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Idol - 1976- Age 7

My knees felt so weak when the girl asked me if we could be friends. No one has ever asked me this before. Her name was Chloe. She was not one of those that teased or bullied me. She always was a quiet girl that was hard to notice. Now she asked me to be her friend. At first, I was speechless and did not believe that someone would want to be my friend. I sputtered that of course I would be her friend and put my hand out to shake hands on it. I suddenly had a friend, which was what I wanted most in the world. I now had a friend.

My oldest brother was now a teen, and it was as if he found a new hobby of tormenting me. He would ask me if I was a girl and did I considered myself a girl? I always fell into his trap when he asked this. I would explain that I felt like a boy, but at times I could also be like a girl. This would make my brother tease me and remind me of how weird I was. Both brothers would remind me that no one liked me because I was not normal.

I did stand up for myself. I would tell them that people liked when I sang and that I now had a friend. I had talent unlike many other people and I was proud of who I was. I did not tease people or hurt peoples feelings. I wanted to make people smile and make them happy.

The priest knew I was talented. He asked Dad if I could go on a national tour and visit a lot of churches in the county. The idea was that I would visit Churches and give a small concert. Dad was a bit susceptible about a Church tour. At first, he thought that it was a waste of his time. He quickly changed his mind when he was reminded that it would give me some exposure and that I would be getting paid. So a deal was made where I would give a concert at 100 churches across the country. I honestly did not know what to think about it. It was so new and unknown. It was only my stepmom that was against it, as she thought I was too young. She tried telling Dad that I should be allowed to play and have fun as a child. She reminded him that I was only 7 years old.

It was decided that I would do the Church tour.

My Stepmom did her best to be like a mother to me. I liked when we cuddled and when she has done my hair. She helped me get dressed and always tried to talk about normal things to me. She loved that my hair was now so long that she could put it in different hairstyles. Once she put it in a lot of braids. I looked like an afro-American. When I first saw my hair, I thought that it looked so cool. I did not know why the others teased me because I had braids. It was nothing new, as my hair usually was in a ponytail.

Chloe did not tease and we even agreed that she could come and visit me. It was hard to find a time because I was practising so much for the tour. She had no problem visiting when I practised. Then it would be as if she was the audience which made the practice much easier. Chloe has seen the old pictures of me when I was younger, so she knew that I wore dresses. I showed her all my clothes, and she admired the fact that I also wore girl clothes.

Chloe was a good friend. She told me she knew I was a sissy. She also admitted that she did not understand why a boy wanted to dress and act like a girl. I could not even answer this. Chloe would tell me none of this mattered. She liked me because I was a good person and this was all that mattered. We never discussed this a lot. We spent most of our time playing. Chloe loved to draw and my bedroom wall was full of her rainbows and unicorns. I felt blessed. I may not have had a lot of friends, but I has a good friend that did not judge me and liked me for who I was.

I did not have a lot of freedom. Dad made me practice at every possible chance that I could get. He did not even ask me what I wanted to sing or wear. It was all gospel songs and I was fine with that. Otherwise, I would be wearing pageboy clothes, with leggings or tights. There were also leotards and rompers. The clothes were very girly. It did not bother me so much as I thought they were pretty. I would not even mind if I wore dresses or skirts.

Dad did not like when I acted too much like a girl. He told me the way I dressed and my long hair was my image. I looked like a child of God. I was neither a boy nor a girl for my fans. Boys would like my image thinking I was like their idol rock stars, and girls would look up to me. However, when I was not on stage, I was to remember that God created me as a boy. It would be a sin if I started acting girly. This confused me a lot. Dad did not mind me looking like I was girly, but he did not want me to act it or even like it. It seemed like he wanted me to be famous, no matter if people thought I was a sissy or not. If it was a sin for a boy to be girly, was it not a sin that I have done it

My brothers were pure boys and often ignored me. They were not part of Dads plan. They had a dad that did not care for them. My brothers once told me that it was much better when mom was alive as dad spent a lot of time with them. When Mom died, he suddenly became obsessed with me and forgot all about them. Maybe it was because of this that my brothers often got in trouble. Cameron was 13 now and he was caught shoplifting. This happened just before the Church tour. I remember when the police came home with Cameron. Dad was so angry and asked Cameron how he could be so selfish. Did he not know that I was about to go on tour? Stepmom asked Dad if he was blind. This was Cameron’s way of saying he wanted attention.

The Church tour started. It would last 4 months. This meant that I would have 1 or 2 concerts every second day. Dad was unemployed so he was my manager on the tour. We had to loan granny’s old car, so this meant that she was also on tour. I think this was good as she was good at helping me get dressed and fixing my hair.

We quickly had a routine. We would travel in the car for hours. Granny would sit in the back seat with me and try to get me to study. This never went so well as I would get car sick. I would look out the window and admire the countryside. Then I would ask again and again if we were there. When we finally came, Dad would then find a bed and breakfast where we could sleep. There was no time to play. I would either be studying or practising or getting dressed for the concert. As I said, sometimes there were 2 concerts a day!

I loved doing the concerts. I had the whole audience captive and I could see how much they enjoyed the show. Everyone would be looking with a smile on their face as they enjoyed the songs. I loved entertaining and giving people a chance to forget their troubles and sorrows. Granny told me that songs can give people comfort and a chance to take a break from life. I felt so free when I was on stage. There was no one bullying me or pressuring me. My goal was to make everyone smile and that the music would touch their soul.

When I came off stage, I was always tired and very thirsty. I would be drinking water while Dad would be telling me what mistakes I made.

I quickly became a success and the church halls were sold out. I was shocked once when some wanted my autograph. I tried asking the person why she would want my autograph. She just said that she could boast that she met me before I became famous. The tour was such a success that the priest wanted me to do 25 more concerts. Dad was about to agree but granny said that we should never give them more than needed. Dad was so mad at granny.

The driving and sleeping at different places and the many concerts took their toll on me. I loved that we visited so many places, but after a month of it, I was always so tired and did not even want to eat. Dad had no patience with me and told me that when I said yes to something, that I had to fulfil the job. As the tour went on, he would be very strict with me. He did not like when I said I was tired or when I cried because I felt as if I could not continue. Granny would hug me and tell me I could get some sleep when I should be studying.

The best thing that happened on tour was when Chloe came. She came to my room after the concert and told me that I sang like an angel. She also admitted that she was my biggest fan. It was the first time that I heard I had a fan, and I felt so happy that Chloe was my first one!

The tour ended and I must have slept for days. It was a very hard thing to do as it was constant stress and it affected my body. It was hard on my voice and sometimes I had such a sore throat. It was also hard that I lost so much weight. It was also hard on my mind. I was under constant pressure from my Dad and I wanted to be my best on stage. The best was when I was on stage. I was alone and I was free to do what I wanted. I felt like the audience could respect me for my talent and not think how weird I was.

The tour was over and I was back at school. I was back to the old life I had. It was as if the popularity I had during the Church tour was a dream. Some from the school had seen me but that did not change their view about me. They still treated me as if I was a misfit. It wasn’t long after I started at school that a group of boys started pushing me all over the place, and hitting me. They told me that singing at a few churches did not make me famous and I should not feel that I was important. They called me a sissy and a wimp. It didn’t help that I was crying.

Another thing changed at school. Chloe had a new friend. He was a new boy that started at the school when I was on tour. His name was Nick and he seemed nice enough. Chloe insisted that we could all be friends. I was not so sure about this. I considered Nick as a competition and thought that he would take Chloe from me. He did nothing to show he wanted to do this. Nick was always nice to me. I suppose that I was just not used to children wanting to be my friend.

The tour must have made me noticed by some people. Dad told me that the agent rang and wanted me to do a TV advertisement. As usual, I was not asked. I was told that the ad would be done in a week. The good thing is that we did not have to travel, as the ad would be recorded in our town.

My brothers were very jealous. They told me to enjoy my 5 minutes of fame, as there would be no way that people would be a fan of a boy that acted like a girl. Granny would get mad at them and remind me that I could be a role model to children that were confused about their identity.

I loved singing on the stage, but I did not like doing an advertisement. I had to pretend that I was eating some cereal, that was made from vegetables. When I first tasted it, I spat it out, which did not please the director. So all day we were shooting and reshooting the scene. Everyone was frustrated because I did not smile enough or show how much I loved the cereal. At one stage the director was saying that he even wanted a new boy. I could see that Dad was very mad. I begged the director to give me one more chance. I could hear moms voice in my mind saying I should “sparkle”. I pretended that I was Shirley Temple. For some reason, that did the trick as the director loved my performance.

I could see that Nick wanted to be my friend. I agreed that I would visit his house. He was an only child. I was shocked when I saw his bedroom. It was a girls bedroom. Nick begged me not to tease him and was relieved when I said his bedroom was cool. It was then that he admitted that he was allowed to be a girl at home. He was transgender and felt like he should be a girl and not a boy. He told me that I was not alone. We spent all afternoon trying on his dresses and other girl clothes he had. I loved wearing the dresses and loved the girl that was looking back at me when I looked in the mirror. Nick was so happy that we could play dress up and to be honest, it is one of the best memories I have as a child.

Dad came early and found Nick and me dressed in summer dresses. I can see by his face that he was not impressed. I expected him to get mad and tell me how much of a sinner I was.

“Get dressed,” he said, “Something bad has happened. Your grandmother has died.”

To be continued.

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