WANTING TO BE WHO WE'RE NOT
 

Creative Nonfiction by Queer Writers
Edited by Jim Tushinski and Jim Van Buskirk
Now available from Harrington Park Press

 
 
 

THE DAY MY PAST CAME CALLING (excerpt)

by Jay Blotcher

     For as long as I remember, I wanted to be white. I mean, I was born Caucasian. But that was not enough; I wanted to be tall and slim, with elegant wrists that suggested a blue-blood lineage rather than outright feyness. I wanted the type of body that looks perfect in a Varsity jacket. I wanted piercing blue eyes and a shock of blond hair that would constantly fall over my high forehead into my eyes, requiring me to shake it back with a practiced insouciance.
     From the start of first grade, at Margaret L. Donovan Elementary School in Randolph, Mass., I nursed an extreme case of WASP envy. Why not? Children have a simplistic notion of social justice: the good people are clearly the ones at the top. And from all I could divine from 1966 TV, magazines, and the classroom, WASPs ran the world. People liked them, coddled them, gave them extra candy at birthday parties. So why not become one of them?


     But an unruly set of genes had undermined my simple quest. I was short, chubby, and olive-skinned. I had a prominent nose of Semitic character, not the aquiline type that, I was convinced, was a passport to a better world. My eyes were hazel, but thick glasses upstaged them. And then there was the hair: dark brown to the point of blackness, and as soft as barbed wire. It grew up and out in a tangle. At first, I felt I could retrain it. For months, I went to bed wearing a ski cap, praying that the constant pressure would force the hair to fall across my brow. My ploy failed.
     When it came to my ethnic identity, I simply knew who I wasn't. Who I actually was became the tougher question. There weren't many clues. In 1961, at the age of one year and three weeks, I was liberated from a Jewish adoption agency in Scollay Square, Boston, and brought home to suburbia. My new parents possessed one single fact about my heritage: I was born to a Jewish mother. Any other guesses relied on my physical appearance, the way one parses out the mixed breeding of a mongrel dog. Thanks to laws governing Bay State adoptions, my true racial background lay in a sealed file. But in our tribe, the Jewish classification suffices; everything else can be grafted on.