I’m Johnny Taranto, I’m from Farmingdale, New York.
When I was about 5 years old, I remember sneaking downstairs to the basement every morning to watch our VHS copy of The Wizard of Oz. Every single morning, without fail. And I was obsessed with Judy Garland and I was obsessed with the ruby slippers. And my mother had a pair of green suede pumps. And I would wear them around the house, and I would wear them around the house very often. And when we would have company, and I remember my aunt being there with my cousins, and she asked my mother why she was allowing that and not too quietly. And my mother shot her a glare that I knew at the time meant “shut up” but also that it was a point of shame and that was the last time I remember wearing them.
But fast forward a few years to Princess Diana dying and I was watching her funeral on TV. And I made some kind of dress out of a blanket that was on the couch, and I was within eyesight of my mother who was in her room. And she called me up and was very angry and very sternly lecture me for doing that and asked me why I was doing that. And I don’t remember what I said, I don’t even remember what she said, I just remember her being so upset and me being so embarrassed that it affected my mood for the rest of the night.
And those kinds of things happened a lot. I think she began to suspect that I was gay.
A few weeks later I went for my annual checkup and had all the tests done, got my vaccinations, probably nursing a wound. I don’t remember my mother asking this so it was probably done outside the room when he was giving her results for everything else, but she did ask, “How will I know or when will I know that he’s gay?”
But he said, “Well, it doesn’t matter,” I didn’t know what it was in reference to at the time, “and you can’t do anything about it. But I can give him a test.” And he said, “Johnny, who would you rather marry? Cinderella or the prince?”
And I definitely didn’t know what this question was in reference to but I remember feeling really awkward and scared and my response was, “My cousin, Christina” who is this really pretty blonde girl and we used to play wedding every time she slept over. And that seemed to satisfy my mother for a while.
But I’m really happy that he one, said it didn’t matter, two, said that she couldn’t do anything about it, and then three, just dismissed it really quickly to make me comfortable after he asked it.
What I would like to say to pediatricians is that they should know that they’re in a position to be in a kid’s life for a very long time. And that they’re authority figures and that they should keep an open mind, and remember that kids are worthy of respect and that they can have a real lasting impact on a kid’s life. And my doctor had a very lasting impact on me and I still remember that story and I think about it pretty often and he not only assuaged me at the time but he assuaged my very nervous mother and I think he also helped her come to terms with it at a young age when I was also at a young age, and to learn to accept it.