Let me start from the beginning.
It was in Kindergarten that I first remember finding a girl aesthetically pleasing. I'd already heard about girls and how I, as a boy, was supposed to like them, but I was too young to really think about it. But then this girl named Michelle was just standing there in class, and I looked at her, and I thought to myself, "Wow, she's really pretty. Wow, I guess I like girls. Wow, I guess I get what everyone's been talking about." I didn't even need to do anything about it right then: it was enough to know she was pretty and that I could look at her.
Later, of course, as early as second grade and certainly by fourth grade, I had painful crushes on girls. I would think about them, desire them. Maybe I wanted to kiss them or hold their hands, but mostly I wanted them to be my girlfriends.
These feelings got even stronger as I got older and, in seventh grade, I had my first real girlfriend. What a spectacular experience. I still remember how neatly everything worked: I liked a girl, she liked me, and we got to be together and to be called ("officially") a couple, with all the privileges afforded couples--holding hands and kissing in public, going to dances together, trading meaningful trinkets like Swatch watches to prove to the world that we were going together... and, yes, we even got to break up. I even remember that part fondly. It was the most beautiful breakup I would ever have, and it was definitely part of the experience.
Future relationships, though sometimes more painful, only grew deeper. In these many relationships, there was true love, there were tears, there were fights, there was discovery of ourselves and our bodies, there was a different kind of friendship, we introduced each other to our favorite TV shows... we shaped each other's personalities in unalterable ways forever.
Eventually, I even lived with women and married them, had mortgages on houses, got divorces, had children, had step-children, put together photo albums full of family trips, organized Easter egg hunts... the whole ball of everything. I can't imagine my life without these things.
If you're wondering if anyone objected to any of this, they didn't. No one: not parents, not friends, not my church members, not my president or my congressmen. They didn't object because -- as I'm sure you'll remember me telling you -- I was a straight guy. Childhood kisses were cute, elementary school crushes were celebrated, news of junior high girlfriends caused pats on the back from siblings and parents. I could sit on a church pew Sunday morning with my arm around my wife, and -- hey -- they even told me I was doing God's will. If anyone said anything negative about the woman I was with, it was about her as an individual, but no one ever said, "You shouldn't be with a woman. It's just not natural. In fact, it's a sin."
That brings me to last week. I started thinking about this seemingly rich life I've led so far and I wondered, "But what about men?" Because I've never had sex with a man, never kissed a man, never held hands with a man, never fantasized about picking out a new living room suite with a man, never called a man on a cell phone to pick up our kid at day care because I was going shopping, never wondered how different it would be if someone close to me died and a man was there in my house to put his arm around me and comfort me. Never. None of it.
In fact, and please don't be offended when I say this, I was a little repulsed at the thought of being with a man. I mean, girls and women were so beautiful, so perfect, so desirable. It felt as if I was simply born with a predisposition toward women, and to think that I could feel otherwise or behave in any other way... well, it felt like no more of a choice than my skin color was a choice. I assumed the same was true of gay people, that they were born with a predisposition toward the same sex, perhaps with a repulsion to the other.
But I heard it was a choice (I don't remember from where: maybe the cable news?), so I gave it a shot. It turns out what I thought was a biological resistance to men as a result of my being born heterosexual was simply me not being aware of my full opportunities. It was as if I knew that extra crispy chicken existed but I never took the time to try it because I was so enamored by the original recipe.
So now I'm 100% a gay man. As it turns out, penises are just as enjoyable as vaginas once you make that decision. But, more importantly, a serious relationship with a man is just as deep and meaningful too. Because I'm in a deep and meaningful relationship with a man now: my boyfriend, who I'm living with. His name is Gary.
I left my wife and my kids, of course. I had to, if I was going to commit to this new lifestyle choice. But she and I are still friends, so whatever. I met Gary soon after deciding to be gay, and I tried to be up front with him, letting him know that I was straight for almost forty years. "But you're choosing to be gay now, right?" he said, and I assured him that I was, so he had no problem with it.
"I chose to be gay soon after I was born," Gary told me soon after we met, "so I've been this way all my life."
"Oh, that's interesting," I said, and I told him about how I didn't realize it was a choice and how uncontrollable my desire toward women was and everything else I just told you. In the middle of the story of my romantic life, he started crying. Then he explained why.
He said that he, too, was hopelessly attracted to people (guys for him) but that everyone treated him like a freak because of it. When he told his mother that he thought the boy in his Kindergarten class was cute, she told him it was morally wrong to feel that way, so he never spoke to his mother (or most people) again about his crushes and feelings. When he had his first boyfriend in junior high, it had to be kept a secret, and -- when the secret got out -- they were both beat up and eventually he abandoned that boyfriend and started acting "butch" and calling the old boyfriend a faggot in front of his new friends. He started forcing himself to date girls in high school -- even though he chose to be gay, mind you -- just to get along in life. For most of his twenties, he lived a life of forced celibacy just so he wouldn't have to deal with it. It wasn't until he was in his mid-thirties, after lots of therapy and support group meetings, that he began finally living openly as a person who had chosen to be gay.
I asked Gary why he didn't simply choose to be straight once he started having all those problems. "Oh, I'm just stubborn, I guess," he said.
Poor Gary. I guess I made the correct choice originally (even though I didn't know it was a choice) when I chose to like girls. What a privilege it was to be able to develop as an emotional, psychological, sexual, and biological human being without being told that what I was experiencing was an abomination to God and nature. It's confusing enough to figure out relationships and love when all of society is supportive of you. Imagine how difficult it must be when a large part of society is forcing you to deny your feelings or worse. It must be maddening. Anyway, Gary wants us to get married, but of course we can't--not in Alabama, where we live.
I asked Gary why people thought homosexuality was so wrong, since it seemed perfectly normal to me, especially now that I had chosen to be gay. I mean, one out of ten people are gay. He said the only answer people seemed to have was a religious one, that God said it was wrong, that it was written in a couple of places in the Bible or Paradise Lost or some old book like that.
"So there are laws against gay marriage and other anti-gay laws because of religion?" I said. "Isn't that unconstitutional?" I was thinking of the first amendment and all that, where we're not supposed to impose religion on anyone. It's been a while since I read it, but I remember learning about it in social studies.
He said, "Yes, but -- even though you're able to choose your sexuality -- you're not able to choose your religion. Whatever your parents believe is what you have to stick with the rest of your life. So even though certain religions take away my basic rights as a human being, I can't do anything about it because it would discriminate against those who were born with certain anti-gay religious ideas."
"So if you tried to stand up for your right as a human being, it wouldn't be fair to bigoted Christians or whoever because they were born believing that guys who like guys aren't actually humans after all? To oppose their hate is to oppose their religious freedom?"
"You got it," Gary said.
"And there's really no other reason other than religion?" I said.
"Well," he said, "many straight people find gayness to be icky."
"Oh yes," I said, "I did, too. Then again, I still find geriatric sex to be icky, but Lord forbid I should prevent them from being happy."
"Of course, my other problem is that I was born a Christian, too," Gary said, "so I wake up with guilty feelings every day of my life. In fact, every time we do something simple, like watch a movie together as boyfriend and boyfriend, I'm thinking in the back of my mind about how God hates me and will probably send me to Hell when I die."
"Wow," I said. "I never had to think of any of this stuff when I was straight. I just did what I wanted and everyone left me alone and told me I was going to Heaven." It's true! Now that I think about it, that seems pretty abnormal.
So now I was starting to think that maybe I should choose to be straight again. This gay lifestyle choice was very difficult, and I wasn't nearly as stubborn as Gary. Surely my wife wouldn't mind if I became straight again and took her back. She already complained to me that the phrase "single mother" had a negative connotation, for reasons we couldn't quite figure out.
But I guess I'll remain gay, at least for now. It's only been a week, like I said. Isn't it weird how only ten percent of people choose to be gay? Maybe if more of us chose to be gay, then the country wouldn't oppose us so much, since we wouldn't be so much in the minority. Or maybe there should be a law passed that -- if you want to write anti-gay legislation -- you have to choose to be gay for one week first, just to walk a mile in the other guy's shoes. Kind of like when they force vaginal ultrasounds into women who want an abortion. You really get to see what you're doing first.
Anyway, I don't know what I'll do with all of those pleasant memories I had as a straight person. I mean, I feel a little weird even writing about them here, since I don't want to be all in your face about it. I wouldn't want you to have to explain straightness to your children or anything, since I do find it a little gross now. I would never tell my children the stuff I used to do with their mother. Ugh!
So I guess I'm making the daily choice to be gay for Gary's sake. If he finally commits suicide, as he often threatens, then I'll definitely choose to be straight again. Until then: I'm here, I'm queer, I chose to be!