Because I was born intersex but not diagnosed at the time of my birth, I had an extremely inauspicious and disconcerting childhood. I was so different from the other children at my school and our house of worship. I was a precocious child, but it really didn’t matter because when you grow up poor, no one ever really notices you. They especially never recognize any gifts or talents you might possess. Growing up poor in Niagara Falls, New York and being African American in the early ’80s wasn’t at all unusual. However, back then, there weren’t many special programs specifically designed to assist disadvantaged children that would help them grow to be successful adults. So, understandably, I was never aware of any successful writing professionals recruiting aspiring, young and talented African American writers.
As a kid, I was never presented the opportunity to take my God-given talent to the next level. I didn’t have a teacher, counselor or an older relative to encourage me to stimulate my writing desire. I wish there had been a writer who I could have looked up to; who looked like me and came from the small town where I grew up. As a child, I wished I had known that my dream of becoming a writer and helping others become writers was possible. Growing up, I wasn’t encouraged to seek higher education. Still, my parents taught me that the most important thing in life was to love God.
I grew up in a Christian home and was taught Christian values at a very early age. I was taught to love God with my whole mind, body and soul. My parents wanted to shield me from the other children at school who weren’t being taught to love God and to be a good neighbor, by their parents. My parents didn’t want me to spend excessive amounts of my free time associating with the other kids at school who weren’t being taught wholesome family and moral values. Their fear was the other students’ independent, self-governing attitude might adversely affect me and my devotion to God. And my parent’s greatest fear was that I might abandon the spiritual, Bible-based beliefs they worked so hard to inculcate in me.
For that reason, I wasn’t allowed to participate in many recreational activities at school – especially if they were recreational events prohibited in the Bible (i.e., celebrating pagan holidays, premarital sex, smoking cigarettes, experimental drug usage, etc.) My parents were creative in providing me and my other sibling with wholesome recreational activities that didn’t conflict with our Bible-based spiritual beliefs that included fishing, roller-skating, bowling as well as pizza and movie nights. As a result, my siblings and I spent a lot of recreational time with the dozens of other kids in ours and other congregations.
I was extremely active in my congregation having joined the Theocratic Ministry School when I was about eight-years-old. The ministry school taught me to become a better reader and writer. The ministry school also taught me how to help other people learn about God and His promises for the future. I was given Bible reading and writing assignments by the ministry schoolteacher. I was given at least a month to prepare my reading and writing assignments. I was then assigned a date to publicly present my assignment to the congregation. My secular schoolwork, combined with the reading and writing assignments I was given in the congregation, fueled my passion to become a writer at an early age.
Though I loved to write, spelling was difficult for me. Because my spelling skills were not strong, it was challenging to incorporate new vocabulary in my writing at times. But even though I faced this impediment, I didn’t allow it to prevent me from continuing my writing journey. Back in the ’80s there was no such thing as Google. Instead, we learned how to use the dictionary. I had a special relationship with the dictionary and I guess you could say it became my best friend. I would try and sound a word out that I didn’t know how to spell and then I would try to spell the word phonetically. Next, I would reference the dictionary to ensure I had a clear understanding of the word’s definition. Afterward, I would try and memorize the correct spelling of the word. This self-teaching mechanism helped me tremendously.
In my free time, after I completed my chores, homework and Bible study, I spent my time writing. When I was in Mrs. Myers’ fourth grade class at Harry F. Abate Elementary School, I began writing my first play. I was thrilled that I could create any character I wanted. I could choose any name or gender I wanted my characters to be. When writing, I was able to create characters that were wealthy, cynical, convivial and jocose. Whatever personality I desired my characters to espouse, I could create as the author. I felt so free whenever I was writing and it didn’t matter whether my family was rich or poor, writing bestowed me the unique opportunity to create whatever world, universe or circumstances my young, inquisitive and creative mind could fathom. I was taught that everyone was good at something and writing felt so organic to me. This is why discovering my God-given talent, nurturing it and using it to help others was my ultimate goal.
I graduated from high school in the summer of June 1996 and began writing my first book entitled Emotionally Scarred, which was later published in 2005. Since then, I’ve continued my writing journey.
I’ve had an extremely tumultuous life having been born with a unique, medical condition erroneously viewed as a lifestyle choice by society at large. That’s why I’m determined not to allow my perplexing circumstances to rob me of my joy for writing. Every day, I remind myself that I’m not a victim. I’m a survivor. Writing has been a cathartic tool that has helped me remain somewhat balanced and centered in this chaotic, topsy-turvy world in which we live. When I’m suffering from extended bouts of severe depression, praying to God, for His strength, relying on Him and focusing on my writing has helped me to cope. As a result of this dedication, I’ve written and published several books and blog articles throughout the years. In addition, I had the distinct privilege of registering my literary work with the Library of Congress in Washington D.C.
In 2018, I founded and started an educational reading and writing nonprofit charity organization called Daphany’s Free Online Writing Workshop Incorporated (dfoww). Our purpose is to provide free reading and writing academic support to underprivileged, undereducated, low income, minority individuals and their communities. I want to help people, through our Write-Right Literacy Program, improve their reading and writing skills so they will be equipped with the necessary lifelong skills to effectively communicate with people of different educational levels. Our online and community reading and writing workshops offer one-on-one, fun learning interaction with our expert teaching staff, all of which are free to the public.
While there are a variety of online reading and writing workshops available to assist beginner writers and those learning English as a second language, our Literacy program is unique. Our teaching styles are being taught from the perspective of educated professionals, some of which have also been marginalized and or disproportionately discriminated against by society. Regardless, they are using their talents to help improve the lives of others. I know first-hand what it feels like to be born not only a minority, but also an intersex female. I know exactly what it feels like to be poor and misunderstood. I also know what it feels like to wish someone would give me an opportunity.
As an imperfect human trying my hardest to obey God and live a Christian life, I must stay focused by always putting God and spiritual matters first in my life each day. Whenever I go outside and see all the beautiful trees and birds and then look up toward the sky, I’m reminded that my writing talent is a gift from God above.
By practicing daily writing exercises and memorizing the basic rules of grammar, I am able to write with clarity and help others learn to read and write well. Remember, there’s no such thing as a perfect writer. But anyone can be a good writer with practice. As a writer you never stop growing. In fact, I’m always fueling my writing passion by learning and discovering fresh new ideas along my journey.
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