This short story Free is about my character Mitch who has appeared in my books After The Fishing Trip, Xmas With The Fam and Hidden. It is set long before those stories and I may include it in a future book about Mitch’s earlier years. I hope you all like it.
When Mitch had told his father and brother that he was pan the reaction had been better than he had thought it was going to be. His father felt, though problematic in and of itself, that he would end up with a girl because he was gentle. At the time Mitch’s father and Mitch himself thought that Mitch was a woman so that made it problematically progressive in a weird kind of way and Mitch held out much hope that soon it would all come together and things would be completely fine.
Confident that he wouldn’t have to hide items in presses anymore that might give away his sexual and romantic orientation he now wore his rainbow flag bag out to the shops and to his secretarial course at the local community college. But the bubble of everything would be fine was about to burst when he returned early from college one day to hear his father and his brother in the kitchen. His father and brother were discussing with hope that one day he would end up with a lad. As he stood outside the kitchen door his body felt empty, sick to his stomach. He felt a hand rest on his shoulder gently. He looked around to see his mother who had known that he was pan long ago and had been nothing other than supportive. She took his hand and led him into the living-room where they both sat down on the sofa.
‘Don’t take that in. You always be you and you be proud of who you are. Your father and brother just have their old, silly ways.’, she said.
He had nodded, appreciating her words but lost in the sickness consuming his belly. But he took his mother’s advice and continued to carry his rainbow bag with pride. Soon his father realised what the flag represented after seeing highlights from a Pride parade on the news. Not long after Mitch attended his first Pride with his mother and throughout all this though his father and brother made no comment of their disapproval their tone and body language showed just how uncomfortable they were with the whole thing. His father tried to smile and say he should have came because there was celebrities at the event but there was no mention of going to support Mitch. His mother spoke about how free she felt at the event and how much she loved the atmosphere with everyone coming together. She spoke about an older man whose story she heard at the event who had spent his life keeping back that he was gay and now that it was all out in the open he felt so free in his mind. All his father could respond was ‘Ah well, that was just how it was.’
But it wasn’t just his father and brother Mitch seen the unequal situation of life occur in. It was everywhere he soon found. He would overhear students and tutors assume someone was straight unless otherwise stated and hear tutors run down safe spaces and get angry about censorship against prejudiced views. He heard students saying gay couples on TV were ‘funny’. He heard minority groups being debated in Critical thinking classes in a way majority groups weren’t. He began to see how minority groups were thought of as fair game, how he was thought of as fair game and how everything was so personal but he was not supposed to take it as personal. Because of course that would be seen as too sensitive. Or worse a troublemaker. Mitch knew all about being made feel like those things. When he had been younger he had being much more openly opinionated until he had been worn down by his father’s and brother’s gaslighting and the gaslighting of much of the world in general. In the past while his mother had spoken to him about his worries about the world he was entering into as an adult or the world he had just entered into as an adult his father would often overhear and say things like ‘You are bringing down the mood in the house’, ‘You’ll have to go’ and ‘You want your own way.’ Though Mitch secretly hated how he had become so suppressed in talking out his opinions and feelings, he was used to being suppressed in such matters. It seemed easier to just pretend not to have a mind. But of course his father always knew that he was opinionated within and would occasionally comment things like ‘You used to be terrible but you grew out of that’ or when someone opinionated was in the news ‘He/She are a bit like you, a toughie’. To add to all this his father would play the sob act of ‘not understanding all of these new things’ when he read about people being anything other than straight, gay or cis and constantly referred to gay celebrities as ‘The gay man/woman’ while straight celebrities were simply ‘The man/woman.’
Mitch grew up in a time where things were changing. But still so much wasn’t. In the TV shows he would watch parents like his father were given the classic get out of jail card every episode. TV had not moved beyond mostly gay and straight but the fact it had moved beyond just straight was progress. Often he longed for a writer to understand his side of things but they never fully did. Often he would get wrapped up in a show only to find that the character was only put across as likeable if they understood why their parent was ignorant and helped them through. It wasn’t healthy to put across Mitch thought in one part of his brain but another part questioned whether he was compassionate, whether he was a good person. Add into this media and society was still putting across that anyone other than straight or gay was ‘Having their cake and eating it’, ‘Greedy’, ‘Unsure’ or ‘Afraid of commitment.’
When Mitch’s mother died, his heart was broken and he felt like he couldn’t handle things without her there. It was just he, his father and his brother living in the house and his father’s continued comments of him ‘One day finding a nice lad’ was scratching away at the steel surrounding his heart. A few months passed and a combination of everything was gradually building in him and he didn’t realise it. So much so that it crept up on him when he one night put his hands to his throat while his father and brother were in bed. For however long time he wasn’t sure he sat on the sofa in that position feeling like he would do it but then he banged the sofa and freed himself from the most terrifying situation he had ever found himself in. His mind had been filled with so much: pain at the discrimination he faced and pain at the idea that he wasn’t a good person. He had been left with three options: leave the world, stay in the world and conform or stay in the world and be himself. He chose the latter and quickly typed a story to get his feelings out. An angry, messy short story that he would never publish but it served his purpose. That night he packed, left a note and left.
It was while in New York that he realised he was a trans man and later omni as well as pan. His father and brother had been in touch on Facebook guilt-tripping him into returning. He ignored their messages. He had a freedom in his life and in his mind that he had never had before and he wasn’t going to let that go for anyone. He later heard that his father and brother were not in favour of him being trans and omni either but that wasn’t shocking. For the first time in his life he could be open as a trans, pan and omni man without worrying about debating back against the backlash which his father, brother and many others had thought him he was bad to debate back against. He was free, content and alive. Sure he often faced those who said ‘mature people don’t run away. They stay and sort it out.’ In other words people who were still blaming him for not being kind enough to understand people discriminating against him. But he had got his confidence back and he wasn’t letting it go ever again.