I realized that I had a choice. I didn't have to change for him, I didn't have to listen to him and I didn't have to deal with his abuse any longer.
My name is Will, I’m from Houston, Texas.
From an early age, I realized I was different and didn’t fit in with other children my age. I loved the color purple and for an eight year old boy in Houston, Texas, that wasn’t okay. I also enjoyed wearing short shorts. And I remember playing soccer as a child, and some of my teammates took an issue with the inseam of my soccer shorts. I never really understood it because my approach was always, My favorite color’s purple or I like these shorts and they made me happy. So it should make you happy.
My parents got divorced when I was fairly young, and as I was growing up, my relationship with my father, unfortunately, didn’t pan out in the way that I guess most people would hope. My father started attempting to take the things that made me “me” out of me and change me.
I remember one time we were shopping in a store and I walked by him, it was a grocery store. And I walked by him with my thumbs in the back pockets of my jeans. And I remember my dad pulling me aside and telling me that’s not how men hold their hands in their jeans. Men put their hands in the front of their jeans, the front pockets with their thumbs in them, not the back. That’s how women pose or wear their jeans.
When I was maybe 12, 11 years old, my dad made the decision to move out of state full time, which changed the custody arrangement that we had. It moved from every other weekend to longer and more extended periods of possession. I would have to spend 42 days with him in the summertime. Now where my father moved was a far cry from urban Houston, Texas. He lived in a very small town, solar power, well water, extremely, extremely isolated.
In addition to that, after his move to Colorado, he really fell into some severe alcoholism. He was drinking all day. He would wake up with alcohol and go to bed with alcohol. The midday drink for my father generally was something frozen, like a frozen margarita. We didn’t have an ice maker, so we had to use ice cube trays. I distinctly remember the taste of whatever alcohol it was that he was drinking for lunch and whatever mixed drink, penetrating the ice. It was so strong that if you broke the ice out of the ice tray, put it in a glass of water, and started drinking, it smelled like you were drinking a cup of straight tequila.
He was very abusive towards me, emotionally and psychologically. I believe a lot of the abuse stemmed from his alcoholism. He wanted me to be what he wanted me to be, what he thought I should be, what a man should be.
The summer of my junior year of high school. I had a phone call with my dad, where we were talking about my plans for the summer and how things were going to work. I had begun working and I remember asking my dad, if I could shorten the time that I was going to spend with him or split it up into two so I wouldn’t have to take a month and a half off of my job, off from work. And he told me no.
At that moment, I realized that everything my father was doing to me, all of the abuse, all of the hurtful things, all he was thinking of was himself. He wasn’t thinking about me and what was best for me. I realized that I had a choice. I didn’t have to change for him, I didn’t have to listen to him and I didn’t have to deal with his abuse any longer.
And so I told him. I told him what I wanted to do. And I told him that I did not want to go up and visit him for the summer. And that was really the first time that I told my father just how hurtful his abuse had been, just how much trauma he had put me through. And it was really the first time that I felt I truly, truly advocated for myself. He didn’t take it well. And he told me that I didn’t have a choice, that it wasn’t up to me what I was going to do for the summer. There was a court order that said that I had to do it. And I told him that he was going to have to cuff me, to take me.
From that point forward, my relationship with my father was forever changed and my eyes were clear. That call with my father, the summer of my junior year of high school, was the last meaningful conversation that I had with my father before he passed away.
From there, I realized that a lot of people can’t do that. A lot of people don’t have the skillset, the tools, the confidence, the ability to advocate for themselves. And that inspired me to try and do that for a living.
Today, I’m an attorney and some of my very favorite cases that I work on are those that impact the queer community. I have the great privilege of helping asylum applicants, who are members of the queer community from time to time, apply for asylum and defend their claims. These people are fleeing conditions that are unimaginable, unimaginable torture, and it’s honestly a true privilege to be able to use my skillset, and use my privilege to help people of our community create lives here, that are safe and secure.
And it takes me back to that very traumatic call that I had with my father every time. And I am just so grateful that I’m able to help the community and advocate for people like I advocated for myself.
Don’t be afraid to be you. Don’t be afraid to be unapologetically yourself. And when you’ve gotten to that point, particularly if you’re a member of the queer community, don’t be afraid to stand up for others.