When We Were Young #4: Zac Brewer

We are honored to have Zac Brewer on our blog today for the next WHEN WE WERE YOUNG essay! You can read Robin Talley, Marieke Nijkamp, and Katherine Locke‘s essays by clicking their names.


When we were young, there were no such things as lesbians. Not in the small town I grew up in, anyway.

There were gay people—again, not in our town—but they were “fags” and the lesbians in those far-off places were “dykes”. When we were young, there were only whispers of transgender people—only they were called “freaks” and “perverts”. “Pedophiles” was another word that was used to describe “them”. There was no such thing as bisexuals or pansexuals or anything like that. When we were we young, everyone was heterosexual. Everyone was Christian. Everyone was poor. The boys were expected to grow up and get “real” jobs—ones that involved grease on their hands. The girls were expected to grow up and become mothers. Because that was what girls did when they became women.

But when we were young, we were ignorant. So many of us were ignorant. Many of us still are.

I grew up being told that someday I would marry a man and give him babies, and he would work hard at his job. He’d come home to the dinner I’d cooked him already waiting on the table, and then throw back a few beers while watching sports on the TV. I was told that I should take joy in the gift of being able to bear this fictional man children, that I should be grateful that he would take care of me. After all, when we were young, a woman couldn’t take care of herself.

When we were young, we were told about places like New York City, where people were mugged or killed the moment they stepped off the plane. There were lots of those aforementioned “freaks” in places like New York. We were told that we must never, ever go there.

But secretly, I longed to visit such a place. To see if what the adults in our town said were really true. Because even though no one else in my town seemed troubled by the things that we were being taught…I was. Deeply.

I didn’t know then that I was transgender. I didn’t know that I was gay. But more than that, I had no idea that being those things, identifying in that way, didn’t mean that I was a freak at all.

I eventually escaped that town. I met people—so many people—and learned about many different gender identities and sexual preferences. I eventually visited New York, and was shocked that it wasn’t an oasis of sin and evil the way that I’d been taught. Instead it was a beautiful melting pot of all kinds of people. It was also—one of many, I would eventually learn—a haven for people like me.

When we were young, we were lied to about many things. We were expected to swallow those lies with a nice mouthful of hatred and ignorance. And sadly, many of us did precisely as we were told.

But not me.

I moved on to become an advocate for the bullied, for the LGBT+ teens out there who’ve yet to find their voice. I moved on to try to undo all of the damage that was done to me…when we were young.


me-hat-buds1Zac Brewer grew up on a diet of Twilight Zone and books by Stephen King. He chased them down with every drop of horror he could find—in books, movie theaters, on television. The most delicious parts of his banquet, however, he found lurking in the shadowed corners of his dark imagination. When he’s not writing books, he’s skittering down your wall and lurking underneath your bed. Zac doesn’t believe in happy endings . . . unless they involve blood. He lives in Missouri with his husband and two children.


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