Heretolisten.org is a resource for caring adults—the front-line staff in schools and community based programs—to help teens who are struggling with difficult emotions.
Email Newsletter icon
Follow us on:
Share Youth Communication Follow Represent on Facebook Follow Represent on YouTube Follow Represent on Twitter
Follow Represent on Facebook Follow Represent on YouTube Follow Represent on Twitter
Taming My Anger
I had to accept my past and myself
Tray T.
headshot

At my group home they called me Cupcakes. They took my things and threw water in my face. Once, when I was asleep, a boy urinated in a cup and threw it on my covers. Another time, a boy set my bed on fire when I wasn’t there, then he and four other kids jumped me. I beat them up and trashed their rooms.

Being in foster care is hard. But being gay in foster care takes the struggle to a whole new level. Anger became my weapon against those who antagonized me, but over time I came to realize that my anger also threatened to destroy me.

My angry ways began long before, when I was a child. My mother did drugs, and she’d leave my younger brother, sister, and me alone. Or she’d take us to our aunt’s house, where my older male cousins sexually abused me. They told me not to tell anyone and that if I did, they would do it again.

For a long time I felt like everyone was out to hurt me. Because of my mom’s neglect and the horrible things my cousins did to me, I felt no one loved me. I kept that inside for a long time, until it turned into rage.

When I was 7 I was put in foster care, but that didn’t stop my anger. In my first foster home I got into an argument with my foster mom over my long hair. She said that it was feminine. I said I didn’t give a damn.

Later that night she came into my room while I was asleep and cut my hair. The next morning when I saw my hair on my pillow, I went off. I got a broom, went to her room, and hit her in her sleep. Then I destroyed her living room. For the next five years, I never lived in one foster home longer than a few months.

When I started living in group homes, I tried hard to keep the other boys from finding out that I was gay. After I beat up the boys who had called me Cupcakes, the staff felt I was in danger so they moved me to another group home. Things didn’t get any better.

I got restrained several times a month for fighting. With my temper and weighing almost 300 lbs, it took five or six staff to pin me. But after a while, I started secretly going out with a guy I liked. It got around to the staff, and my therapist told me about GLASS (Gay and Lesbian Adolescent Social Services), a program for gay and lesbian kids in Los Angeles.

I was tired of kids calling me names and trying to fight me because I was gay, so I agreed to go to GLASS. I thought I was going to do well. But I didn’t realize I would have to get used to a new environment and new people all over again.

When I first went to GLASS I was the old Tray again. Kids knew not to mess with me when I gave my look—rolling my eyes and raising my lip. The whole room would clear when I was going to get into a fight. The staff would have to pull me off. Sometimes I liked being the person people were scared of. I had control—or so I thought.

image by Patricia Battles

Then one day, after I’d been at GLASS about six months, a staff person made me think about things in a new way.

She told us that when she was younger she’d imagined different ways she might end up, like being a prostitute, robbing people, or being homeless. Then she imagined herself working with kids and realized that’s what she wanted to do with her life.

It made me imagine my own future. I imagined myself hurting somebody and ending up in jail. I imagined myself on the streets. That made me want to change.


Around the same time, my social worker was getting fed up with me. He told the staff that if anything else happened, to call the police and take me to jail. I was pissed off, but I was also scared. It was time to straighten up.

But it was hard to change because being angry was all I knew how to be. I took baby steps. I went to therapy. I also found someone I could trust.

Her name was Isabelle and she was one of the group home staff. One time I got in an argument with her. She wouldn’t back down. She said, “I can see something in you. I know you can go far and I’m going to help you.” I started going to her when something made me angry.

I also started to accept that I was gay. When I arrived at GLASS I didn’t know there were young people who were openly gay. It was weird seeing gay people who were acting feminine and flamboyant. I had always known I was gay, but I didn’t want to admit it. I realized that GLASS was where I belonged, where I could be open and not be made fun of.

One day I said, “I’m gay.” The kids said, “Girl, we already knew.” I busted out wearing a rainbow belt.

Being able to be myself made me happier. I made friends. I started listening to the staff’s suggestions for ways to keep calm. When I was mad I’d count to 10, dance in my room, or sit in a chair and listen to my stereo, bobbing my head to the music. Or I’d ignore the person and talk to staff or my friends. I signed up for art and dancing groups.

I still had my ups and downs. One time I went off on a staff at my group home because she didn’t know how to cook. Isabelle overheard and pulled me out of the kitchen. We talked about it. I was getting older and I saw I couldn’t do these things anymore.

image by Patricia Battles

When I was 15 I moved to another group home at GLASS. I became friends with one of the girls, Tiffany. She was the only person to stand up to me, which made me respect her. We talked about relationships and stuff in our lives, and I knew Tiffany wasn’t going to give up on me.

Everything was going real good. Then, on my 16th birthday, I went to my mother’s house and my cousin tried to molest me again. I told him I wasn’t a child anymore and was big enough and old enough to defend myself, so he backed off.

When I came back I told my therapist. It was the first time I’d told someone about what happened to me. I knew that if I wanted to get somewhere, it had to start now. Talking about it made me less angry.

I was voted president of the Resident Advisory Board, a group that plans fun activities. In June we set up an open mike. Me, Tiffany, and another girl in our house did a dance routine to hip-hop and r&b. We laughed and played around as we practiced in the living room, each of us throwing our own moves in. I love dancing because it makes me feel like I’m not vulnerable. It puts me in a place where I’m far away and free.

I sometimes visit my brother and sister, who got adopted. But I have no contact with my mom. It’s too much pain.

GLASS is my family now. I feel loved. The staff makes me feel like I always have someone to talk to. I know they expect more out of me. It makes me want to do good because I know I will let them down if I mess up.

I still argue and get upset, but I don’t go off. When I see other kids acting like beasts—destroying things, fighting, yelling at staff, and not listening—I see myself. It’s a trip because I think, “Damn, I did that.”

Some days it still gets me mad that I felt that pain from my cousins, two people who were supposed to love me. But then I think of all the things I went through and I thank God I got through it. I’ve learned how to deal with my anger in ways that aren’t self-destructive, and what I went through is now making me stronger.

Tray wrote this story for LA Youth, a paper by and for teens.

Copyright © LA Youth. Reprinted with permission.

horizontal rule
(FCYU-2007-11-37)

Visit Our Online Store