How Could You Not Know You're Gay?
Last week's big news in the world of gay, and in most worlds not gay too, was Meredith Baxter publicly coming out. And come out, she did. She was on The Today Show, in The Advocate, in People, the blogs were ablaze...the story was everywhere.The amount of attention the story got was crazy and interesting. I mean, I expected it to be news in the gay world. We do love it when someone famous comes out as one of our own. But I seriously underestimated the cultural cache' of TV mom, Elyse Keaton.
The hook of this story for the straight crowd seems to be that they don't understand how she didn't know she was gay. Somehow that fact that she was married three times and has five children plays in there too. As if, somehow, marrying and having children precludes you from being gay. The thing is, it doesn't. Most people are lucky, and they are able to put their sexuality into the correct context early on. But others aren't so lucky.
I use the term "correct context" because I do believe we are born with our sexualities, but we develop them, or our notion of them, within a certain framework provided by our families, our communities, and society. These frameworks set up the structure to help us define and understand our feelings as we develop friendships and romantic relationships. They help us grasp romantic love and give us the ability to relate to one another. This works out fine for most heterosexual people who develop their sexuality within the heterosexual framework. Also, some gay people are lucky enough to grow up in families that, while the framework is heterosexual, there is also an openness, acceptance, or exposure to other sexualities. Perhaps through relatives or close family friends who are gay or bisexual.
But what happens if you're a gay person who is brought up within a rigid heterosexual framework? Maybe within very religious, or conservative family. Well, I'll tell you. You probably assume you are straight. Why wouldn't you? You don't know anything else. Your concept of self (at least at young age) is informed by your family. As you grow up, you'll sometimes be drawn to certain people of the same sex. You don't know why, there's just something about them. You assume everyone has these feelings. As you hit the teen years, the pressure is really on to conform. When everyone around you starts dating, you find someone of the opposite sex who is good looking and fun to hang out with. You mistake the love and caring of friendship for romantic love. The people you date are great and all, but your relationships are kind of lackluster and leave you wanting more...even if you can't really pin-point what more is. You probably believe that what you feel in your relationship is what everyone else feels in theirs.
It often isn't until just the right person comes along, or some event occurs that you are are prompted to question yourself. But until that happens, you build your life within the heterosexual framework. You may get married, have a great spouse, buy a house, have kids, coach little league, drive in the carpool, become a scout leader, have the white picket fence...life is what it "should" be according to everything you've ever learned. And we'll all float on, okay.
Then one day, you have your AH-HA moment. The catalyst for the AH-HA moment is different for everyone, but the sudden understanding is pretty universal. When you finally have the right context to put your feelings into, everything about your life suddenly makes a whole lot more sense. While the AH-HA moment may provide a certain amount of clarity, it can be followed with a whole lot of denial and confusion. But that's a topic for a whole 'nother post.
Had I chosen one of many other paths my life could have taken, I could easily see how I could have gone a long time before figuring out I was gay. I feel pretty lucky to have had my AH-HA when I was 21. I had a boyfriend when I met Betty Please. I was immediately drawn to her. I had some pretty strong feelings for her that I didn't really understand, so I ignored them. I thought maybe we just really clicked as friends. After a few months of pretty intense friendship, (and I know this is going to sound ridiculous), I had dream. In this dream, we were kissing. It was, well, unlike any kiss I'd ever experienced. When I woke up, my brain screamed out with a sudden realization "OH MY GOD! I'M GAY!" I was completely shocked by this. It had never occurred to me that I could be gay. In that moment, my life finally made sense.
What about you? Did you always know you were gay? Or were straight, until you weren't.
- Meredith Baxter Birney is a lesbian, and here's why I care, by Denise at BlogHer
- Meredith Baxter of ‘Family Ties’ comes out as a lesbian, by Cynthia Yockey at A Newly Conservative Lesbian
- Meredith Baxter Comes Out: Family Ties, Family Lies?, by Keri Renault at Bilerico
- Coming out Later in Life - Late Life Lesbian, by Kathy Belge at About.com:Lesbian Life
Zoe is a BlogHer Contributing Editor (Life-GLBT). She also sometimes blogs her life most ordinary at gaymo.