I’m From Charleston, SC.

by Kenyatta Taiste

Satellite overhead image of South Carolina from Google Earth 2022

NOTE: Sylvia’s Place is an emergency night shelter and daytime community space for homeless LGBTQ youth, 16-24, in New York City. Every story this week will by someone from Sylvia’s Place. Read my previous “Sylvia’s Place Week” post for more information about the program and stories.

Growing up in Charleston, SC, was not as bad as people may think. Growing up in the South and being “black” for most was difficult but for my family and me it wasn’t.

My grandmother was this exotic-looking French woman with tan skin, freckles and the prettiest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. My grandfather was this tallish Cherokee Indian with one light brown eye and the other green. They made an interesting couple and the mere fact that my grandmother came from money also, I suppose, helped with any situations that could have happened. I pretty much grew up in a privileged, sheltered, yet free life. I came and went as I pleased, constantly shopped and received just about everything I wanted. I went to the “right” schools, had the right friends and was a part of the right clubs.

Until everyone died.

Literally, everyone died. First my grandfather, then some uncles, then my grandmother and eventually my mother. My relationship with my mother, for some, would seem strange. For one, she had me when she was young and was actually the baby of her family. So we basically grew up together and had always been close friends. The bestest friends actually. We talked about almost everything, constantly went shopping together and just spending time, whenever she was in town, around each other. So when I came out to her, I was a little afraid of what she would say, but not really. I figured I would come out to her slowly seeing how we both kind of depended on each other for our emotional needs and sanity.

I said to her, “Mommy, I’m bisexual.”

She goes, “No you’re not.”

“Yes, I am!”

“No, you’re not.” she responded again. “You’re gay!”

At that point I said, “Shut up! Yes, I’m gay!”

Then we laughed and went shopping.

My family and I were very close growing up. There was always love when I didn’t need it and stern looks when I did something bad. A lot of talking. Always talking. About nothing of importance really. Or at least, that’s what I thought of it at the time. Never talking about emotional concerns. Either smiling, talking or crying. No why for any of them.

I miss it sometimes. They know of my transition but never ask how I’m truly feeling. Asking the general questions but never the ones that matter. It’s okay with me though because it’s what made me who I am. I am the strong-willed, opinionated, judgmental, bitchy, caring, loving person who’s there for everyone but all alone in a cruel world and is fine with it.

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