My sister told me that she knew I was gay when I was three years old. I liked The Wizard of Oz a little bit too much and spent most of my private play time pretending to be Dorothy. I tried to keep handkerchiefs on my head to resemble long hair and would sometimes tie the corners to act as braids. At the time, my father was an Army Captain in the U.S. Military and flew Black Hawk Helicopters. In the first Gulf War, while my mother tried to navigate Bavarian Germany with me and my thirteen-year-old sister Anna, he was in Saudi Arabia defending our country and our freedom. My poor father confused my pre-school tranny antics as an in-depth personal culture study on why he was at war. He ended up bringing me back a real keffiyeh, which is a traditional Arab headdress. I’m not quite sure if I ever used my keffiyeh for Dorothy dress-up, but I do still have it.
According to my sister (who became conversationally stable in German during our tenure in Ansbach), my parents proved to be a great source of amusement when we would go out beyond the military base. On one particular occasion, we were in line for Bratwurst at an Oktoberfest. My father noticed that all the locals had a type of creamy white sauce smeared on their sausages, and my father being the way he is, wanted to try it too. Now I’m very similar in this respect to my father, but mostly with Asian food; I know that if it looks weird, it will most likely taste like fish anyway. When my dad tried asking about the popular condiment, the vendor looked confused and amused. My dad eventually mimed that we wanted the creamy white stuff in his sausage…the vendor obliged. My dad took a huge bite of his bratwurst and grimaced in disgust. The vendor started laughing and pointed to a bucket where others who had the same reaction had discarded and regurgitated their food. Upon spitting out his brat, my father had one word to say… “Lard!”
Four years later, I ended up auditioning for a Missoula Children’s Theatre production of The Wizard of Oz in Socorro, New Mexico. The audition consisted of singing Row your boat and speaking from hushed tones to loud screams all while pronouncing “LOLLIPOP!” I was so excited to be getting the opportunity to act again. I had been in one school production the year before called “Here comes Santa Clause” for about 3 seconds as Santa Claus, and here was my second chance at local fame. I was cast as Toto. For what it was worth, I did get to sing and dance in this particular production and barked in a squeaky boy soprano throughout the rest of the play.
About two years later, I was at the San Miguel Parish’s annual fiestas and as usual, I was in my Aunt Annie’s Frito Pie booth when I decided that I wanted to get my face painted. The girl who was doing the face paint turned out to be the makeup artist from The Wizard of Oz and also decided that I needed the same face paint that I had two years prior.
The face paint turned out to be a God-send! For some reason I was really into The Village People at this point, and since the band performing was taking requests; why not a little disco? Granted, I had no idea about the group’s history at this point, nor did I realize that it would have been a huge embarrassment for a macho Hispanic adult male (who looked like a member of the tribe anyway) to sing one of the band’s catchy tunes to a crowd of nearly one thousand people. But alas, there I was, nine years old, literally with puppy dog eyes asking the lead singer to please sing YMCA.
“Umm… umm, I don’t actually know it… at ALL” replied the man “but hold on just a second.” He said.
I stood there, waiting eagerly for something to happen when he handed me a piece of paper.
“What’s this?” I asked.
“What’s your name?” asked the man.
“Do you like to sing Jacob?”
“Umm… yeah, I do” I replied.
“Well here’s the lyrics.”
I was very confused and looked down for a second to view what he handed me, when all of a sudden I heard a very familiar tune blasting through the speakers.
“And now ladies and gentleman, we have Jacob here to sing the Village People’s smash hit Y.M.C.A.!!!”
And that is how I made my solo singing debut; to a crowd of nearly one thousand people squeaking to a karaoke track of The Village People in black face.