Sunday, February 03, 2013

Respect Part 2




One aspect in my previous post on respect that I didn't go into deeply enough was how, as a gay man, respect is especially important to me.  We need to drill down on this.

Me (far right) with my father and two younger brothers - I always wanted him to like me - obviously he never did even at this young age even though I yearned for his attention - 1948 - his favorite was my younger brother John to the far left - my middle brother Isaac also lacked attention from our father - the body language says it all


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
Thinking back to those days 53 years ago in January of 1960, I remember my biggest fear was someone making fun of my nose.  Much to my surprise, no one did.  Really, I was very surprised. Hey, maybe I wasn't ugly. 


"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.



22 comments:

  1. some of those "brave" police officers look a bit gay, don't you think? and some of them look downright beary!

    no apologies, take no prisoners, never forget.

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    1. Anne Marie,

      I thought the same thing myself! Looks like more than a few of those police officers were "a bit gay."

      As usual Anne Marie, you are so right "No apologies, take no prisoners, and never forget." I may forgive but I absolutely never forget.

      Ron

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  2. Bravo, Ron! And thanks.

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  3. Ron, this stuff still stings even now doesn't it? It made me a little teary reading the stuff about your Dad. You're a good person. I've told you before that this comes through in the writing. We love you just the way you are buddy.

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    1. Sean,

      Thank you buddy! Yes, those things that happen long ago still sting. My friend Larry and I often talk about it during our FaceTime conversations. His father didn't treat him any better than my father did. At least my father didn't call me "Gertrude" when I was growing up. I guess I should be thankful for that. Didn't affect my friend too much except that he is still very shy and timid but he's straight. Never know how these things are going to turn out do we?

      Ron

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    2. When my kids were little I was guilty of thinking "they were a hindrance" and harboring resentment. I "repented" so to speak. I finally came to my senses and realized that they were the one of the most important assignments I was ever going to get. (I had some professional help with this one.)

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    3. Sean,

      It wasn't until a few years before my Mother died (she died in 2010,my father died in 2000) that she told me that my father "ran around." One time she was crossing the street with me and my brother Isaac and there was my father with another women in his car, waiting for the light to change. She got in the car with me and Isaac (this was bout 1946). My father told her "Get out!" She refused. My Mother kept our family together in spite of my father's womanizing ways. There were times she didn't have enough money to feed us because my father spent all his money on other women. She eventually got control of the family finances, and my father eventually settled down. However, he always resented his children, especially me. His favorite was my youngest brother John. Growing up I resented John but now we're best friends, much to my surprise. Poor Isaac, the classic Middle Child. Often overlooked. He still has problems because I was always my Mother's favorite, which I think is why my father especially resented me.

      You are absolutely right in realizing that your children are the most important people in your life. Even more important than your personal needs You brought them into this world and you have an obligation to give them the best upbringing that you can. You are on the right track Sean. I respect you for that.

      Ron

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  4. I discovered your blog just recently and I'm really enjoying it. Made the chicken with cream and mushrooms...delicious! I also had a harrowing childhood and have some baggage (who doesn't?). Much admiration for you for coming out young so many years ago and staying true to yourself.

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    1. Welcome to my blog Happyman! That chicken and mushrooms with cream is really good isn't it? That is one of my favorite recipes. I have a mustard chicken recipe which is almost as good. I'll have to post that in a future blog.

      You're right, so many of us have had harrowing childhoods. I realize mine could have been much worse and at least I had a father who provided for us but growing up I was always afraid of him. It's funny but now my friends tell me they were always afraid of him when they visited me (which he didn't like, I wasn't allowed to have any visitors). I tell them "I was afraid of him too and I had to live with him!"

      I came out early and damn the consequences because I just got tired of living my life according to way otherss thought I should live my life. I've paid a price for it but if I had it to do all over again, I would do it exactly the same way. We all make choices in life and this is one choice I have never regretted.

      Thanks again for coming on on board to my blog.

      Ron

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  5. Truly an introspective post. I'm learning a lot about you, Ron.

    My personal rule is to treat everyone equally, until you give me a reason to do otherwise. That's the basis of respect. I don't really care if you're black, white, green, gay, straight, whatever. I don't assign a label if you are a person who chooses to wear their pants sagging down off their ass and your hat backwards - until you wake me up at midnight in a hotel partying in the halls. Then you're not assigned a moniker associated with race or gender, you're assigned a moniker associated with your behavior - like STUPID ASSHOLES! That's respect, too. (I have no idea what moniker the police finally assigned when called to remove the SAs from the hotel - "disturbers of the peace" would be a good place to start).

    I truly am fortunate to have been raised in one of those loving, encouraging homes what I'm sure you longed for many, many times. And I do hope that even more time will allow you to shed more of that baggage that as you note, is almost impossible to simply shove aside.

    Peace <3
    Jay

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    1. Jay,

      We're in agreement again Jay. I too treat everyone equally, until you they give me a reason to do otherwise. I don't care what you look like or what job you have or where your come from or what your family is like. If you treat me with respect and common courtesy you will receive the same back from me, that is the way I am wired.

      You were fortunate to have been raised in a loving, encouraging home. I wasn't that fortunate. My friend Larry (who is straight and still my friend to this day) wasn't either. However, he did receive love from his Mother and grandmother but he still has serious issues with self-worth even at 71 years of age. This coming from his father referring to him as "Gertrude" during his childhood years. Parents sometimes can be so cruel and don't realize what irreparable lifetime harm they do to their children but such thoughtless and cruel behavior.

      You're right, it is "almost impossible" to "shove aside" this baggage. I've made great strides but there is still a lot of residual resentment that flares up when someone at this time of my life is disrespectful to me. I wish I wasn't this way and could let it roll off of my back but it doesn't, it just triggers those bad memories of whenI was growing up seeking some kind of affection. Maybe I'll never get over it but I don't have to subject myself to it when I someone is disrespecting me by their words or behavior. I just won't and don't tolerate it.

      Ron

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  6. This is a fantastic blog post and one that needed to be written. I heartily applaud your for overcoming your childhood baggage and the eternal oppression for being gay. The best possible thing is to be proud of who you are and make no apologies for it.

    I seem to have spent most of my early life apologizing for being alive. It was difficult to have any self-esteem when the nicest things my father ever called me were "a stupid jackass" and a "crazy son-of-a-bitch". I had an enormous amount of self-hate. It wasn't until I was in my forties that I realized I wasn't so bad.....
    Unfortunately, to this day I still have a serious lack of confidence.

    My promiscuity in Hollywood (and many other places) was my detrimental way of assuring myself that I was desirable. Admittedly, I was also searching for a father figure. Hell, when I was 22 I had an affair with a 55 year-old man.

    As usual, I've said too much.......

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    1. Jon,

      Thank you for your comment. I was hesitant to write this post because it sounds (and probably is) very self-serving but it is something that is from my heart and I felt had to be written. Check out my post again, I posted a picture of me with my father and my two brothers. The body language says it all.

      Of course I know I wasn't the only little boy who had a rough and emotionally neglectful childhood. Many have had far worse childhoods than I have had. However, my childhood left scars on me which affect my behavior even to this day. You know how it is when all you're receiving from the person who is supposed to love you are negative and put down comments, you believe them. It took you until you were in your forties that you weren't that bad. I started to realize I wasn't that bad until I was in the Army but it took quite a few years to realize that I was as good and better than many people I knew, even the rich and famous and those born to privilege. But, like you, to this day I still have serious areas of self-confidence. Even by this post I thought "Who cares what I think?" Then I thought, "This is my blog and I'll write what I want to write and if no one cares then they can go elsewhere but maybe there is somebody else out there like me who endured a similar experience during their childhood."
      For some reason, even though I had a self-loathing, I couldn't go the promiscuity route. In fact I think I went too far the other way, I was too afraid that the men I met wouldn't respect me if I slept with them too soon. I am that way to this day. I often thought "I'm missing out on a lot" but in retrospect, maybe not. I would rather have my own self-respect than someone look down on me because of my actions. That's probably why I am so honest....to a fault also. I couldn't bear the thought of being caught in a lie and having someone disrespect me. I would rather be alone than disrespected.

      Like you I was also searching for a father figure and I found it in Bill. Ironically, I'm now the "father." Some things just work out right. However, one thing that I have noticed at this time in my life I have less and less patience for people who try to control me, take me for granted or disrespect me. I call them on it and their actions permanently affect any future relations (if any) I have with them. I can never trust anyone again once they have shown disrespect to me. Overcompensation I'm sure but I have noticed that is the way my life is going.

      And again, you DID NOT say too much. Never apologize for yourself Jon. You're fine and I have always found what you say to be of great interest.

      Ron

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  7. They say respect is earned, but i'd add that it's also learned.

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    1. Bob,

      Well said Bob and true.

      Ron

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  8. Well written Ron! I like it when you pour your heart out! We learned a lot today. Your poor mother too!
    It must have been so hard to keep the family and herself together. Your dad definitively had problems. Maybe he was treated the same way by his father? But you grew up into a wonderful man and we are all happy for that.

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    1. Thank you Nadege. Sometimes I just have to "purge" myself. I don't know my father was treated by his father but I do know he had scars on his back from beatings he received from his father. My father was born in Appalachia and I think that was the norm, to beat the hell out of your kids.

      Ron

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  9. My father died in 1954 when I was eleven years old. He was an alcoholic and had come from a racist southern tradition, and of course all his expectations were based on heterosexuality which is really all he had ever known. Once when I was about 7 or 8 years old, I must have been acting in some effeminate way in his presence, and he told me emphatically "to stop being a sissy!" He never abused me as a child, but I have wondered what it would have been like as a teenager, when his son was not macho and did not play sports, but instead was a "geek."

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    1. David,

      I was fortunate that my father wasn't an alcoholic. My cousins Jackie and Charlie had an alcoholic father and I saw the worst. Bill's step-father was an alcoholic. I was always thankful that was one vice my father didn't have. I don't ever recall my father calling me a sissy but I sensed he was none too happy with the way I turned out. I really don't think it would have made much difference if I was super butch because my brother Isaac was and is very butch and he neglected him too. He just didn't want us. We were in the way. It's a shame we are given this baggage when we're young David because we carry it our whole lives.

      Ron

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  10. Anonymous6:50 PM

    I do like you , and I LOVE your blog

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    1. Anonymous,

      Think you whoever you are.

      Ron

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