I’ve hit the one-year mark with this whole lesbian thing, and it’s high time I looked back on my life and analyze the road signs I missed that said: “ATTENTION: BIG GAY PARTY AHEAD, 100 MILES.” I don’t know what I was doing at the time. Probably had my eyes shut, praying the rosary.
Yet there they were, the signs, quietly unobtrusive, marked with an affectionate understanding of my true self.
I don’t remember the first time my mom told me what gay meant. I know that she probably explained it with a sense of disgust and judgment. Something like, “Some girls like other girls instead of guys. It’s unnatural.” She probably gave a shudder or two. She probably overcompensated for her own unexplored sexuality. (Years later she would gush over how gorgeous and petite and sweet my dad’s friend’s wife was, and I would listen in curious amusement, wondering if perhaps my “condition” runs in the family.)
When I was growing up, I wanted to be absolutely sure I wasn’t gay, so every once in awhile I performed a self-check: I closed my eyes and imagined what it might be like to kiss a girl, and when I didn’t get aroused, I let out a sigh of relief and carried on with my crushes on boys. I called it the “kiss test.” It seems quite oversimplistic when I look back on it now, but it’s worth noting that I never had a crush on a girl strong enough to demand my defining it that way.
My first kiss with a girl was innocent. My friend Kristin and I were at each other’s houses almost every day in the summer – it was a blast, and we had new adventures every day. When we were about 7, we were playing with dress up clothes in the crawlspace behind her parents’ bedroom when we started talking about kissing. We classified kisses into 3 categories: a “normal” kiss (the type your mom gives you, a peck on the cheek), a “boy kiss” (the kiss between girls and boys, essentially making out), and French kissing. We decided we’d better try all 3 with each other, just for the sake of experience. We did. It was weird, and we started giggling. And that was the end of that.
However, I also took notice of women who were attractive. I’m not sure if it’s fair to redefine those interests in retrospect as crushes, since I didn’t think of them that way at the time, but there was certainly a homoromantic/homoerotic element to them. I idolized women, worshipped them, wanted to be them, wanted to be close to them…all the feelings blurred together in my mind. It wouldn’t have been much of a giant leap to say that I wanted to date them, but that idea was not an option during my childhood.
One of those girls was a girl in my choir at school. Her name was Liliana. She was 2 years older than me and gorgeous – dark curly hair that tumbled down over her shoulders in the most elegant way, slender hips, big brown eyes that seemed to have a light of their own. (She looked a lot like the Mexican-American pop star Selena, if you follow me.) She was quiet and soft-spoken and had a lovely voice when you could hear her. I was convinced I needed to be her friend. I even wrote about her in my diary, about trying to find an occasion to talk to her and make her like me. The whole thing was intensely crush-like, but I had other crushes on boys at the time, so I didn’t think of it that way.
But the idea did occur to me. There was a reason I wrote about it in my diary but never told anyone! I was afraid someone would mistake my deep yearning to be her friend with a deep yearning to be her girlfriend. I was terrified that she would notice me noticing her, and think, “What a weirdo. That girl has a crush on me.” So I backed off. The few times she did talk to me, I squealed internally and went home and gushed about it in my diary. We never got close. But I still think about her.
A few years before that episode, my well-endowed 6th grade science teacher Mrs. O’Leary announced she was going to split the boys and girls up next week and talk to us separately about “the facts of life.” You know, Christian-school-style sex ed. Yay. It was the same catch-phrase my mom used when she was about to whip out the books that said boys had penises and scrotums and when people put their penises inside other people’s vaginas, they experience something called orgasm, and that it was uncertain whether masturbation was immoral or not, but it was probably OK as long as you didn’t think about your crush while doing it. I fantasized for a week that Mrs. O’Leary would come to the girls’ class and take her shirt off and one by one the we would be allowed to come up and touch her breasts.
I was never quite as fascinated by men’s bodies – in fact, I was always quite turned off by the idea of interacting with a dick up close and personal. I guess I managed to get past it by thinking of it as an unpleasant but necessary part of the whole sex thing.
When I finally realized I had a thing for women around this time last year, I wrote in my journal:
“I don’t like how it feels. I never asked for this. It feels like an alien had hijacked my body and my desires – I don’t know who I am anymore. This is not a kinky fetish phase, this is not bi-curious: this is obsession. It’s not as though I can press a button, flip a switch or scream, and snap out of it. I always took their beauty for granted. And now, that beauty has smacked me upside the head like a wooden plank.”
And it was only when I allowed myself to feel those feelings that I achieved some inner peace. Coming out to ourselves is often the most difficult step.