Born This Way

by Otha Norton

Growing up with four brothers and being the only girl couldn’t possibly be easy for my sister, but then again growing up a preacher’s kid hasn’t been easy either. We were assumed to be the cream of the crop. The good kids, the ones with manners and we were taught to follow the scriptures in the bible as if life itself depended on it. My father was a stern disciplinarian. I often felt growing up we were in a type of biblical military. Follow all orders, speak when spoken to, and your only response could be yes ma’am no ma’am, or yes sir no sir.

I can still remember on Sunday morning waking up to breakfast and getting ready for church services, my sister with her hair braided and bright bows tied to the end of her hair that often matched her dress. She really didn’t like dresses but being southern Baptist wearing pants to church as a female was blatant disrespect to the preacher, congregation and god, and not to mention Captain Norton wouldn’t have it. My brothers and I always wore the same type of attire. Long sleeve white shirts with so much starch we often pretended to be airplanes behind our parent’s backs and starched pants with shined black dress shoes. Of course you better have your shirt tucked in.

After high school my sister left to go to the military. My mom and dad were disappointed as they had hopes of her going to college in town eventually marrying a preacher and giving them grandkids. Of course she had hopes for us all but being the only girl they wanted to keep her close. We were always the closest of the bunch. Even though I was older she had the tough girl mentality and she stood up for us all when we were made fun of at school, as we were dressed up every day. She traveled frequently but we always kept in touch. She ended up in Portland, Oregon. Portland, Oregon?

I didn’t know too much about Portland and I was curious about whether they even had any African Americans there. As far back as I can remember, watching the Winter Olympics, I didn’t see any blacks in the skiing competitions. And of what I did know of Portland they had a lot of mountains and cold weather, something us African Americans personally are not fond of.

I received a call from my dad and I was really surprised as it came at 1:00 a.m. in the morning. He said he needed to talk to me in person and informed me I was to meet him for lunch later that day. Until this day my dad still held the ranks in the biblical military and I would not be found insubordinate for fear of a dishonorable discharge, so regardless of what plans I had when he called I knew I was to be there. We met at Piccadilly’s. A local restaurant that served his turkey and dressing everyday just the way he liked it. As I walked in I sensed something was terribly wrong. My dad stood six feet two inches and weighed two hundred and twenty pounds. Always a straight frame head held high glaring straight down at you always ready to feed you a biblical scripture. But today was different. He was sitting down sullen in his seat. He looked defeated to me for some reason. As I approached it seemed he was getting older before my eyes. Are you okay Dad I asked? He just looked up and said I have failed my family in the eyes of God? Being confused I said what are you talking about. Your sister called and told me she was getting married and wanted us to attend. Bewildered I replied, “so why do you look so sad?” “She’s a lesbian.”

I never met a lesbian before and growing up in a strict Baptist household it was considered to be one of the greatest sins. My sister didn’t look like a lesbian. Then again what was a lesbian supposed to look like? I mean all the times I think I saw a lesbian she was riding a Harley Davidson or in the gym lifting more weights than me. I can really say if that’s a lesbian or not but in my mind I assumed it was, and my sister fit none of these images in my head. Needless to say I am shocked but I love my sister. A wedding? To a woman? My dad is still in shock and I’m not even sure if he will attend. Once again I do know I’m still confused but I can’t see myself not attending. I love my sister but I’m also curious as to how this whole thing goes.

Stepping off the plane in Portland, we were greeted with a beautiful white landscape. Everywhere we looked we struggled to find a glimpse of color. It sort of reminded me of the bag of jellybeans I always buy at the store. You may have a full bag but only three or four would be black. As I turned to my right I immediately saw my sister. Tall and lean her hair swept in a bun and dressed in the most flattering winter attire. To her left I assumed it was her fiancée. She didn’t actually look like the picture I had in my head. I thought she would be tall and muscular and masculine looking, but to my surprise I got the total opposite. She was small shapely and beautiful. A head full of curls, which sort of reminded me of the snakes in the garden of Eden.

The wedding was beautiful. With my whole family in attendance. It took a lot out of me to get everybody there. But for the first time in my life I feel I was promoted in rank and I used my rank to command officers to attend. My other brothers really didn’t have a lot to say but I could tell they were uncomfortable. My sister and her bride wore matching white pantsuits. You really couldn’t tell who was the bride or who was the groom, and I found out later my sister and her lover considered themselves to be lipstick lesbians. A term I never heard before but derived my own meaning from it. To my surprise it was actually a real ceremony. I don’t know why I thought it would look any different we are all humans and we all love the same. Of course it took me many nights pondering this question over and over in my head, not to mention talking to my Dad every night assuring him he didn’t go wrong as a father. He actually felt his stern upbringing made her dislike men. I assured him I assumed she was born that way. At least that’s what the song says.

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