Michael Jackson, Prince, Queer, Fag…

I lie awake in bed most mornings and that is when I find my brain is at the peak of it’s creativity. There are no distractions. My room consists of nothing more than a bed, a tall chest of drawers and a small box with a round fan sitting on top. The light shines through the white Venetian blinds and the room is clean and airy.

In this Spartan space I think about what I am going to write next about my childhood. What can I write now without hurting someone? What must be saved for the book which will have to be published under a pseudonym? Will people believe the stories about the poltergeist or the fact that my sister’s leg was healed and grew out 5 inches in church one Sunday?

As I lay there I try to summon the exact adjective that will describe my life before I graduated high school. What was life like for me in those first 17 years?

Desperate to be loved, extremely sensitive, repeatedly rejected, picked on, made fun of – and all the while I still maintained a sense of who I was. I was positive, I believed in me. Those years made deep gouges in the flesh of what makes up Eddie Renz. I’ve become someone that went from being shy and reclusive to being the life of the party.  There was a time when I prayed for friends and now I have too many. But moving past the past wasn’t easy and there are times when the words from my youth still come back to haunt me…

“Michael Jackson, you talk like Michael Jackson!” The boys would yell in the halls while were taking a water break. I was only in the 6th grade and I hadn’t given much thought to how my voice sounded – it was just my voice. I didn’t try to make it high, it’s just the way it was.

“How many of you got to pick the color of your hair?” Mr. Thomas asked the class after recess one day. “How many of you got to choose your skin color?” No one knew where Mr. Thomas was going with this, not even me. He finally continued, “Just like none of you got to choose your hair or skin color, Eddie cannot change his voice and so I want everyone to stop picking on him.”

it had come to that level. Picked on so much that my teacher made an analogy in front of the whole class so that the kids would stop calling me Michael Jackson and Prince. Once one of my classmates, Jeff Rice, came back to the back of the class and started making fun of me. My eyes burned with tears and emotion and he laughed and zipped up my jacket which had a tall collar that covered have my face. He did it quickly. Zip! When he did it part of my cheek was caught in the zipper and it started bleeding.

I think this was actually what made Mr. Thomas say something. He finally realized that I wasn’t just being a baby, but that the students were actually being cruel to me.

Our school had an a large pool outside and our entire class was swimming. I loved to swim, but this same kid Jeff came over and pointed at my chest and said, “Oh, my word, you have boobs!”

I had never considered my chest or my weight for that matter. I was just trying to swim and have a good time. It was at the young age of 10 that I realized I was fat. My inadequacies continued to pile up and there seemed to be no end to the jokes and name calling.

Over the years throughout my childhood and even beyoned I was plagued by my high voice, my weight and eventually my faith. I wasn’t crucified on a cross like Christ, but I was starting to understand what it meant to be persecuted.

During my 7th grade year my parents became youth pastors at a small Pentecostal Church in Sanger. We were an “on-fire” little group and I understood that being a Christian was about standing up for my faith. We wore Christian t-shirts to school and when I was at church I was actually pretty popular. At church I was accepted, but at school I continued to be an outcast.

I felt like my weekends were spent recuperating from being on the front lines. All week long I was called names like Queer and Fag because of my high voice. Back in the 80’s being called a fag or a queer was one of the biggest insults. I played football and despite the fact that I was good, I still didn’t get along with my teammates. It was us against them, the Christians against the non-Christians.

Finally, when it seemed that everyone in the world was against me, my mother finally decided to take us out of public school and put us in home school. Finally, a reprieve from Hell, but little did I know then that running away from a problem doesn’t correct it – sometimes it only makes it worse.

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