Ellen Page

Ellen Page, who was nominated for an Oscar for her portrayal of a pregnant teenager, has spent the last few months transitioning to Elliot Page. His current program, The Umbrella Academy, has celebrated his transition by incorporating it as part of the story, so sister Vanya, who last season almost brought on the apocalypse has transitioned to brother Victor.

This, it seems to me, is an abundance of support for a transitioning actor. But some do-gooders went back in history to change the story. Now it is Elliot Page who received the nomination for portraying a pregnant teenager. This, I think, is going overboard. This change of history is just confusing, and does nothing to support Elliot now.

I just wish that one-tenth of this support could have been given to Darwin Bottilla.

The Botillas lived across from my grandmother’s on 22nd Street. The eldest son, Delbert, was my age, and was all boy. And by that I mean that he was aggressively masculine, so that we would play for a while and then fight for a while. There seemed to be no way to stop a fight from starting.

Except one day which I remember clearly. The fight was just starting, and Delbert suddenly began crying and ran in the house. I looked up, and there stood my little sister holding a rake. Not one of those wussy leaf rakes, but a good solid garden rake which she had brought down over Delbert’s head.

I was speechless. She was 3 years old. I took her hand and said, “C’mon, Carol. Let’s go home.”

Delbert had a sandbox in his front yard, and we would play with our cars and trucks there. He would tell me about his little brother Darwin, who would never play outside because cars and trucks held no interest for him. From the time he was very little, his only interest was dolls. When he was 3, the only thing he wanted from Santa Claus was a clothes washer for his doll clothes. When he got it, he was the happiest kid on the block.

The family moved to Esko when Delbert was still in elementary school and I lost track of them for a while. In my ignorance, I was secure in this belief: Darwin was not a normal boy. He was that way from the start. Therefore, he must be gay, and that proves that gay people are born that way.

When I began getting propositioned by gay men, I could always let them down easy, knowing for the wrong reason that they were born that way.

Darwin began showing up in Cloquet when he was a teenager. Maybe he found friends here that would not be disturbed by his actions.

He did bother a lot of people, because every time I heard someone talking about him, it was about his effeminate habits. He had a coat with a faux fur collar that he loved to rub his face in. I don’t know what was so offensive about that.

Then one night I headed my car to Archie’s Tavern in Scanlon. I stopped for a hitchhiker, and it was Darwin. I didn’t know if he recognized me, but he began chatting. He said some guys had called him gay, and he seemed hurt by that. I had always thought he was gay, so I was taken off guard by that. I wanted to say “Well, you were never a normal boy, so what are you?”

I wanted to, but then I didn’t want to imply that he was some kind of monster, and I didn’t want to pry into personal stuff, so I just stayed quiet. It was the 1950s, and there was no such word as trans. In the ’50s, it was called a sex change operation, and was still regarded as somewhat dirty from the time an ex-GI named Christine Jorgensen transitioned to a woman. There was also a European tennis player who had the sex change procedure, and then was criticized for beating “real” women at tennis.

I heard from other sources that Darwin felt like a woman trapped in a man’s body, and sometime in his late 20s he found a doctor who would perform the operation.

For his female name, he chose Del Marie – yes, after the same Del Marie who was responsible for the name of Bert Wendling’s band The Delmars, and for dozens of little girls in the Cloquet area whose fathers associated that name with great beauty.

I only saw her once after that. She was sitting at the bar at Mike’s Bar and Grill, and she was very angry at someone. With her being in that mood, I didn’t want to approach her for fear of getting involved in an argument.

Later, I heard she was happily married, and later still I heard she had died.

She was not forgotten among some people even then. A couple of years ago, I sat around a table with a bunch of guys at the golf course when someone brought up Darwin’s name, remembering his rubbing his face on his fur collar (Why did this bother people so much?)

I was able to tell them the true story about her, and hopefully left them with a little more understanding.

What I do know is that Darwin Bottilla went through most of his life being mercilessly teased and bullied. I hope that Del Marie Bottilla got more respect.

Trans and gay people seem to be always lumped together. I suppose this is because they were always considered to be an abomination by religious fanatics and Republicans.

The only other trans person I am aware of is Caitlyn Jenner, previously Bruce Jenner, one-time American hero.

Caitlyn is an odd case because she is a Republican, which as a group, hate anybody other than completely straight people. Of course, she is confused by her situation, as well she might be. She says she is a woman. I’ve never heard that she had the sex reassignment operation, so maybe she’s just taking the hormone treatment.

I will take her word for it that she is a woman. She also says that she is only attracted to women, which is OK by me also.

But then she says she is not a lesbian. Since the definition of a lesbian is a woman who is attracted to other women, I would be interested to know why she doesn’t consider herself a lesbian. She is clearly confused, and I’m not so sure she knows what she is. 

I don’t recall one person coming out as gay when I was growing up. It was dangerous to do that in the 1950s. In the ’80s and ’90s, children of my friends and neighbors were coming out of the closet.

My neighbor had two boys – one tried to start a swingers club, the other was a typical gay overachiever. He is a successful lawyer in San Francisco. He came to his mother’s funeral, and happily introduced me to his partner. I was glad to see him doing so well.

My friend’s middle daughter was the family favorite. She did well in school and was a star athlete. I was not surprised when she came out.

My wife’s friend from school had a son who loved his mother dearly. He worked for an airline and provided her with trips anywhere in the world that she wanted to go. But when he came out, she rejected him. Hard to believe from a woman who, to the best of my knowledge, never went to church but still considered her son the worst sort of sinner.