I don’t think that I ever had a “journey” to being gay.
Now, this is not to say I didn’t go through a figuring out process: about six months year of my life, from just after turning 14 to nearly the end of my freshman year of high school, I wrestled with my faith, my religion, and my ridiculous attraction to my best friend. In addition to that, I thought back to a few incidents a year or two prior to that and they all led a sign with the message: “You, my darling, are a homosexual.” That said, it wasn’t that big a deal. I accepted it, I acknowledged it, and then I moved on. It was quickly subsumed to being background material—this has turned out to be both a blessing and a curse.
Figuring out so early on that I was gay and it not being difficult meant that I did this outside the construct that often occurs in college life (i.e., the I’m away from home and now can explore myself, etc.). In reality, I became gay on my own and so I never had a separate “queer life” to integrate; it was just my life. I was not an “other”.
Now, before I continue, I want to emphasize the truth in every letter of the above by telling you a little story. In my freshman year of college, in search of what I was told was necessary for me being ‘accepted’, I went in search of a “queer life” at a larger campus than my own. In the first session with the LGBTQ group of that school it was storytelling time and talking about high school and the challenges of it. When it got to me I was honest: high school was good for me, I was popular, I was out with my girlfriend, we had a great time, I was never bullied or harassed or teased—no issues. I was immediately told that I must have internalized the bullying… Pretty much, they told me that I was lying.
I never went back.
For better or for worse that meant even my college “queer life” wasn’t “an other” but was just my life. I found a girlfriend the old-fashioned way: through a friend. We dated for a long time and in no way that was different than any other couple but we didn’t have an exclusive group of queer friends. In fact, a majority of our friends were straight which was just…how it was.
So, imagine my surprise, now 10 years on from all of the potential adolescent crises and minefields that I managed to avoid, to discover that adult queer life has all these boxes and rules and codes and signs and things that I know absolutely nothing about. I don’t understand the butch-femme dynamic and why it’s such a big deal. I don’t get the nuances between stone butch, soft butch, tomboy, sporty, sporty femme, lipstick, andro; I don’t understand why my not short hair but lack of heels but love of skirts and ties but t-shirt collection and biceps confound others and how I’m violating these unspoken but strictly held expectations.
Queer life is difficult for me and while I love all of my friends, and I mean my straight ones, it’s hard to meet someone new the ‘old-fashioned way’ when most of my peer group doesn’t swing that way. So this means I need to get onboard–but that is another posting to come later on this month.
My conclusion is this: I don’t think I ever really came out, I think I’ve always been out. I’ve had moments of having to step back in but they’ve been minimal or to serve other people’s needs or concerns and have never lasted. Mostly around my faith and my religion—again, a posting for another time.
But not having come out, at least in the way the majority of queer folks my age are, means that there is a key bonding experience that I missed out on. I can’t recall right now a time I’ve ever been discriminated against for my sexuality. Perhaps that’s because I ‘pass’ and even when I don’t ‘pass’ it just never comes up. Perhaps that’s because I’m more likely to get heat—and I say that as it’s something that’s occurred once or twice in my entire life—because of my race first.
Either way, sometimes I feel like I’m on an island. It’s an island that’s quickly getting populated by people a few years younger than me but now I’m the elder stateswoman and I don’t want to be poaching on the new, young citizens—it’s a little creepy for me. In other words, people are starting off adolescence as “out” or rather “never in” and it’s a different set of rules.
I do want to understand what I’ve missed but I won’t fake it and I won’t have a false modesty about having had a really easy time, at least in that aspect, at being gay. My high school years and my twenties were phenomenal overall and the few hiccups quickly relegated to the past. I won’t bury that and I won’t break my fully-formed identity and re-shape it around other people’s insecurities.
I was one of the lucky ones. I know what a post-gay/post-straight life looks like. I want more people to join me in embracing that.
Come, get on the island – there’s space here for us all.