[editorial note: some of these questions were not originally asked in exactly the way I have chosen to post them, but I think they're funnier this way and it's my FAQ so I've changed them. This is no reflection on the askers]
You’d think that my attempting to seduce neighborhood girls starting at the age of 10 or so (don’t worry, they were all my age or older) and running an underground porn distribution ring when I was 12 would have been a big clue that I was, shall we say, different than expected. But it didn’t. I was a strange combination of educated and clueless about sexual attractions. I knew about lesbians, but I thought they were a form of sex play acceptable only when there was a man around. Thank you, Playb*y, ever so much!
The fall-out from the discovery of my porn ring was so severe that it effectively curtailed any further sexual exploration on my part for years. Outwardly I looked like any other naive, romantic teenage girl. I mooned over boys and agonized over getting asked to dances (I never did, not even once). I went on a couple of dates (with a boy who later turned out to be FLAMING gay). I had an intense, passionate emotional relationship with a girl… oh wait, I was talking about looking like a straight teenager, right? Well, that friendship was the only external sign that I was maybe not straight. Inside I was quite confused in a not-acknowledging-that-I’m-confused sort of way. When I thought about forming a relationship with a boy I had the idea that it could be tender and compassionate and best-friendy without any of that touching or kissing business. When I allowed myself to think of getting married I either felt sad for any man who married me, because he wouldn’t be getting any sex from me, or I hoped I would marry someone who wanted lesbians to play sex for him.
The first time it dawned upon me that lesbians could exist without a man to perform for was my senior year in high school. That year our school got a Lesbian. She and her Girlfriend (who supposedly went to a different school) would sit in the halls and make out. She was gothy and dressed bad (not like I dressed much better, but still), she was aggressive and in everyone’s face. She was a soprano in our choir and sat in front of me. She talked loudly about how there was a teacher at another high school that was going to help form a gay club (this was a couple of years before the East High School Gay Straight Alliance controversy). I was in the middle of a suicidal depression that I was working desperately to hide (because if I did manage to complete my plans for suicide I didn’t want any well-meaning idiot to try to stop me). She tried to be my friend. I don’t know if it was because she recognized the depression, she was attracted to my darkness, or if recognized me as a lesbian. Or maybe she was just lonely and I wasn't as mean as everyone else. She tried to include me in her conversations about the nascent club. She invited me to hang out with her. I rejected her publicly and as rudely as was possible for me. I felt I had enough problems without people thinking I was “like that.” She kept trying, and then she disappeared. I don’t know what happened to her. I don’t even know her name. But she put ideas in my head that later helped me find my way back to myself, and if I knew her name I would look her up and try to tell her that and apologize for the way I treated her.
So for the next few years I struggled with sexual attraction. I formed intense friendships with women that felt incomplete. I decided that maybe I was bi. Yes, I was bi and so that meant I could choose to be with men. I had no physical attraction to men, but I liked men well enough as people, and I thought all lesbians must hate men and so since I didn’t hate men I must be bi rather than gay. I put myself in some dangerous situations to try to prove that I could be bi. Dangerous meaning that since decent men tend to stop sexual advances when the woman, instead of getting turned on, gets a nauseated look on her face and tries to withdraw and put her clothes back on, I went looking for men who weren’t so decent. I figured I needed more of a “just throw the girl in the lake and she’ll learn how to swim” kind of sexual initiation. So I ended up in a sexual situation that I’m not certain I should call rape (since I willingly put myself in the position for it to happen AND there was ultimately no penetration even though there were plenty of other sexual acts), but for over a year I had PTSD from it with flashbacks so vivid I would forget where I was (not very convenient to have one of these while driving). And the guy stalked me for two years afterward.
So, ok, not bi. I made a resolution to stop being self-destructive with men. Still, I remained self-destructive over the whole lesbian thing and made certain that I only chose sexual encounters guaranteed to hurt me. Since a little pain goes a long way with me (I am the Queen of Milking an Injury) I didn’t need many of these encounters to keep me unhappy and messed up for quite a while. But gradually, gradually I came to peace with myself. And then it became more a matter of changing self-destructive habits rather than actively seeking pain. And we all know how long it can take to change bad habits.
Here’s a side note. When I had my first sexual experience with a woman, I didn’t want to chicken out, I wanted to do everything, including going down on her. I had (fine, ok, HAVE) a germ phobia that extended even to kissing (I have to REALLY love you to give you an open mouth kiss, so consequently I have French-kissed far fewer people than I have had sex with) so you can imagine how I felt about performing oral sex. Still, if I was a lesbian I was going to be a lesbian all the way. So that night as I stared down at IT, something I had never really looked at before (not counting the plastic, airbrushed, shaved versions I had seen in porn mags) and smelled IT, and thought about how IT was the area normally associated with pee, I almost chickened out. But I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and held it, and with a resolution and show of courage not seen since Iwo Jima, WENT FOR IT. I can’t have been very good. Afterward I got very depressed since I knew I wasn’t straight, but I really didn’t enjoy doing that, so I figured I must be asexual. I didn’t know any other lesbians (the woman I had sex with was just experimenting and had never been with another woman either) and I didn’t know any guys that I felt comfortable talking about eating a woman out with. Eventually I came to the conclusion that since women turned me on even though I was still in gross-out mode, and men never had turned me on, I must really be lesbian after all, and I just hoped that oral sex was an acquired taste. And it was!
I came out to my parents when I was 22. By that time I felt secure enough in my identity to be able to handle challenges to it. Besides, I thought it was merely a formality. I was sure they already knew. It turns out that though they had plenty of evidence (including The Brother Just Younger Than I going through my bedroom, yes I still lived at home, and bringing a book I had on how to come out to your parents to my mother) they were resolutely swimming in denial. It was a bad night. It was a bad summer. It was a bad couple of years. They made 3 requests: 1) I had to go to therapy (I went, and spoke with the therapist without my parents in the room, and the therapist came out and said that I was perfectly fine, but she was willing to work with my parents to help them come to terms with my gayness, I have never seen my dad so mad “you didn’t even TRY to make it work”) 2) I couldn’t tell any of the family or my siblings (I had already told my aunt through books, but they didn’t know that) and 3) I couldn’t bring any “visibly or militantly gay” people around. The third one was the hardest for me to agree to, and frankly I agreed to it and then tossed it out the window. I settled into a “don’t ask, don’t tell” agreement with my parents and The Brother Just Younger Than I (my parents told him about me because he could sense tension in the house and was freaked that it meant they were getting a divorce or something. He was greatly relieved that it was just that I was gay). Strangely enough, this was the beginning of he and I growing closer as friends.
Eventually my parents came around. And by the time I met Kristin they had restructured their dreams for me so that they were in line with my orientation. Now they talk about how proud they are of how steadfast I am in my principles and integrity and how I work to be true to myself. They are fully supportive and love Kristin as a daughter and couldn’t love Julia any more than if I had birthed her myself. They are the best parents I could have asked for, and I am incredibly lucky.
By the time I was at peace with being a lesbian, and the majority of my family was at peace (or at a working peace) with my being a lesbian, I had been struggling with this for over half my life. Because of my personal path back to myself, and all the time it wasted (just think of what OTHER of my issues I could have been working on), I work to be open and honest in my communications about sex and sexual attraction and homophobia. I try to be tactful but I also don’t want to pull my punches to the point where no one feels their impact. While I hope this doesn’t make me a one-note wonder, I won’t let accusations of such keep me from speaking when I feel I have something to say.