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Kevin White

October Swoon

As clichéd as it sounds, I remember the day as if it were yesterday. It was the day that the Cubs won the third game of the 2003 Divisional playoff series against the Atlanta Braves. It was also the day I decided to tell my dad...about me.

Though I had been at Drake University for just over a month, parents' weekend could not come soon enough. I had never been apart from my family for any extended length of time, but already I had learned things about myself that I never could have being around them. The only problem was that I was homesick. I missed mommy and daddy and my nice warm bed with the comforter, and all that other stuff that makes you sound like a wuss, but really makes you the same as the other freshmen (especially the ones who claim they are so glad to be away from home).

Friday afternoon came and classes ended, and all I could think about was running up to take hold of my dad and hug him for perhaps the last time before he started looking at me in a different light. He came a bit late (with my step-mom Terri dutifully in tow), but the hug and the fleeting sense of peace came just as I imagined they would. We then took off to stay the night at the hotel room he had gotten for the weekend, riding slowly and cautiously through the winding ghetto of Des Moines in my father's 1996 Contour.

We arrived near the outskirts of town just as the 6:45 October dusk was settling. This gave us just enough time to grab some dinner at the adjacent restaurant before the game began. I had chicken strips (like always), and I think my dad and Terri both had fish ('cause it was Friday and they're old-school Catholics), and the conversation was pleasant and pointless (since we had been catching up every other day by telephone). Then I paced quickly back to the hotel ahead of them to get into a comfortable position for watching my first Cubs playoff game in five years.

First pitch to last pitch, Mark Prior and the relievers were utterly dominant, leading my Cubbies to a 3-1 victory. Dad and I cheered as if we were in the stadium, and at a volume that would have only been appropriate there. At the end, we were both exhausted from the excitement, and needed only short, hot showers to prod us into bed.

Unfortunately, I had something else on my mind, and sleep did not acquiesce to the pleas of my heavy eyelids. Tomorrow. Tomorrow morning, in fact. That's the moment I planned on telling my dad about something that had eaten at me my whole life. I was going to tell him that...gasping...that I am a girl. "What the fuck are you talking about?" he'd say. Shit, this is not going to work! Need to sleep!

But I couldn't fall asleep, because I had to ponder all the different ways to tell him. Should I explain it in a scientific manner? Probably not. Should I give him my view on it from within Christianity first? Also, a bad idea, because any interpretation that skewed from a strict Catholic view would not aid me at all. Should I be ultra-vague and build up to the bombshell? Yes. That just raised more questions; what metaphor should I use before it was clear?, what this?, what that?, what any and everything!?. It was all too much, and I was sweating bullets from every orifice of my body by the time I stopped to breathe.

Then it hit me like a sack of doorknobs -- I was going to tell him using lyrics. Not my own lyrics, not random lyrics he would not know, but those from our mutual favorite band -- the Doobie Brothers. So many lyrics, so many things to say. In the meantime, much needed rest came at last.

Soon morning came, which meant a feast of day old donuts and low quality hotel decaf for the three of us. Sensing the lull, I decided to act. "Dad, lets walk outside for awhile...I have something I need to tell you."

So began our talk. I busted out "Turn It Loose" (from Takin' It To The Streets, 1976) as my focal point.

Verse 2:

Some friends, they hide it
Keep it deep inside
For the boy it's a struggle
Don't you know it's a lie
You got to be the real thing
It flows with the tide
You are the person
With the answer inside
I'm gonna make it; I'm gonna try
Ain't no use to hang your head and cry


Turn it loose; don't hold back
Got to set your spirit free
Turn it loose; listen to me, children
It's the best kind of remedy
Turn it loose; you got the power
That's the way it's got to be

The song was almost freakishly in tune with what I could not say. I hid it deep inside, as a boy it was a struggle, but being a boy was a lie -- I needed to be the real thing (through and through), and with the answer inside me, I was going to try to make it (as a young woman) since there wasn't any reason to hang my head and cry. I was going to turn loose my spirit and my soul, because it was the only proven cure (and I say that from a personal as well as a scientifically valid standpoint). I was old enough to make the decision -- I had the power and that's the way it was going to be.

I explained how many of the uplifting and positive songs that the Doobies wrote over the years had gotten me through some of the deepest struggles involving this. I had tried to be a guy, I implored, but God had basically said, "Tell me what you want and I'll give you what you need" "Tell Me What You Want," What Were Once Vices Are Now Habits, 1974). What I needed to do was be myself -- I needed to stop "leavin' out (my) heart, and all it (was) sayin' deep inside", because it had been "(keeping) me runnin."("It Keeps You Runnin'," Takin' It To The Streets, 1976). I spouted lyrics from "Cycles," Minute by Minute, "Toulouse St.," and even "Brotherhood" as I charted the course of my hidden gender and hidden life through '70s post-hippie music.

At the end of my diatribe I awaited the recoil. All I got was a little talk about unconditional love and a lot of mysterious looks. It was as if my father's eyes had been turned backwards facing their sockets for awhile, and upon returning to standard adjustment had to learn how to see all over again. Maybe because that is exactly what he was doing (and will be doing for the continuing days, months, and years).

That night our in-house cheering was less loud, and as if they could hear our lack of enthusiasm, the Cubs fell 5-3. Though they ended up winning that series, their doom in the next round would become legendary as a result of one Steven Bartman. Was there some symbolic parallel between the Cubs heartbreaking demise and my loss of innocence and acceptance in the eyes of my father? I do not know yet.

What I do know is that in all the time since that day things between my father and I have gotten worse, not better. His initial wavering support has turned to unbridled disappointment and disgust. His initial understanding has turned into a brick wall of ignorance. It seems that he has decided that his eyes feel more comfortable facing their cavities instead of peering out at an imperfect and warped world. I love him and sympathize with him, but cannot give in or disagree. To do so would be to avoid "(Turning) it loose."

These days, when I talk on the phone with good ol' dad, we occasionally argue about the whole transsexual phenomenon and all that jazz, but most often we focus on other things. Mainly, we focus on the Cubs and their chances to win a World Series (just as we did that fateful night and day), and on music -- especially the Doobie Brothers. Sometimes we just "Listen to the Music" and pretend that everything is OK.

©2005 by Kevin White

Kevin White is a 21-year old undergraduate English Major at Western Illinois University, who finds the mature yet childlike mysticism of William Blake, the practical education-driven compass of Matthew Arnold, and the satire of Alexander Pope to be equally high literary ideals.

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