I made a de facto promise not long ago to explain a reference I made in a post about my ex-fiancé. My newest fan read my description of having found a picture of a significantly larger version of my former betrothed and questioned what this was all about when she had read my blog and happened to know that “that is not how you swing dude.”
It is true, that is not how I swing. But coming to that realization was a long and difficult journey, one I’d say, truthfully, I’m still in the middle of, but there was a time, when I was younger, that I thought I swung that way… Or at least I could swing that way, if I could just find the right girl. Yes, this post is probably just for that one new reader, but if the rest of you find something new from this, so much the better.
I was raised in a very conservative, Republican, Christian family, bordering on Fundamentalist in thinking. It never felt like the right fit to me and I never really thought of myself as conservative or fundamentalist, but I didn’t know any better than to be Republican and Christian. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m still Christian and am not ashamed to say so, but I see things differently now than I did then.)
Growing up, I had it firmly instilled in me that homosexuality was a thing that is unnatural and without question results in the eternal damnation of the individual who lives his life as a homosexual. I really didn’t know any better at the time, than to believe these things I was being taught and so even though I knew deep down that something was wrong with those beliefs, it never occurred to me that it was because I was one of those people.
I was very unpopular in school and as a result, pretty much of a homebody so it was easy to explain away my lack of romantic entanglements. I had one “girlfriend” in middle school, Jennifer, and, in truth, we were really only friends, but we were “going together” as they said back then. I had gotten the idea in my head, because of my mother’s highly verbal scoffing at any other notion, that boys and girls shouldn’t kiss until they were serious with each other, that they should be sure of who they are and what they want before taking that step.
After a few months, Jennifer broke up with me and she said it was because I wouldn’t kiss her. Interestingly, the idea to plead with her to stay together and to offer her a kiss never crossed my mind.
I had one girlfriend in high school, Cindy. It lasted about three months and then she dumped me to get back together with her ex-boyfriend (the one who had dumped her right before I came around to pick up the pieces.) I kissed her plenty. I even enjoyed it, but mostly just relished the idea that I was somewhat normal, because I could get a girlfriend. I was disappointed when she broke up with me but not devastated.
I had a friend named Bernie, who I was close to. Bernie was a year younger than I, and we were in choir together. We hung out a lot and she would ride with me to all the choir functions. We went out on the week-ends a lot, but never as a date. We were very affectionate and flirtatious with each other but it was all in jest and we both knew it. We had a third wheel friend, Amy, who spent time with us sometimes, but she was very sheltered (and if I was calling her sheltered, she was sheltered) and she found our behavior odd. She would get upset and looking back I think it was jealousy. The three of us sometimes hung out at her house and her parents used to comment, that if Bernie and I weren’t dating, we probably should be because we acted like it already. There were many people who commented similarly about us and eventually, we started to listen. We decided, collectively, that maybe they were right and we should start dating. The only thing that changed was that we said, “We’re dating” (because we already went out all the time) and we kissed. Kissing Bernie didn’t feel right to me at all, and from the moment we kissed the first time, I avoided contact with her as much as possible. It took less than a week for her to ask me why I was avoiding her and all I could say was I thought we’d made a mistake and should just be friends. She said fine, but I don’t think she was really OK. She self destructed after that. I’m not saying it was my fault she did, she had a lot of family and emotional problems, but regardless, that’s the night it started.
I went on one other date the entirety of my high school career.
However, while I was attending my senior year of high school, I was also working at the local grocery store, and I’m not kidding when I say local, it was built in the field that used to be my back yard! Working there, I met and befriended someone who was two years older than I, married with a son, and worked in the cash office of the store. Her name was Kerri (pronounced Kear-ree) and we became friends fairly quickly. Kerri offered to give me a ride to the company picnic once when she asked me if I was attending and I told her probably not because I didn’t have transportation. I met her husband and son that day and it was the beginning of our more-than-just-acquaintances friendship.
Not long after that, Kerri and her husband separated and we began spending more time together. We talked about my plans for after graduation. I didn’t plan on attending college right away, and then at the last minute at the end of the summer, I changed my mind and decided to go after all. Kerri was disappointed but encouraging. She told me to keep in touch and we exchanged a couple of letters. In one of her letters she told me that she’d decided to get back together with her husband and give their marriage another try. I was happy for her and encouraged her to make it work.
The second to last day of finals week, my first semester, I apparently misread the turn signals and break lights on the back of a Ford F-150 and ran my sister’s Geo Metro into the back left corner of the truck. The truck was unscathed and the car was severely damaged. I wasn’t hurt, but my father had only provided liability insurance on the car and the cost of repairs came out my pocket. College was over for the time being (turned out to be a lot longer), and I went back to work at the grocery store in my back yard to pay for the repairs.
Wouldn’t you know it, not long after I arrived back home and announced that I was staying, Kerri informed me that she and her husband were splitting up again and that it was for good this time. I felt badly for her and offered condolences. We resumed our friendship and spent quite a lot of time together.
One night as we were driving around Tulsa in the dark, she asked me how I felt about her. I didn’t understand what she was asking me; obviously, I liked her and enjoyed being her friend. She asked me if that was all because, she said, she had stronger feelings for me. I can’t honestly say what the process in my mind was. I remember telling her I’d never given it any thought because she was married and that made her off limits but that if I thought about it, then yes, I supposed I had stronger feelings for her. I told her that if she weren’t married, or when her divorce was final, we could talk about dating.
We did start dating. We spent every possible minute together. We were in love (or at least we believed we were) and we were very affectionate. We kissed often, we made out frequently and being a 19 year old male, my body responded to the affection. I wanted to make love with her and she refused, stating that she believed that due to premarital sex (and the unplanned pregnancy that resulted) God had punished her and her first husband and that was why their relationship didn’t last and she didn’t want that to happen to us. But it was OK, because I’d finally met the right girl and everything was going to be great! I can’t help but think if she had agreed to have sex with me, I’d have figured myself out a whole lot sooner.
Kerri and I dated for almost a year. While I never got down on one knee, we had discussed and long since agreed that we were going to get married the following year.
I was 19 years old. I was naïve. I believed we could make a go of it, even though I didn’t own a car, she had a son and between the two of us we had three jobs. I still lived with my mother and things were really bad between us. My father offered to let me stay with him, and drive one of his cars until I saved enough money to buy my own. The hitch was, he lived in Ohio and Kerri and I lived in Oklahoma.
We discussed the arrangement and agreed that it would be best for me to go, for six months, and then come back and we’d get married. I was gone for three weeks when she cheated on me with a random guy at a club. Apparently, she is neither capable of being alone, nor of being honest about her feelings. Kerri has made an absolute disaster of her life and I can’t begin to express my gratitude that I was not caught up in the middle of that storm.
Throughout my life I have had inclinations as to my true orientation. It’s true that I always found guys to be attractive, but convinced myself that I was just recognizing what makes a man attractive, not actually attracted to them. As I’ve mentioned previously, I used to come home from school, when no one was home, and masturbate while looking at Undergear and International Male catalogs. But I always told myself, I wasn’t gay. I wasn’t turned on by the guys on the pages; I was turned on by the thought of being like them… Yeah, right.
Every gay person has a process they have to go through. A gay person who grew up the way I did, in a fundamentalist environment often takes longer.
First you must accept the idea of being gay and this is much harder than it might sound. For me it took 30 years to stop lying to myself and stop making lame excuses to myself for feeling the way I did. After that I had to deal with my feelings and beliefs regarding the apparent disparity between my faith and my sexuality. It was difficult to do, in some ways I suppose I still am. It’s hard when your personal beliefs are different from everyone you’ve known and respected as authority your entire life. But ultimately, I realized that only I could decide what to believe. I had to pray, and meditate and listen to my spirit and only then could I decide what I believed God was telling me.
Once you get over this hurdle, you have to actually accept, not just the idea of being gay, but that you actually are gay, and that it’s OK. And then, if you’re really brave you start telling people.
Frankly, I don’t know what comes after that because I haven’t gotten past that point.
So, I could have answered the question with a simple, “I didn’t always know I was gay and yes I dated a girl.” But really, it’s not a simple question and it deserved a more complete answer… and now it’s got one.