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Question 5:What was it like, first realizing that you might be gay? When did you first wonder, when did you accept it, when did you act on it? How did you feel about it all?
The first time I realized I was gay I was 12 years old, taking a shower. I was not thinking about anything in particular, and out of nowhere, as I leaned to turn the water off, I realized: "Shit. I'm gay." I had never really lined things up. I knew I tended to try to help certain people at the store more than others. I'd never considered the fact that the ones I made efforts to help were men, had chest and facial hair, and were usually of a slightly larger build. [Yeah, even then I pursued the "bear" type.] All of a sudden things clicked into place. I was terrified. I hated it. I decided right then and there, that I would not be. I would not be gay. I would control it. Stop it. I could make this not be true, and like girls. I would find a woman, make her my wife, have kids and a dog, and live the straight life. There was nothing to say I couldn't fix this. And like that, I turned a switch in my mind off, and began some pretty hardcore denial. I still tended to help certain customers, and, suffice to say, I was not immune to knowledge of the internet. But somehow I managed to convince myself that despite the fact that I still gazed at men, I was straight. I wasn't aware of it even. I did denial extremely well, and forgot my discovery [until I was ready to deal with it.] It wasn't terribly difficult, honestly. Few people in my school interested me... in that way... and it would've been extremely complicated to be out at my all-boys catholic high school as it is. Either way, I ignored it. I went on one, awkward, date with my best female friend from high school. [Our theatre program did shows with the sister school's girls.]
My freshman year of college, I sunk further in, which led to my second realization. I dated a girl from my school who is a wonderful person, and very pretty, for about 2 weeks. Maybe 3. We'd hold hands, and cuddle when the group of us watched movies, and we went to dinner and a movie once. Every night, I'd walk her home to her dorm, and give her a hug, then walk to my dorm. Something missing from this situation? Ah, yes, at this point, we perhaps should have kissed. Something about it, the idea in itself, held me back. And the last evening... 2.5 weeks in, when it could be put off no longer, as she was my girlfriend at this point... I realized that I needed to kiss her good night. And as I leaned in to do so, it hit me again, in this order. "Oh, man... I really don't want to do this. FUCK. I'm gay." As I'm leaning in, I maneuver into what is clearly the worlds most awkward hug, and uncomfortably tell her "Good night"
Some history of me at this point. I am a pius, naive, freshman at a very conservative catholic college. I have never touched alcohol, and at this point still believe I will not do so until I am 21. I go to church every sunday, and I go to "Prayer and Praise" every wednesday evening. As a general rule, I stop by the Harkins Hall chapel once every day or so because it is small, quiet, and I can pray there. I do all my homework in the chapel basement. I have hidden myself in this. I believe what I am told, but there is no strong faith behind it. It is a place I can fit in, where I know the rules and what is expected of me. At the same time I fight anyone who says that being gay is evil. [I HATE the word homosexual and homosexuality. It's so clerical.]
It is 2 am on a friday night, in late november, and I am now re-realizing I am gay. I am realizing that this may not be something for me to control. I am still very much hateful of the fact. This turns inward. I hate myself, and loath every part of me that makes me feel this way. I am already an outcast from most social situations, and awkward, the last thing I needed was this extra load. People would hate me. All of them. I'm sure of it. All my friends will leave me and hate me. I'll have to start enjoying shopping, and I'll probably have to listen to Madonna instead of punk rock. But no. Maybe this is still fixable. I had convinced myself that with great prayer, God could take this away. I started being more vigilant, praying daily, fixating myself on anything I could that would help me push away from this. I told the girl that something was up, and I needed to figure it out. She respected that, and I think knew EXACTLY what was up. I would cry in church, praying so hard that I shook, hoping and calling to God to let me find women attractive. Or at least to stop finding men attractive. Anything. Anything to avoid dealing with or accepting it, me. Somehow, this didn't work. Surprising, I know.
So, I had to deal with it. I had to start accepting me. That this was an uncontrollable aspect of who and what I was. It was a piece of me. It was something that had been created in me, like the color of my eyes, or the color of my hair. I turned to the internet. Looking at forums, and still looking for loopholes. I joined a forum for the young and gay and talked it through with people there. I talked with some people who had experience, [Bruin, creator of Bear With Me
gave me an excellent X-Men analogy, that I remember specifically.] All of this occurred over the length of the second semester.
No one else knew at this point. I had come to a sort of shaky acceptance with it... but it was very weak. I wasn't confident in it, and I still hated it. I still didn't want it to be true, but I was at least aware that it was something outside of my control. Which, to be fair, is a big step in it's own. I was carrying it by myself though. Till a cast party. It was the second cast party for Brigadoon. There was a particularly homophobic person in the cast, who had written a letter in The Cowl the week before comparing homosexuality to cancer. As a joke, we had discussed one of the guys drunkenly kissing him. [We we're freshman, give us a break] This was the second time I had ever had alcohol, and I still hadn't learned how to drink, or how to control when I drink. My friend, Joe, suggests I do it, and I blurt out "No. Not until I come out."
And then I realize what I'd done, and leave. Joe follows me, and confronts me... I tell him it was a joke, and he rolls his eyes. It's the next day and we're having dinner when he asks me about it. And I slowly tell him that I thought it was true. I didn't know where on the kinsey scale I was [I'd recently discovered it, and I thought it was fancy] but I had a hunch it was true. At some point in the next month, the girl I'd dated asked me what had happened and I'd told her too. That was two people. And I had told them I was still not sure. Come graduation week. I was really the only person in my group of friends on campus for the week, and I read books the entire time. I read Augusten Burrough's 'Running with Scissors', then Dry, then David Sedaris' "Me Talk Pretty One Day" Believe it or not, these were the first books I'd read about or by gay people - at least to my knowledge. I was still looking for loopholes but I was recognizing that other people were like this, and they managed to survive life. I started gaining a little bit of confidence. I went home for the summer and, very shyly, got the 2 books on gay subjects out of my library, and read through them, looking for understanding. Looking for some kind of knowledge about who and what I was. I tend to read about things before I go into them. Alot.
Somehow, I decided I was ready to come out to my parents. I don't know if I decided I was ready, or if I decided it was the right thing to do. This was a horrible decision at this time, because my confidence levels were still extremely low. I nervously and carefully sat them down at the dinner table, feeling my heart in my chest. Terrified. The second or third most awful feeling I've ever felt. And I told them "I think I'm gay." I had prepared for various responses, based on my books, but life, surprisingly [sarcasm], doesn't run like books. They did not express hate, or anger, and told me that they would never love me any less... but that they did not think I was gay. That perhaps it was a phase. That everyone questioned it at some point or another, and that I needed more time to know for sure. Essentially, that the conclusion I had clawed my way too, was wrong. I didn't know how to respond, and instead of standing my ground, conceded that it was possible. We made dinner and watched Shrek. [My parents, by the way, are amazingly supportive people, who I have put through a lot, and who love and accept me for who I am, through everything I've done. They take the details of my life quite well. I don't want anyone thinking less of the two wonderful people who brought my life. This is something that for them, as for me, would take some adjusting to. And they have adjusted to it, now, and support me fully]
Nothing further was said. The response I'd received had shaken the confidence. I still knew I was attracted to guys, but what happened from there? I told another friend, a close female friend from PC, and her response was amazing. She told me she was proud of me for coming to terms with it, and that she was so happy for me. She was so... supportive. The people I'd told so far had expressed acceptance... but this was the first time support in it had come. It was surprising, and my confidence in myself and my ability to cope with it grew. I went back to school and started talking a little less furtively. And on October 10th, I got an IM from Joe: "So... tomorrows national coming out day... you gonna tell everyone?" I had never even thought about telling the rest of my friends. "I guess so. Might as well now, gonna have to do it eventually, right?" "Yup." I then sent the girlfriend an IM telling her my plan.
So, yeah. I came out on National Coming Out Day. Not because of the holiday, but because the holiday had kind've reminded me that it was something I should do. All my friends were in the cafe, eating lunch, and before some left for class, I said "I have to say something." *silence* "I'm queer."
Oh, how I regret saying "I'm queer". I had chosen it carefully, it was an umbrella term, and it allowed me retreat, should things turn a direction that I didn't favor. 3 or 4 raised their eyebrows in shock, 2 laughed. [Kaitlin told me later her exact reaction was "Well, yeah."] Only 1 person in my group of friends reacted poorly... and she kind've cast herself away. I still don't talk to her. It was kind've amazing. I could start talking about all the shit I had bottled up openly, and I didn't have to fit any mold. I was, amusingly, now requested by friends to do things like go to the mall, or go dancing. I think this was hilarious. I had not been hiding any desires or actions... so upon coming out I still hated shopping, and still, for the most part, was not interested in an evening of dancing. Still my confidence grew, and I got to be really okay with it. I started having recognizable crushes, and though I was still uncomfortable with some aspects, I made progress.
That covers all of the acceptance bit. It's still a process for me in some ways. I notice I have this instinct within me to push against anything stereotypical. I refused to listen to Madonna, or Cher... would not even give them a try, and I still respond to some "gay" things with a negative attitude. I'm working on this. I recently listened to Madonna, to give it a chance. I still don't really like it, but at least now I've given it a chance. I mean, the girl has some definite pipes... and Like a Prayer is hella fun, but it's just not something I'd listen to for the hell of it. I'm teaching myself to recognize that doing things that are stereotypical aren't bad, as long as you aren't doing them to fit the stereotype. And not doing them to avoid the stereotype is just another way of letting the stereotype control you.
When I first acted on it is a tricky business. There had been some minor flirting, back and forth, with a freshman named ... gah, we'll say Alex. Alex was bearish, and cute, but personality-wise, not at all a match for me. As has been discussed, this is important. I was not really interested, and had tried to express that in nice ways... or avoid it anyway. We did crew together for a show called My Sister In This House, and at the second cast party, I had a lot of beer. Like, A-LOT. This was probably my 7th time ever drinking [ a year later ] and I was pretty hammered. Okay, very hammered. I was blurrily aware of the goings-ons, it was very late, and few people we're left at the gathering. I was warm, and I came to realize it was because Alex was standing behind me, with his arms around me. It felt nice, and I was hammered, so I let it occur. Then he started to pull me into the room where no one else was. A little something triggered in my brain, and I resisted. But another tug and I followed. We were standing in the room when this exchange happened:
Alex: "You're beautiful."
Me: *pause* "You smell like soap."
Alex: "Is that a good thing?"
Me: *long pause* "Yes."
At this point, he licked the back of my neck, which felt nice, but weird, but didn't have much [drunk] time to recognize it, as he leaned in and put his tongue straight in my mouth.
This woke me up pretty quickly. I'm pretty glad, too, had it been a subtle kiss first, I might have a story I'd regret. Who knows though. I told him "No." and he asked me if that meant just now, or ever. I said I didn't know.
He didn't talk to me for a year. I'm not entirely sure I blame him. I'm not sure if that counts as acting on it, as I was barely aware, and didn't really act except for to realize I was not comfortable with it. But it was my first kiss, regardless. My first real acting on it was a year later. February of my junior year of college, and began with a meeting for coffee, then a kiss in a Chili's parking lot. It moved forward from there into my first relationship.
To sum up: Ages 12 and 18 never really wondered, it just HIT me, 19 and 20, and I hated it. Alot. I don't anymore though. I'm really actually comfortable with it now. I like that it's a part of me, and I no longer feel any desire to change it. I don't believe in gay pride, because I think it's something embedded within me, just like I wouldn't be proud of having blue eyes, I wouldn't be proud of being gay... but I do embrace it as a part of me, and support it. I am comfortable with who I am, finally, at 22, and it feels glorious. I've gotten beyond accepting it, and I support it in myself. Whenever you read about people's coming outs, they always refer to coming out to themself first. I think we can add a step and that is supporting themself in that. I am finally there. Not without my share of work left to accomplish further, but I have made great progress, and I feel certain I will make more in times to come.
[This photo was taken in my actual closet, PS... it was supposed to be a photo reflecting the "in the closet" thing - also, I don't take the time to edit any of these. [the text, that is]]