Growing Up in Florida

Feb 17, 2020

I grew up in the Gulf of Mexico, right there on the Gulf. Literally. I could swim before I could walk. My parents had a place called the Gulf Ranch. My father turned me into a Junior Social Director. He said, “There are a couple of kids your age, why don’t you invite them for a swim?” He would bug me all day long until I did it. So, he turned me into a social butterfly kind of.

I lived in a Cuban neighborhood too. Oh and I’m proud to say you’re sitting here with a citizen of Florida. I wrote a grant for my neighborhood. We wanted money to open up a childcare center. It was a very poor Spanish neighborhood, Cuban mostly. There was no childcare, no nothing. Most of the women didn’t work but what we did is we arranged for them to have lessons to learn how to speak English then to become childcare workers. I’m proud to say I started it. I won an award from the governor. First Citizen of Florida.

I did something else that was very cool also. After 9/11, I was living here in Brooklyn and I was with the Y. We headed a disaster relief effort. We set up outside in the street and collected all kinds of supplies and stuff for those who perished and their families. And money too. I won another award in New York for that one. I was an organizer in those days.

Then in 2003, I contracted a very rare disorder. No one knows what caused it or what cures it. You know what saved my life? I spent five months in a coma. They thought I was going to die. But guess what? My brother’s life? My sister-in-law became my best friend right after they got married. Years later I asked her why she befriended me back then and she said, “I needed an ally in the family.” So, she and I became very, very close. She became like a sister to me.

I spent five months in a coma and this is how I woke up. This woman, my sister-in-law, came to see me. She came into my room and sat beside me. She spoke to me and I woke right up from the coma. I said, “Melody’s here! Hurray! Melody here!” That’s how much I love my sister-in-law. She saved my life. Literally.

I heard her voice and came out of it.

I have been gay since I was a kid. I knew from the time I was about seven that I was gay. Dear Melody, she accepted me. She didn’t know but she just accepted me and she loved me. She saved my life, I think. Because I was so freaked out. This was a day and age when being gay was like awful. Oh my god, you’re a sinner, you’re going to go to hell and die! Oh my god, I was a lesbian! Was Florida conservative? Was I gay?

My god, it was so damn Christian, you didn’t fart. You weren’t allowed to fart. Farting was wrong, wrong, wrong. Can you imagine? Farting was wrong. But I farted anyway, don’t you know? Oh my god, you couldn’t take me anywhere.