He was never quite like the other boys in his class. From a young age I had to force him to let go of the doll and convince him to play with his action figures. Now I regret ever telling him to hide who he really was. I use to lie to him and tell him that I was worried about his safety but the truth is that I was ashamed of my brother. George insisted on wearing skinny jeans, make-up, and he became known as the boy who wore heels.
In heels George stood tall at 5’9, but without the assistance of his Payless bargain finds, George was barely 5’3 and his skinny frame made him everyone’s target. Although we were brothers, no one ever made the connection because I insisted that in public, George stay far away from me. I was not the popular kid but I knew having a brother like George would not make my life easier, so as I past him through the halls of our high school, we never spoke. One marking period George and I had the same gym class and as my friends and I entered the boy’s locker room, George was taking off his heels and what happened that day still pains me. The guys started cracking jokes at George and in my effort not to stand out alongside him, I laughed with them.
“So why are you in here if you want to be a girl George?” yelled Bryson, the school’s notorious bad boy. “Or should I call you Georgina?”
“Listen, I just want to get ready for gym class,” said George.
Bryson insisted on messing with George some more. He grabbed hold of George’s favorite pumps, and the guys began playing monkey in the middle as George begged them to stop. As they kept tossing it back and forth, my face turned pink because my brother was a wimp, a fucking sissy, and I hated the fact that he was not like the other boys. Bryson eventually got bored and threw the heels at George’s face, the heel caused a cut to George’s forehead, and a scar would eventually form. George had many scars now that I think back, the ones he inflicted on himself and the ones that others gave him because he dared to be different in a world that wanted us to “be real” but not authentic.
It’s been ten years since I discovered George’s body, dolled up and in his best pair of high heels, he even made sure the rope he used color coordinated with his outfit. I was coming home from school and George claimed he was feeling sick so mom let him stay home as she went off to work. I knocked on George’s door to check on him because mom made me promise that I would and there he was, hanging from the chandelier, lifeless.
I yelled, “No George.” And I hurried to call 911, my hands struggled to grab hold of my cell, I could not believe my eyes. My brother had done the unthinkable. Suddenly my street became a scene out of a movie as police flooded into my home and the medical examiner arrived to take his body away. The detective had me go over the last 48 hours of George’s life, what had happened, what could have pushed him to do such a thing. My mind kept flashing back to that day in the locker room. Did my silence push him over the edge? I was so obsessed with my silence protecting me that I had not stopped to think how my silence could hurt George.
“Why didn’t you help me?” I heard George ask me that night as I tried to fight back the tears and fall asleep, hoping that this entire day was a nightmare I had not awaken from.
“I didn’t know how,” I replied. “I didn’t know how to fully accept you, I thought tolerance was enough. I tolerated you because you are George.”
“You were supposed to protect me. You were my big brother. But you just pretended that I did not exist. You stood there as they called me a faggot, queer, homo, dick sucker, tranny, and freak. Is that what you thought of me? Was that all I ever was to you? When did I stop being your brother?” George demanded.
A decade later and I still do not know how to answer that question. Why did I stop being a brother to him? How could I just sit there and not speak out against the mistreatment of my little brother? I guess I was just a product of a society that valued manhood over personhood—I so desperately wanted to fit in that I blurred the lines of right and wrong. George was the boy who wore heels and he was my brother. He should have been able to live as his authentic self without being demonized, bullied, and pushed to the point of no return.
“George I never stopped being your brother, I just failed to be the brother you deserved and for that I am sorry,” I whispered as I laid a bundle of sunflowers on George’s grave, they were his favorites because they reminded him of the sun. In many ways George was like the sun: bold, bright, and a source of light to everyone who dared to embrace his authentic self.
Last night my wife gave birth to our first child, a baby boy we named George in honor of my brother. I made a promise to myself that I would love my son unconditionally—that I would raise him up to be the kind of man who doesn’t remain silent in the midst of injustice. To be kind, to show respect to everyone he meets, and to embrace himself fully, even if others couldn’t or wouldn’t. If my son grows up to become a boy who wears heels, I’ll love him the way I should have loved my brother because boys who wear heels are brave, beautiful, handsome, and just as deserving of acceptance.