I grew up in a suburban town of lush front lawns 30 miles from New York City.
I was a tomboy. My brother, 12 years my senior, was my idol. He played football, listened to Pink Floyd, and had the coolest Adidas ever. I had to have a pair just like them.
My sister, who I also idolized, was five years older. In addition to teaching me the lyrics to “Crocodile Rock,” she was also the first person to tell me I was gay. She was mad at me at the time. Probably because I refused to play Barbies. Again. I cried and told my mom, who said, “What a terrible thing to say!” My sister got punished. We talked about that moment recently and she said, “Well, I was right.”
My mom kept my hair short. She says my sister and I screamed whenever she touched our hair. I dressed in jeans and T-shirts and was often mistaken for a boy. This pained my Mom to no end. Rather than let me grow my hair out, she decided to sew eyelet lace around the back of my jean jacket. It looked as horrific as you are imagining. Even at six, I knew it was awful. I refused to wear the jacket. I joke with my mom now that white eyelet lace is the reason I’m gay. She thinks it’s funny. Most of the time.
My childhood girl crushes include Joan Jett, The Go-Go’s, Jodie Foster, and Chris Evert. My male crushes include Tom Wopat and Burt Reynolds. Disturbing.
I date and love a number of boys/men during my teens and 20s. One breaks my heart. I break another’s. Along the way, I decide that there is something wrong with the way I’m built. That I’m not meant to fall in love the way other people do. It doesn’t occur to me that I’m gay.
The first gay bar I go to is called Connexions. I’d like to write a coffee table book about all the badly named gay bars. I was terrified and exhilarated and danced all night.
I live with my best friend in my 20s. As I ease my way out of the closet, he is there. We compare notes on our sexual escapades with women, and I cannot stop laughing.
The first time a gay man tells me I look hot I feel like I’ve won the lottery.
I’m folding underwear with my mom when I come out to her. I was not planning on it. She asks me if the bar where I’m going is a gay bar. I say yes. She says nothing. I realize this is the moment. I say, “Is there anything else you want to ask me?” She says no and means it. I tiptoe my way out by saying, “Well, I’m pretty sure that I’m gay.” She stops folding and says, “I’ll go get your father.”
My dad suggests therapy. I think this is largely because I say, “I think I’m gay” rather than “I am.” Overall, he takes it much better than mom. Later he says, “I try not to get upset about things I have no control over. I just want you to be happy.”
I’m at a Gay Pride party in 2000. I see a beautiful woman. We start talking. She’s from South Carolina and is leaving. We begin e-mailing and then move to the phone. I make my first visit to Charleston. On my 30th birthday, she gives me a ring and asks me to live with her. In 2003, I move to Charleston. We are together nearly four years.
Once, when discussing the holidays, my mom refers to my partner and me as “the girls.” This gesture of inclusion brings me to happy tears.
I spend one summer as a stepmom during which I feel loved, hated, exhausted, elated; it’s like a bizarre combination of babysitter, aunt, and neighbor. I now realize that the kids were just kids, and I was with the wrong partner.
Around straight people who don’t “know” any gays, I sometimes feel like a lesbian ambassador.
I come out a hundred more times since first coming out, to doctors, friends, confused men, etc.
In case you missed it, Laura Bush supports gay marriage, recently saying, “When couples are committed to one another and love each other, they ought to have the same sorts of rights everyone else has.”
I could just kiss her.