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7 Days of Peggy: Be All That You Can Be

Memories of Mom: Be All That You Can Be

When I was in first grade, my mother was asked to come up to school and see the principal. Mom was 25 years old at the time and waiting tables to supplement welfare because our father didn’t help us financially.

I was really scared, because I had never been called to the principal’s office before. Throughout Pre-K and Kindergarten I was a model student but often picked on for being too girlie.

Mom, who knew that I got good grades and was never in trouble, couldn’t figure out why she had been asked to come.

Peggy 4
Peggy with Liam and Christian (c. 1980)

Eventually, we were ushered into the principal’s office where she was sitting with the assistant principal. They asked us to sit and told my mother that they wanted to discuss a sensitive issue so maybe I should wait outside. Mom said that she didn’t keep secrets from her kids, so they might as well say that they had to say. The assistant principal began to speak, outlining what he saw as a real problem.

Basically, during recess and lunchtime, I wanted to pretend I was Wonder Woman. He felt that while kids accepted it at that age, soon they would begin to pick on me for it. (Actually, some already did and others were totally accepting.) He suggested that my mother “make me” stop pretending to be Wonder Woman.

Mom turned to me and looked me right in the eyes: “Christian, don’t’ you ever want to pretend to be Superman or Batman? They’re pretty cool, too.”

I excitedly responded: “Not as cool as Wonder Woman. She can stop bullets with her bracelets, and she has an invisible jet. And she has a magic lasso which makes bad guys tell her the truth. And she’s an Amazon. The Amazons were from Greece but now they live on a magic island that no one can find and where men aren’t allowed…” I must have extolled the virtues of Wonder Woman for 5 solid minutes.

When I was done my mother looked at the principal and AP. She pushed a piece of her dark brown, waist length hair behind her ear and said: “My son can be whoever he wants to be. If he wants to pretend to be Wonder Woman, he can. And it’s YOUR job to make sure that he is safe and other kids are accepting of him. If I find out that you tried to get him to stop being Wonder Woman or that other kids are bullying him, you’ll find yourselves with one hell of a lawsuit! Come on, Christian, we’re going.”

And with that, she took my hand and we walked out of the office.

While I did get picked on, mostly the administrators and teachers tried to protect me. And, though it was tough to be a queer kid in a Brooklyn public school, my mother’s early and steadfast support of me gave me the courage to, not only come out when I was 16, but to spend my career fighting for the rights of others.

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