Childhood Influences

Childhood Influences

My upbringing was more traumatic than usual for white, affluent, cisgender male children. The trauma and its effects spurred me to make sense of Life, which contributed to my love of biology. The details no longer seem as important as they once did, but in case you’re interested, here are some of my formative experiences:


  • My mother became depressed after my birth.
  • When I was 3, she was sexually assaulted, which deepened her depression.
  • My parents divorced when I was 4.
  • From then until her death, my mother was frequently hospitalized for depression.
  • In a cold winter after the divorce, I contracted pneumonia and spent weeks in a pediatric ward, under an oxygen tent.
  • When I was 5, my mother moved us to the city where her parents lived. Thus began a pattern of annual relocations that continued until I left home at age 16.
  • My mother died of suicide when I was 6.
  • My father moved me and my older sister in with him and his new wife, who did not want us in her house. Our stepmother lacked empathy and abused us in cold, calculated ways.
  • My sister suffered a psychotic break when I was 11.
  • My father, stepmother, and sister used alcohol and other substances addictively.
  • After my sister graduated from high school when I was 12, my father and stepmother hosted group sex parties in our home.
  • My stepmother sexualized her abuse of me as I entered puberty.
  • For many reasons, including the issues above, I spent much of my boyhood alone.
  • By age 14, I was drinking and/or using drugs daily.
  • In high school, I acted out and was arrested several times.


  • The privileges afforded by my race, gender, and socioeconomic class.
  • Proximity to nature.
  • High quality schools.
  • A father who modeled good intellectual habits.
  • An unusual amount of freedom and autonomy.
  • Exposure to diverse viewpoints and lifestyles.
  • Witnessing familial substance abuse, which helped me recognize and address my own addiction.