For the first time in about two or three years, my family is having a family reunion over Thanksgiving. My parents are flying me out specifically for this reason. Let me break down the family dynamics for you:
--Grandma and Grandpa
Grandma is Nazarene and Grandpa is Lutheran. Grandma is far too sweet to ever say anything outright bad about Mormons, but she showed visible relief once when I told her I was exploring other options. Grandpa thinks Mormons are stupid.
--Aunt and Uncle Cool
Aunt and Uncle cool are agnostic and athiest respectively, and both know my full situation, and have even met my girlfriend. My aunt is a very successful lawyer, and loves arguing, and my uncle...well, I'm actually not sure what he does for a living, but it involves lots of traveling outside the country. He, too, loves arguing.
I actually have not ever discussed religion with this guy, mostly because I haven't seen him in a good six or seven years. But he'll be there!
My younger sister is an in-the-closet lesbian (seriously, she's told me), my older sister is super crazy devout, her husband is really laidback (and is mostly okay with me being a big ole lesbian), my mom's sanity depends on the church, and my dad uses the church as one big, holier-than-thou ego trip.
Now that you have the groundwork, let me explain why I'm feeling a little panicky about next week.
I've received word that the Saturday after Thanksgiving, once the extended family has left, my family will be going to the temple to do my maternal grandmother's work. Of course, they are fully expecting me to go with them. Because I think my older sister is deluding herself into thinking that I am still going to church even though I'm living that wretched "homosexual" lifestyle, and my parents have no idea, although I believe they may suspect that I don't go to church.
Anyhow, the moment I tell them that not only will I not be going, but I couldn't go even if I wanted to, because I don't hold a temple recommend, all hell will break loose. My dad, with his wonderful priesthood authority, will demand to know why, and if I try to leave it at, "I haven't been attending church," he won't let it be. He'll demand to know why I haven't been going to church, and then he'll exhort, command, and bully me into going again, along with paying my tithing. And then, he might threaten me financially. Not that it'll do much, because every time I ask for money--which is maybe once or twice a year--he gets all wishy-washy and tells me that he doesn't really have any money either, and can't help me out. Buuut, still.
My mom will probably cry. I'm not sure if she'll do much else. And my older sister will demonize me, and potentially out me. Maybe.
I'm definitely not ready to have either conversation with my parents: the first being that I don't believe in the church, and the second being that I am, in fact, gay.
Last night I was considering my options, and it is pretty much inevitable that I have at least one of the two conversations with them, since the temple thing basically forces the issue. But, do I have the conversation in the middle of the week--when numbers of support are on my side--or wait until Saturday and let them complain about how I've driven the spirit away and they can't enjoy their time spent as a family doing my grandmother's work?
If I do it in the middle of the week, people might accuse me of trying to make the week all about me, and trying to manipulate people to my side and so on and so forth. But then at least I'll have support, and my dad won't be able to try anything. It's not like I'd have the conversation in front of the whole family, but if things got out of hand, I could simply walk out to the living room and sit with my aunt, uncle, and grandparents.
I dunno. I'm just really worried.
Sometimes, though, I think about moments in time that I would change, if I could. I'd like to share a few for the irony, knowing what I know now.
My freshman year of high school, I had just gotten a really bad crush out of my system. I hadn't thought of it as a crush, because, after all, she was a girl, but now I know better. I wanted so badly to have her approval, to be like her, to be close to her.
I was a theatre dork, and started spending more time with the theatre crowd and less time with the crowd that my crush ran in. So, I stopped crushing on her. Simple as that. Anyhow, one of my theatre friends came out as bisexual. I saw it as a complete non-issue, to be honest. I was like, "Okay, whatevs. Wanna run lines?"
During a break in rehearsal, I was sprawled out on a couch, laying across the whole damn thing. She came up and was like, "Move over, I wanna sit!" And so I sat up, and as soon as she sat down, I plopped myself right across her lap. No motive or anything, I was just really comfy.
But she said, "You're awfully trusting. Are you sure you wanna lay in my lap, now that you know what I am?"
To which I promptly replied, "I don't care. You know I don't swing that way, and you're my friend."
A few weeks later, while on a trip to a college campus, she asked me if I wanted to start a GSA with her. The idea appealed to me, but I dutifully said, "I can't. I am okay with you being whoever you want to be, but I can't be part of something that supports homosexuality."
Zinger, right? I told my mom about the conversation, and she was very congratulatory on how I handled it. Ugh. I wish more than anything that I could go back in time and say, "Yes, I absolutely will." Even if I was there only as a "straight" ally, it would have been good for me to have that exposure. It would have made college so much less painful. It would have made coming out so much less painful. It would make the prospect of coming out to my family much less painful, because maybe they would already have some idea.
Sometimes, I feel like maybe she was fishing me out. I don't think she ever had a crush on me, but maybe she saw a kindred spirit, and wanted to offer her support. Or maybe she needed my support. I don't think she ever got much flak for being bisexual (then again, she continued to date guys while in high school), but maybe she did and I just didn't know it.
Then, another time, my sophomore year, there was a girl who sat next to me in history class. She ran with a very different crowd than I did, but even with that, there was something different about her. She dressed in baggy shirts and baggy jeans, much like I did. She didn't wear makeup or do her hair. Much like myself. She was a feminist. I...didn't think of myself that way, but yeah, I was all about grrrl power.
We talked a lot, got to be decent friends. We bonded over a few favorite actresses: Miranda Otto and Hilary Swank, namely.
She lent me a movie with Hilary Swank, called Iron Jawed Angels. It's a massive grrrrl power feminist movie about women winning the right to vote. And I LOVED it.
Then, she started telling me about this other movie Hilary Swank was in that was simply amazing. It was about this girl who lived like a guy and got a girlfriend and there was this sex scene and it was just a really good movie. I was curious, but knew I could never sneak it past my parents. I did ask how the girlfriend in the movie was fooled into thinking Hilary Swank was a guy, especially after the sex scene. My friend explained to me that she used a dildo, and that she didn't get undressed for it.
Being the naive Mormon that I was, I was still a little confused, but trusted that my friend knew what she was talking about. But I had to refuse the movie, sadly.
We grew apart after that.
Looking back on things, I am 90% sure that she was a lesbian and was trying to feel me out, and when I rejected that movie, she interpreted it to mean that I was Not Interested and Didn't Swing That Way.
So, to wherever you are in the world, old friend, I am truly sorry. If I could go back in time, I would.
The sad thing is, she never used to be like this. In high school, she had gay friends, and friends she suspected were gay. She was really innocent when it came to sex, but she didn't seem to have a problem with gay people much at all.
Then, she decided to go on a mission. She changed a bit before her mission. Became a bit more devout, a bit more focused on the doctrine on the church, and a bit more focused on life outside the church. The major change, though, came on her mission.
The person she became on her mission is a person I don't recognize. I didn't grow up with this person.
The person she became post-mission was a severely depressed woman who was entirely dependent on the church for her happiness, or lack thereof. All she wanted was to be back on her mission. Or get married. But I can't count the times she said, "I just want to go back on my mission."
She was dogmatic. And she didn't mellow out after a month or two post-mission, like most missionaries do. She grew ever more wrapped up inside the church, not even entertaining the notion that there was more life outside.
She took the call to work on Prop 8 seriously. She made phone calls, she spread word, she encouraged people to vote the Lord's way. She ate it all up with enthusiasm, even contending with me that Prop 8 didn't take away anyone's rights, and gay people have all the rights straight people do, they just get it through civil unions. I tried telling her that civil unions don't cover all the rights of marriage, and she wouldn't listen to me.
And on it goes.
She thinks that I am "choosing" to live my "homosexual" lifestyle, and that I fell into it because a lot of my friends were "homosexual" and had bad morals and I must just want to sin. And you know what? It hurts to know that's what she thinks of me. After surviving childhood together, after surviving the dull, correlated meetings and the abusive, hostile home environment. After seeing the dedication I put into the things I love, my dedication to finding the truth wherever it might lead.... In the end, something fundamental about my sister changed. Sometimes, I wonder if she is still my sister at all.
Often, I've heard it discussed that various environments make you gay: maybe you were abused as a child, or maybe, if you subscribe to Freud, you had an overbearing mother and a distant father, or maybe, just maybe, you masturbated and it made you gay.
My own mother subscribes to these beliefs, in fact.
I will be the first to admit that I had a rough childhood. My father, who is his own walking psychological study, was always angry and aggressive, and smacked my sisters and I around a bit. My mother struggles with depression and anxiety and OCD and God only knows what else. She's a perfectionist, and children are anything but perfect. Don't get me wrong--she did the best she could, and I love her very dearly, and I don't consider the way she brought me up as wrong. I'm just painting the picture of a well-off, but rough, childhood.
So, if someone were to argue that I was psychologically traumatized by events in my childhood, they'd be right, to a point. Nothing was ever severe enough to cause lasting trauma, in my opinion, but I am not a professional.
However, my attraction to women does not stem from this. I feel very comfortable saying this. When I was still trying to reconcile my attractions with my church, I tried this explanation on, and it felt wrong...wrong in much the same way that making out with a boy felt wrong.
So, we move on. What about masturbation?
According to some church authorities, masturbation can lead to homosexual thoughts and behavior. This dogma is derived, I suspect, from the same tales told a hundred years ago: that masturbation will make you blind, cause disease, or otherwise leave some lasting mark.
Well, I can safely say that my attraction to women predates any sort of masturbatory experience.
Where does that leave me?
For one thing, it gets me thinking about when, exactly, I started noticing that my world revolved around women. Many people say that they always knew they were gay, citing memories in their early childhood.
I have no such memories. I wasn't consciously aware of homosexuality at all until I was much older.
But I can definitively say that my world always revolved around women. I was drawn to girls for friendship, drawn to women for role models, was always fascinated by strong women.
I should have known when I was six or seven and fell in love with Xena (or even my earlier obsession with Princess Leia):
Sadly, these signs eluded me.
Ahem. Moving on, I can recall my first lesbian fantasy when I was twelve or so. I had known my best friend for about a year. And, interestingly enough, my lesbian fantasy went roughly like this:
I was hanging out with my friend at her house, in her room. She had a rough home life, with a domineering mother, and we would often talk about it. So, we're talking, and I'm consoling her, arms around her, and she looks up from having her face nuzzled in my shoulder. Our eyes meet. She kisses me. I am at once thrilled and alarmed. I break away and tell her that I can't, because it's wrong, but I would still be her friend.
Right. And I still had no idea.
Shortly after that, when I was thirteen, I developed what, in hindsight, I can say was my first, official girl crush. With this crush, I (still oblivious) bordered on creepy Twilight obsession territory.
Not this bad, I hope. I still feel bad about it, though.
So, this crush lasted all year, but I passed it off as just wanting to be like this girl. I tried to so hard to bond with her, to be into the things that she was into, and be a fantastic friend. I did not, however, have fantasies of the sort described above. And anyway, I was distracted with a boy from the band, so I didn't really have time to think of it as a crush, anyway.
This was my last close friendship with a girl for several years. I had my group of friends, but no girl crushes. This period in my life, from fourteen to sixteen, were my most devout years in the LDS church.
Then, I hit college. And I met Her.
She and I quickly became fast friends. I started thinking about it a bit--about how close we were, and how I really, really, REALLY liked her and then it hit me: I liked her. Then, I went into denial, until a boy snagged her (admittedly, the boy was a major Dick), at which point I sank into a major depression which took almost two years to pull myself out of, while slowly coming to grips with the fact that I liked women.
I slowly came to terms with it, and then, I met the woman who became the love of my life. The first time I kissed her, everything inside me clicked. It felt so perfect and so right, like that was exactly where I was meant to be. And that's when I knew that everything in my life had culminated to that single point: whether through nature, nurture, or some combination of both, it was absolutely right for me to be in the arms of another woman.
While I fully believe that I've always been attuned to and drawn to women, I really don't know if it is developmental or biological. I suspect it is a mix of both. But either way, I don't believe that I am wrong for expressing it. I am being nothing less than what I was meant to be: God (if he exists in the manner that the church purports) created me this way, designed for me to become the woman that I am, and I feel at peace when I am with the woman I love.