In his memoir I Was Born This Way, Doug Green shares his seventy-year journey as a homosexual man and divulges the challenges and life lessons he faced along the way. As a boy growing up in the 1940s, Green endured endless teasing from his peers who mocked his lisp and mincing gait. Timid and fearful, he seemed to disappoint his parents at every turn. As a teenager, a psychiatrist suggested military prep school as a way to encourage Green to outgrow what he considered to be a “phase.” But Green knew what he was feeling was not just a stage—he was gay. As Green reveals his early attractions to men, he also discloses how he posed as a heterosexual for many years, a decision that not only hurt himself, but also others in his life. During a time when being homosexual was not widely accepted in society, Green details how a move to New York City finally provided the balm for his shattered self-esteem, eventually leading him into the arms of his life companion. I Was Born This Way offers an honest, self-disclosing glimpse into one man’s life as he finds respect, understanding, and finally, self-acceptance.
At 70, I rediscovered a letter Mom wrote to Dad in 1939. He was finishing up at Columbia in New York City. She had just given birth to their first child, fortunately as boy, "on account of the family name has to go on." After reporting their parents were tickled it was a boy she went on to describe the baby's fingers and toes "just like yours," his appetite, how much she missed Dad and her determination to do everything right. The right thing was hard to come by. Available wisdom provided little insight for raising a child whose effeminacy was evident, perhaps as he reached for his first toy. Unprepared for this aberration, they had to wing it. After reading the letter I started to write about my life as a homosexual, from 1939 to 2009. Childhood in the 40's was horrible. Peers teased me, mocking my lisp and mincing gait. Timid and fearful, I disappointed my parents at every turn. Unable or unwilling to fight back, I was picked on constantly. My preferences in toys, clothes and a love of flowers didn't match pursuits of other boys but I got crushes on them nevertheless. Mom and Dad's distress at these omens was expressed, directly and subliminally, through messages tghat I wasn't meeting their expectations but I was driven by internal commands to find and declare my identity. In the 50's, adolescence provided more of the same as Mom and Dad tried to help me through my "phase." As grades plummeted, I cried more than anyone knew. A psychiatrist said I'd probably outgrow it. Military prep school, viewed as a possible antidote, drove me deeper underground. By deliberately missing my transfer at Port Authority Bus Terminal I could delay my arrival home from each holiday trip by twenty four hours. Sixteen and unchecked, I used the time to play out all the fantasies I'd only dreamed about. My parents must have been aware of my promiscuiity but were helpless to do anything about it. After I finished high school, through evening courses, Dad and I clashed. At 17, I ran away to New York City, where I remained for almost a year. It wasn't a year I was proud of; that I survived at all was a miracle. When I got sick, Mom and Dad came down to bring me home. Possibly, they'd had a revelation that the usual methods wouldn't prepare me for the future. Plabnning together, we located a small, progressive college famous for controversial approches to education as well as racial and ethnic diversity. I responded well and college was pivotal. After graduation in 1962 I drove to Western Canada to teach French in a remote Quaker boarding school. I lived happily in a log cabin without electricity. Life among the Quakers confirmed my worth and likeability but it couldn't provide the peculiar insight and opportunities I needed. After a year, I left, sadly. For the next two years I enjoyed teaching in a New York State Junior High School. I dated women but wasn't able to bond with them. Here, I learned that a lifetime spent masquerading as a heterosexual would hurt others, not only me. At twenty five, I returned to New York City seeking identity clarification. A long term career as a professional in an agency serving people with disabilities began and provided balm for my shattered self-esteem. After several more years of running the roads I met my life's companion. I was thirty five. Just as important, I found the understanding, respect and mutual appreciation that had been lacking between my parents and me. Love had prevailed. Paco and I eventually bought a house on Long Island where we raised two boys from toddlerhood. Both are now confident, happy and sweet-spirited. Each is successful, according to his ability; both happen to be straight. Had it been otherwise, that would have been fine, too.
Doug Green was born in Burlington, Vermont, and later moved to New York City where he enjoyed a lengthy career working on behalf of people with disabilities. He and his life companion have been together for thirty-five years and raised two boys. This is his first book.