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Day 30: New York City Comraderie, Rashomon-Style

2014 October 22
by Jen DiGiacomo

One of my favorite movies is Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon, a fascinating Japanese film about a crime that takes place in feudal Japan told from four different perspectives. But unlike American films that would slowly reveal more layers of the onion, filling in more details upon each retelling, this film ends with the realization that, perhaps, there is no such thing as ultimate truth.

At least that’s way I see it.

HA! See what I did there? <sigh>

In any event, I asked the gentleman who wrote me that amazing email (yeah, the gay stutterer) to share his version of our interactions, from learning the news from his boss to our evening of drinking and bonding over a few too many beers.

Herein lies his tale…

Unlike most of the people DiG has written about, I found out secondhand. I didn’t get the big spiel or the dramatic drumroll, and I shouldn’t have. We were colleagues whose duties didn’t overlap that much, and it made sense that I’d find out via my boss, who was much closer to him.

I remember my boss coming back to the office with DiG after they’d just had coffee together. We exchanged a nice “haven’t seen you in awhile” handshake before DiG took off and my boss wasted no time and sending me a “So…” instant message. “DiG says he has two things he needs to tell me”, he writes. I have zero clue where this is going, but I’m intrigued, because if my boss is telling me this quickly then it must be good. He writes that the first thing DiG tells him is he’s a stutterer and that he always has been. My heart sinks a little bit as my boss details DiG’s stories of living with, hiding, sometimes overcoming, and sometimes not overcoming your stutter. These are MY stories. Stories I don’t really share, but stories I know others have. It’s hard to describe stuttering to another person when it’s the type you can hide. It’s hard to point out the way you use the endings of certain words to bounce your way into the beginnings of other words, the way you avoid certain combinations altogether, or the way you pause, pretending to think, when you know what you want to say, you’re just waiting until your mouth allows you to say it. My boss talks about wondering what the hell the second secret is the whole time DiG is telling his stutter stories, but all I can think is fuck the second secret, I’m busy reading you quote things DiG just said to you that I’ve only ever said to myself. 

He drops bomb two. Transgendered. I could tell my boss was waiting for the “WHAT!?!?!” reply, but I think I just gave him a “huh… had no idea.” He tells me that DiG is doing his “coming out” tour, that he just told his sons a week or so ago, and that he has long fingernails which had until then gone unnoticed by my boss. I start drifting during all this because my one and only thought now is: I need to send him an email.

Some backstory. I’ve stuttered all my life. Still do. But like most I’ve become so familiar with my stutter that I know a million tricks to hide it. Every once in awhile the tricks fail me, and I have an embarrassing moment that sends me into a momentary spiral, but for the most part everyone who finds out tells me, “I never knew you stuttered.” I’m also gay. Realized when I was 12, immediately accepted, never beat myself up about it, but like my stutter, decided to hide it. I grew up in an environment that wasn’t into having an openly gay kid in their census, to say the least. The hiding it lasted 13 years, which is longer than a lot of people, but also shorter than a lot of people. 

I thought, well shit, not only does it sound like we’ve lived with the same type of stutter (something you rarely get to talk about it with someone who knows exactly what you’re describing), but I also know what it’s like to live most of your life with an LGBT secret. I know what it is to hide, every day. I know what it is to fear being uncovered, every day. I know what it is to imagine the end of various relationships you’ve put a lot of work into, because you think your secret, and your decision to keep it a secret, will be seen as awful or a betrayal by the other person. 

So I emailed him. I didn’t and don’t pretend that I know all of his struggles. Being transgendered is a much different ballgame of acceptance than being gay. The answers he gives his loved ones are more complex than the ones I give mine. But I know how hard it was for me at times doing it all on my own. It was my decision to do it one-by-one, without a friend in my back pocket who didn’t care what or who I was, and I know now how much I would’ve liked having that. He was surprised by my story, and took me up on my offer to get a drink and be his open-minded sounding board for a few hours. 

 I’ll let him recount our sit-down (see previous post), but I do remember how obvious his high was. When you start coming out, and realize how effortless it really is once you get going, you talk your ass off. Something you would never talk about becomes the thing you can’t stop talking about, because you feed off hearing yourself actually say these things to another person. I told him how proud I was, but to also be prepared for the end of the process; the moment where now you just have to live your life as an openly transgendered person, and that it will take time to figure out what that even means. I told him there’s no rush and that we all figure it out at own pace. And I told him that if at any point during or after he needed to talk that he’s got at least one person who will listen to him work out his thoughts. My response might come with the occasional stutter, but never with any judgment.

Okay, so maybe not Rashomon, but it’s still pretty awesome. And so is he.

Note: When I began transitioning in 2014, I was known by my nickname DiG, which sufficed until I learned my mom had chosen Jennifer had my birth gone differently. So for historical sake, I leave my posts and podcasts as originally conceived, but know that my name is and apparently always was Jen.
Day 30: New York City Comraderie
Day 31: Easy Peasy
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