I think I lead a pretty interesting life.
So there is my spiel this morning folks from this damaged, imperfect, human being called "Ron." I like myself and I hope you do too.