Georgia Voice columnist Melissa Carter

Melissa Carter: Learning lessons from Mr. Carter

My son is my light, leading the way to my being the person I want – and maybe always intended – to be. Mr. Carter also inspires me in ways I never see coming.

When I reached puberty and realized I was a lesbian, there was nothing in pop culture that reflected my life. No “Orange is the New Black,” no rainbow lights on corporate or government buildings, no massive Pride festival in Columbia, Tennessee. I panicked and dreaded what life as a gay woman meant. “Please, God, don’t make me gay” was a common prayer.

Despite the self-hatred and teenage need to fit in, those things didn’t stop me from dating women in the shadows. But, unlike me and my awareness that I only wanted to date women, the ladies I fell in love with always seemed to return to dating men. I quickly understood that even though some wanted to be with me, and even professed as much, cultural pressures forced them to wrap their arms around some guy in public in order to maintain their reputation. To this day, the first woman I was ever with, and secretly dated for almost a year in high school, has yet to acknowledge our relationship ever existed. So much for a romantic notion of losing my virginity.

Pair the experience of constantly being rejected for a guy with the fact all representation of love on TV and in movies was of relationships between a man and a woman, then you can understand why I developed quite a resentment towards men. Because it was men that kept me from what I wanted, and somehow I assumed they understood and took advantage of their power in my world.

Life got easier as I grew older and was able to choose where I lived and who I openly loved, aided by society as it began to express acceptance of diversity. I still fell for a so-called “straight” woman or two along the way, sticking a needle into that buried anger I somehow held onto.

Then came my son.

A friend joked that having a boy was God’s way of making sure I fell in love with a man at least once in my life, and she was right. He is indeed the best thing that has ever happened to me, and my constant reminder of the child inside of me and the fact her voice is still important. And so is her need to give up all the stale stress that has come from decades of feeling like a victim of my sexuality.

It’s funny. Now when I see men, I recognize those little boys they used to be. The ones who had no problem showing affection, feeling a myriad of emotions, expressing fear, feeling safe hiding behind their mother’s legs and being curious to understand exactly how things work. They’re not so bad after all.

Yet another door my son has opened for me. Thank you, my love.