I see sounds– and no, not like an LSD trip. I have synesthesia. Any noise I hear is inextricably linked to a color. My alarm clock rings a spiteful orange, and my father’s voice is a pale blue; but until recently, my voice had no consistent color.
Every Sunday in the Miller household concludes with 60 Minutes, usually accompanied by a small dispute over the news. My father and I may hold vastly different political beliefs, but our spirited discussions over the reporting normally made the evenings more interesting.
One Sunday’s headline story was the landmark Supreme Court decision on gay marriage. I watched, ready to parry against his usual disagreements with the content, but something about his response to this feature felt different: “f*ggots,” he remarked.
Images of college students celebrating flickered across the screen. With a smirk on his face, I saw his pale blue voice run red: “if you were a f*g, I wouldn’t let you go to college.”
Knowing no amount of argument would change his mind, I stayed silent, doing everything I could to block out the sickening, scarlet insults my father hurled at the screen.
My uncle’s voice has always been a cautious gray, careful to never reveal too much. At family dinners, he crafted eccentric stories of his travels around the world, curating them to fit his unassuming baritone. In all of his globetrotting tales, he never mentioned love. When I was 7, I investigated why. “Uncle,” I prompted. “Why don’t you have a wife?”
Anger flashed in my nearby father’s eyes. “There are some things we don’t talk about with people like your uncle,” he interjected.
My uncle is gay, something I didn’t realize until I accepted that I was, too. I apologized to my father with the same claustrophobically gray voice my uncle spoke in. There were some things we would never talk about.
The hardest part of having a secret is hiding it. I split my imperfection between small mental compartments– think preschool cubbies with more teenage angst. I portioned bits of myself into each of them, never depositing enough of my secret into one for it to be noticeable.
My compartment for friends was large. I surrounded myself with acquaintances, hoping that none of them would delve deep enough into their compartments to discover my secret.
My compartment for school was guarded. I stripped my voice of color when I spoke with my peers. Its white opacity protected against prying questions about my sexuality.
My compartment for storytelling was where hints of color streaked my opaque shield. In debates, presentations, and cello recitals, blue hues were almost visible in my whitewashed tenor.
Sitting in a near-empty classroom sophomore year, my compartments were breached. A boy asked if I was ‘one of the f*gs.’ I bolted from the room, gasping for the blue-tinted voice I debated with. At home, I cried into my pillow, burying my colorless sobs in the fabric.
I never wanted to gasp for my voice again. I vowed to tear down my compartments. Fingers blackened from hours of cello practice; vocals hoarse from intense debates: each round and performance amplified my blue tinged words as I told others’ stories, searching for the courage to tell my own. At the end of my junior year, I shed the gray caution my father instilled in me. Feeling sapphire words ready to escape my chest, I turned to my Public Forum partner, heart pounding with the anticipation of telling my story, and said, “I’m gay.”
The hope I felt in her accepting embrace was only matched by one thing: the clarity in my rich, blue voice.