I don’t feel like I need to apologize to anyone for being gay. That would be like apologizing for having brown hair, or green eyes. I wish I would have figured that out a long time ago. For years, I wanted to believe that my being a lesbian didn’t hurt anyone, hadn’t hurt anyone, and I guess in a real sense it didn’t. It was never the fact that I was gay, it was my refusing to accept it. Not being able to accept that I was a lesbian when I was very young, not even really understanding what the was, led me to make some very bad decisions.
It’s kind of ironic, that trying to be straight, is how I hurt someone. I married my best friend when I was 18 years old. He was handsome enough, loved to fish and hunt, didn’t mind that I was a “tomboy”. At the time, he was my closest friend, the person I could talk to about anything and everything, except that one very important thing that I couldn’t talk to anyone about.
I had a great relationship with my parents growing up. They were amazing, and to this day I am so grateful for the family I was born into. It wasn’t them that kept me from facing my sexuality, it was my own fear of how it would effect my relationship with them. I never gave my Father the chance to accept me, he died before I ever found the courage to tell him that his only daughter was a lesbian. I hate that, because looking back I know that my happiness was the most important thing in the world to my Dad. He may not have loved the idea of my being gay, but he would have accepted me, because he loved me. I suspect he did know. Looking back a few conversations, a few questions he asked, I missed several opportunities to have that conversation with him. I so wish I hadn’t.
But Rickey, my friend and later my husband and the father of my son, that’s one person that without a doubt my failure to step up and be honest with hurt. I wasted his time, 10 years to be exact. I wasted his love, because I could never return it the way he deserved. I damaged his self esteem because inevitably a man wonders if they somehow are responsible for you “becoming gay”. To this day, I carry a lot of guilt for hurting this man, someone who I know loved me.
I blame myself, to a great extent. But I also blame the society that I grew up in. One that didn’t expose me to what being gay was. I had no idea in the beginning what I was, why I felt different from my friends. I was taught in school that love and sec were between a man and a woman, and that it led to procreation. Not one adult in my life ever helped me to understand what was going on with me, and you know that some of them had to notice. Surely they noticed that I was more masculine than my girlfriends, had no desire to even discuss wearing feminine clothing, and was more apt to spend recess playing football with the guys than gathering in a huddle with the girls giggling over some silly guy. I wish just one of them would have taken the time to tell me that not every person is heterosexual, that there are people who are attracted to the same sex, and that it’s OK.
But can you imagine what would have happened to a teacher, in the 70’s or early 80‘s, who said that to a young girl or a young boy who was just beginning to realize their own sexuality. My wonderful Dad, as much as I love him, at the time would have had their job or worse. It was just a different world then.
I wish that I could have really understood myself so much younger than I did. It would have saved me, and others in my life, so much time and pain. When you get older, and start looking back, and a wasted decade of life starts to have even more meaning to you. It certainly does to me. What I wouldn’t give to have those ten years back, or the 5 that followed afterwards as I struggled to come to terms with who I was.
The fact is, that all kids should be exposed to the truth about sexuality. They need to know that it’s not black and white and that not everyone is going to fit into the cooker cutter outline of heterosexuality. They need to know that it’s OK to talk about it, and to have a safe place to do that with people who can give them meaningful advice and guidance. It’s easy to see that it’s getting better. Every generation seems to be a little less intolerant and afraid. I hope so. I hope that soon, not a single child will sit confused in their room alone, trying to understand why they are a little different and afraid to ask anyone for fear of losing a friend, or a family member’s love. I love that some of the younger gay and lesbian people that I meet now, have never experienced that and say they have felt completely accepted by the people who are close to them throughout their short lives.
I believe that Rickey found love and happiness after we divorced. He was never angry, or said anything mean or hurtful to me when I told him the truth. Always my friend, and I hurt him so much. No apology will ever take that away. So when the anti-gay movement tells you that you can choose not to be gay, and live a heterosexual life, I want to tell them that they are the ones who are hurting people. You can pretend for a time, a short time, but the truth comes out eventually. Either by words, or actions, the fact that you aren’t sexually attracted to someone can’t be hidden forever. Endless arguments about the lack of sex, or the excuses to avoid it, will put an end to the lies, and there you will be, looking at wasted years for both of you and having hurt someone you never intended