by Bella Tee
Intro to my life [:
|I was born on January 14, 1994, as Alexandra Saskia Johnson. I was adopted by my Dads, Gale LaBry and Drake Harvey, when I was about two weeks old. My Mom put me up for adoption straight after I was born, and my Dads had been looking for a little girl they could adopt – it fit perfectly. They'd been together for six years before they adopted me, and I guess they were ready to take the next step, and since, legally, that can't be marriage anymore in California, they had to settle with a baby. I was born in LA, but my Mom was a crack whore and couldn't keep me, so I was adopted and moved to my parents home in small town coastal California, a few hours away from my home now, San Francisco. They changed my name to Alexandra Saskia LaBry-Harvey, (yes, it's a bit of a mouthful, and it's just annoying on standardised tests where you have to shade the bubbles in) or Alex for short. My Dads have always been really open about my past, they never hid anything from me. They told me what they knew about my Mom, that she was a hooker and did pretty much every drug under the sun. She didn't do drugs when she was pregnant, thankfully, so I'm OK. They always said that they'd help me find her and meet her if I wanted, if I was ever curious or wanted a Mom, but I don't. A lot of other adopted kids really do care about that, about finding their true blood, but I figure just because you give birth to someone it doesn't make you a parent. To me, my parents are the people who changed my diapers and stayed up with me all night when I was sick and who walked me in on my first day of school, and who try and stop me from going out every Saturday night. That's what a parent is, not someone who forgot to use a condom with one of their clients because they were whacked out on ecstasy.
I'm also glad that I'm not related biologically to either of them. That can get really confusing, because it seems like one is your 'real' Dad and the other is just the boyfriend, which is unfair because usually they've made the decision together and it sucks if one of them is closer to the kid just because he masturbated into a cup and flashed some woman a smile so she'd become a surrogate. I know other kids with same sex parents really struggle with that and I'm glad that I don't have to. So I grew up in a cute little city, under the adoring eyes of my Dads, happy as a clam with my Daddies and my little friends from preschool and elementary school and the sun and the beach. I only ever asked them once, when I was about seven, why I didn't have a Mom. I remember them saying that not everyone had a Mom, and that they loved me just as much as any Mommy did. I was more than satisfied with that – why not?
They're pretty different people, and it's funny, you know, but as different as they are they just click. Drake's the more flamboyant, immaculate, good looking, over-processed-hair partner – his favourite day of the year is when we have school dances and about twenty of my friends come over to get their hair and makeup done. He's loud and funny and loves coming home with a whole bag of MAC makeup or a pair of shoes he found that he thought I'd like for 'being a good girl'. He's a divorce lawyer, and I guess that means he's very empathetic and he understands when things are hard, and he's very generous with his time and money and whatever he can do for people in need. I don't know for sure, but I think he has such a strong sense of family because his parents didn't – he had an awful childhood which culminated in his father walking into a gay club where he was celebrating his 17th birthday (the joys of no photo ID), finding him and punching the shit out of him infront of all his friends and his then boyfriend. He was completely comatose for two weeks after that, and they thought he would lose some of his speech ability, but he didn't. After six months in hospital he finally finished high school and got into college, but I think it left his completely shaken and he's been scarred ever since. His mother, while she probably didn't agree, went along with his Dad because she was such a pushover, apparently. I've met her a couple of times, on the rare occasions that Drake and her ever meet up – she's kind of weird. Drake and Gale met when they were 27 at a club in downtown San Fran, and apparently they were both pretty fucked up, you know, drinking too much, doing too much weed and sleeping with too many people. But they fell in love and I think they sort of brought each other back down to Earth.
Gale's a hard person to describe. He's just as funny and loud and spoils me just as much as Drake, but he's less effeminate. He's buff and has that stubble going and is just as attractive but in a different way. If you've ever watched Queer As Folk, he's Brian, without all the different guys on the side. He's smart and very observant – he can pick up someone's mood in literally seconds – but I think he's quieter and lets Drake do the talking, especially when it's new people, because he's a little uncomfortable around strangers I think. He's shy with new people, but you'll never be friends with someone who'll have your back more than him. He's also a lawyer, but a tax lawyer, so I guess he works with people less, so finds it harder to strike up a conversation with strangers the way Drake does. But saying that, Gale and Drake work perfectly together, they pick up each other's weaknesses and insecurities and fill in for them when the other one is struggling. I get on with Gale on a different level, discussing the world in general and things that affect my life, rather than boys and makeup and room decoration with Drake. Of course, this changes and intertwines, but I think it's normal to have a different relationship with each of your parents – I'm just as close to both of them, just in different ways.
It's always interesting, I think anyway, how parents talk to little kids. A lot of them lie and treat kids like idiots, but I think that little kids, while they might not understand what they see, are very observant. I always knew that my Daddies loved each other and that they loved me and I loved them – and I like that they never lied to me or hid anything about their relationship or my past from me. A lot of kids with homosexual parents struggle as they get older because they realise that their Daddies or Mommies aren't just friends like they've been told, and some ostentatious kid usually points that out pretty harshly. It's not like they were sucking face 24/7 or anything, but I know that my parents were affectionate with each other around me, and I think that's good, because parents are supposed to be gross and in love and it's practically an elementary kids job in life to point out how 'eww' it is. it would have been weirder if they weren't, you know, and if they'd changed who they were because of me. I remember going to play group and them dropping me at preschool and school and people looking at us funny, but I never knew why. See what I mean? Kids are observant, but they don't get it. I think it was harder than they anticipated, raising a kid in a small town, even if it was in California. I'm not trying to stereotype or anything, but the fact is they found the people there pretty closed minded, and the ones here pretty open minded. But it is San Francisco, I guess, you don't expect much else. If 1 in 10 people in the world are gay on average, I reckon it's about 5 in 10 here. But back in our little city – not so much.
We all copped a lot of bullshit from parents, kids, teachers and colleagues alike, but I guess we were OK, in the end. Gale used to get so pissed off about it, especially when I, the innocent little girl, got accosted by some nut job at school trying to convert all the kids to Mormonism or something asking me if 'I was happy' or if I 'wanted a Mommy' or if I was ever 'uncomfortable infront of my Daddies'– and yes those things did happen, plus about thirty other weird ones. Drake would always calm him down and to this day I can remember sitting infront of the TV playing with my dolls, with Gale sitting on the couch with his ties loosened and shoes off, and Drake next to him giving him a massage or telling him to calm down and stop swearing infront of me. And then, once he'd relaxed, they'd pull me up onto the couch between them and played with me, or braided my blonde wavy hair, or tickled me until I had tears streaming down my face laughing. I think that as much crap as there was, we got through it OK, mostly.
I don't really remember this, but apparently when I was about six, I had a little kid over to play after school called Josie. And we had fun playing in my sand box and with my Barbies until Josie's Mom came to get her. Gale was home watching us and playing with us – he loved it when I had friends over. They used to take turns with the pick up/drop off routine – one morning one of then would go early to work and then finish in time to come and get me and the other would drop me to school and work later. Anyway, it was all going great, Gale and this kid's Mom were having a coffee while we played tips and horses and fairies or whatever until Drake got home, and she realised that little Alex LaBry-Harvey was raised by “two feral faggots”, as she apparently so eloquently put it. She threw her cup of coffee on the floor, smashed the glass, grabbed Josie and needless to say, we never did it again. What I do remember about this story is the next day at school. I guess I was a confused as to why Josie didn't finish playing hide and seek with me, but how much do you dwell on things as a little kid? So I went up to Josie and said hi, and asked her if she wanted to finish our game and she said to me “I'm not allowed to talk to you ever again. My Mom said your family was gross. If you talk to me again, my Mommy said she'll make sure you're not at this school anymore. I hate you, Alex.” And then she ran off.
I don't think I'll forget that, my first taste of that discriminatory bullshit, that I got my fair share of there. It was so cold, so rehearsed coming from a little girl of six. Of course, it had most likely been drilled into her skull all night, but God, that's some serious brainwashing power that woman had. I remember running so fast over to Drake after school that day as he was waiting in the playground and sobbing my little heart out into his Prada-suit-clad shoulder as he carried me home, my Tinkerbell backpack in tow. I think he must've known what happened – it wasn't rocket science. I remember him just holding me tight and saying it was OK and giving me kisses and saying he loved me so much all the way home. After our ten minute walk home, which always seemed like an eternity for me and my little legs, he finally put me down outside, and instead of unlocking the door he bent down and looked into my red face and asked me what had happened. Through sobs – which I would say, knowing my record as a kid, were probably more than theatrical than genuine by now – I told him about how mean Josie had been to me, and I asked him why she had said those things. I asked him why Josie said we were gross, and I told him earnestly that I scrubbed my bellybutton every night, and I washed my face too. I thought that my Dads were gods when I was a little girl, I looked up to them so much. I stood there with my big brown eyes, telling him that she was wrong because “you both smell good in the morning at breakfast, so you're not gross either” I told him how hard I'd been trying to figure it out all day and then I jumped into his arms and gave him a hug after my little speech on the cleanliness of the LaBry-Harvey clan.
I'll never forget the small smile he gave me, like he was going to tell me something special, that no one else knew. I looked back at him, about to burst with excitement. He leaned in very close and whispered in my ear.
“Will you tell Daddy if I say a naughty word?” And I immediately stopped crying – being in on something with one parent that you're hiding from the other is the six-year-old equivalent of being in the mafia. I opened my eyes real wide and shook my head, wanting to hear him say it so bad, and he spoke in a low voice, like what he was saying was a very important secret just between me and him.
“You know what, princess? Josie's mommy is a stupid head. You never listen to what she says about me or you or Daddy or anyone, OK?” And he gave my little blonde head a kiss, stood up, opened the door, took my hand, made me a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and we read a book together on the couch, laughing and tickling each other until Gale got home and we had dinner and they walked me upstairs to bed, with me clasping one of each of their hands with my little ones, until I finally got into bed and was so exhausted that I fell straight to sleep. I never talked to Josie again, and to this day, I have never listened to all that homophobic bullshit again. Sure, it's pissed me off, especially as I've gotten older, that there were always kids that mysteriously were never allowed to talk to me again, but I guess I can't really be bothered to care anymore, because frankly if they're that prejudiced, I couldn't give a shit where they went.
They made the decision to move when I was ten. We only lived there because San Francisco was so expensive, but they'd both started making more money – they're both pretty good at doing what they do – so I guess they wanted to get out. They were both San Fran boys through and through, so they couldn't wait to get back. Being ten, I wasn't fussed – I make friends easily. So we packed up and moved for the start of fifth grade, and we haven't looked back. Even when we didn't live here, we sort of did – we came up for every holiday, stayed with friends and family (well, Gale's family) all the time and I knew the suburbs here better than I did back there. In a weird way San Fran's always been home. I love it here – the people, the parties, the shopping – it's all so much better. We live in a two storey house just near the beach and around all my friends and my school. I'm in between tenth and eleventh grade now, just a few weeks off the beginning of the end of school.
I remember the one and only time I went feral on them, when I was in seventh grade. I was friends with a group of really bitchy girls, and I remember talking at lunch one day about one girl buying her first bra. Pretty trivial right? But she started talking about how she'd gone with her Mom and then they all did, they started talking about going shopping for their first bra and make up and when a couple of them had got their period for the first time and blah blah blah. And they kept saying to me, “Huh, sucks to be you, you have to do it all alone” and “I would just die if I was part of your 'family'” or “Why'd your Mom give you up to a couple of fags? I don't know how you can cope without a Mom, because Dads don't really care, you know, only Moms do.” And it just kept going. I don't think it was them that really got to me, but I'd probably been thinking about it too, you know, the big issues for a thirteen year old. Who was I gonna buy make up with? Who would come with me to get my first bra? And god forbid, who would I tell if I got my....period? Of course now, just three years on, they're probably the most insignificant things ever in my life. But back then, it was a big deal. I mean, I'm sure Drake would have gone makeup shopping like that if I'd asked, but it felt weird because they were all going with their Mom's. And I didn't have one. All you wanna do is fit in, especially in seventh grade, and because of my Dads I didn't. Now, I look back on it and I know that they're cool with me talking to them – they're my parents. They live for me to open up to them. But I was really confused then.
So that night, I went home and I was all sulky and pissed off, and we were sitting at dinner and they asked me what was wrong. To this day, I'm still guilt ridden about what I said. Because if that was me, being spoken to like that, I would be so hurt, even if it was my kid. Of course, now I know it's complete bullshit and they know I didn't mean it but...I was brutal.
I got up from my chair and stood there glaring down at them.
“You want to know what's wrong?” I spat, “it's you. I could've had a normal life in a normal family but you two had to adopt me. And now I'm a freak, because I don't have a Mom, I have two Dads. What sort of a kid has two Dads? You...you fucking ruined everything, you ruined my whole life, and everyone hates me and thinks I'm a freak because of you two. I wish I was part of a normal family, and not this fucked up set up. I hate you both so much!” And I ran to my room and promptly burst into tears. Not because I was upset, but because I'd been such a bitch to them. I think I knew, deep down, that it was bullshit, and that I hated those girls, but I would never admit it. I wanted to be popular, and to me, well at least on the surface, I said it was their fault that I wasn't.
About fifteen minutes after my little outburst, they knocked on my door and even after I said go away, they walked in. I didn't turn around, but I was so relieved when they came in, because then it meant they didn't hate me. They were actually so nice and calm and sweet about it. If I were them, I would've been so pissed off and wounded by that. They came down and just sat down on my bed and waited for me to turn around. I couldn't look at them in the eye, I felt so awful I wanted to throw up. I hated myself for what I said, so much and wanted them to scream and get pissed, or even ignore me, so I could say they were overreacting and so I could I could have a legitimate excuse to be angry. But they didn't. At all. I have no idea why, but they were so nice.
I finally turned around, about five minutes later, and then smiled at me, almost knowingly, but it was more sad. It was all I could do to not completely lose it and start bawling.
“Hey, baby, it's OK. We know it's hard. We really do.” Drake took my hand slowly and tried to look me in the eye but I wouldn't.
“No you don't,” I mumbled, “you don't get anything.” I wanted to grab his hand so bad but I didn't. I was a big girl now, I didn't need my parents to love me and I didn't need their approval. I could say whatever the fuck I wanted. Who was I kidding? Of course I wanted their love and approval. I knew it was bullshit, but I didn't want to give in.
“Yeah we do. You think it's easy for us? People call us awful, they say we're corrupting you, we've copped some harsh stuff over the years, especially when you were younger. We know how hard it is.” Gale stepped in. He was always the one who got a little more fired up, who told it like it was. Drake always stayed calm, and was always more gentle about sensitive stuff. I remember the glare he shot Gale after that, hoping I wouldn't notice.
“So what,” I said pulling my hand away now, and trying to pick a fight, “you don't want me? It's too hard having me around? You want me to go back to my crack whore of a mother, or would you prefer I go through her list of clients and find which one's my Dad?”
“No,” he continued, “that's exactly it. It's hard for all three of us, whether it's our friends or teachers or colleagues or just some ignorant idiots on the street. But we love each other, Alex, and we always will. And as long as that's true, we can ignore all that bullshit from those people. If you're friends said some stuff, sweetie, don't let it get to you.”
“That's easy for you to say,” I said, softening as I spoke in spite of myself, “but the people you know don't say it. They're my friends. I care what they think and they hate me.”
“Come here.” Drake stepped in now, because he knew how to do this better than Gale. Four words – divorce lawyer and tax lawyer. Which one do you think was more empathetic in a crisis? He opened his arms up to me and reluctantly, but gratefully, I crawled into them. He held me tight, and Gale wrapped his finger through my long blonde hair absentmindedly, looking over at Drake over the top of my head.
“Remember when you were in kindergarten, in that hole of a place, when that Julie girl came over and her Mom had a fit?”
“It was Josie.”
“Right, Josie. And remember what I said to you, sweetie?”
“Yeah. That her Mom was a stupid head.” I smiled at that, it was one of those famous family memories that everyone has, and we all smiled whenever it was brought up.
“Right. Well, now I think maybe we can make that more mature. Her Mom was an ignorant, intolerant, homophobic bitch who could go and fuck-”
“Enough, Drake.” Gale smiled at him and put his hand on his shoulder to calm him down, which an uncommon occurrence in our family, for Gale to be the calmer one. I smiled up at him, and thankfully he smiled back.
“Sorry. But it's the same with these kids. Either their parents teach them that or they're just immature. And there are so many kids that you can hang out with that won't pay you out because of us, trust me. I went through it and it sucks that you have to as well, but that's high school. But eventually, you'll find a group of kids that love you regardless of how queer we are.”
I laughed at that and I looked up at both of them, pulling away from Drake now.
“I'm...I'm really really sorry for what I said before.”
“Don't mention it sweetie, it's OK.”
“No, it's not and I feel so bad. I love you both and I didn't mean it, I swear.”
“We know. We're your parents. You're a teenager. If you hate us, it's a good sign.” Gale smiled down at me and gave me a kiss before they both got up to leave the room.
“We love you sweetie. Have a good sleep.”
“You too. Night.”
As they walked out I could here them talking.
“Christ, you nearly fucked that up real bad.”
“Yeah, but I didn't.” Drake laughed.
“Shut up, you tool.” I could almost see them exchanging smiles as I fell into an exhausted sleep that night.
So, after my approximate twenty four hours of teen angst, I was back on track. I bought my very first foundation, mascara and eyeliner with both of them in tow, and as usual they knew way too much about every single product, I went bra shopping with Gale's best friend Lisa, who's practically my mother anyway and got my period at a friend's house so I used her pads and bought my own on the way home. I hung out with a new crowd of people, and they included my two best friends now, Holly Darling and Cash Cooper. We all go to the same school now, along with some of our other friends from junior high, and we're all going to the same high school this year. I've had a great last three years – I've laughed, cried, had my first drink, my first and last cigarette, been spoiled rotten in the clothes/shoes/hair and makeup department by my two amazing Dads in return for getting pretty good grades, with the odd bomb here and there. I've had three boyfriends, the first one was a bit of a fail, the second broke up wih me because f my dads – which they don't know – and I'm still with Jake now. I've helped Holly through her Dad cheating on her Mom and the subsequent break up of her family and I've had Cash staying at mine for three months last year when his Dad kicked him out for – finally – coming out of the closet and while his Mom finalised the divorce settlement – that woman would rather stick pins in her eyes than see her precious little boy suffer, which is pretty cute. I know, it's cliché, the girl with the two gay Dads having the gay best friend, but what can I do? I think I'm like drawn to them, or something, because I swear to God half my friends are gay. But I think it's also because there's that mutual understanding – I won't get crap about my family, and they won't get crap from me for being gay. Cash loves my Dads – not in a weird way, but I think it makes him more confident seeing two successful, wealthy, gay men who've still lived their life to the fullest regardless of their sexuality, and I think that's nice. They love me hanging out with him too, because he's pretty much the most trustworthy person on the planet, and they know he would never let anything happen to me – they're all fierce about protecting their hags. They also – surprisingly – get on well with Jake, mostly because Jake wants to go to law school next year (he's a couple of years older than me) and, as Jake comes from a family of deadbeats that couldn't give shit about his college education, Gale and Drake are really good people to talk to about it.
People think I'm weird, because I refer to my Dads as Gale and Drake. But the alternative is Dad and Dad, and not only would that be weird, but it would be annoying. I did it when I was little, you know Daddy and Daddy, until I was about 13, and from downstairs I screamed “DAD!” and both of them came rushing down. It was pretty funny, but from then on it's always been Gale and Drake, unless I'm talking about them collectively and it becomes “my Dads”. You know, just to clear it up for you while you read this.
So, I've been around for sixteen years. They've been pretty normal, pretty standard and I've had fun. But I think it's about to get a lot more confusing – we're all getting older, coming to the more serious part of school, thinking about our future, growing up and, as we're always told, with that comes conflict, with parents and friends and teachers. But if I've learnt anything from my ups and downs as a kid and as a teenager, it's that these conflicts, if nothing else, show you who you're friends and allies are, who you can trust. And I guess, in a slightly convoluted way, that's something to look forward to.