Wednesday, August 12, 2020

My Sexuality, Early Dating Years, Etc.

When I was growing up, I only knew of two possibilities when it came to with whom I would spend my life: I’d either marry a girl or I’d remain single. From about first grade through my senior year, I had a “crush” on a girl in my class. She was smart; I was smart. I thought we’d make a perfect pair. And it didn’t hurt that she was pretty. To a six-year-old, this all made sense. It was what was expected of me. I also thought I’d be a wealthy lawyer, but I ended up changing my mind about that too.


Then came seventh grade. Within the first week of that school year, and it may have been the first day, some of the guys in class started picking on me. I was constantly bullied and called gay slurs. Some of the girls even talked behind my back. But that same year, we got a new boy in our class. He was blond, blue-eyed, and beautiful. The new guy made them stop. When he was around, he protected me from the bullies. Without realizing it, I had my first boy crush from that day forward. I basically worshipped this kid. He was my hero. He was a genuinely good guy.


As I’ve said before, I never contemplated being gay until college although I had fantasized about a number of guys once I’d had my sexual awakening. However, that new kid in seventh grade was the person who almost always fueled my sexual fantasies. Thinking back on it, he probably fueled my whole sexual awakening. I was utterly delusional, though. I had no awareness I was gay. I never, or rarely ever, fantasized about girls. It was always guys, and always the guys who were nice to me. Being kind was and still is a sure way to my heart.


The ironic thing was the new guy and the girl I’d had a crush on eventually became a couple and have been married for nearly 25 years. He’s put on a few pounds but not much, and he’s still just as handsome. They have beautiful children too. The girl hasn’t changed one bit. She still looks like she did all through school. She had a twin sister who went to college with me, and I ended up going out on a few dates with her. She too still looks the same as she did in school. All the other people I went to school with are basically unrecognizable to me when I see them on Facebook. 


Probably the strangest thing in my dating life occurred in my junior year of high school. I knew a girl who had been my best friend since I was five. Even though we lived in different towns much of our school years, we stayed pen pals. I’ll get back to her in a minute. In high school, I worked for a short time at a Subway restaurant. I ended up asking one of my coworkers to go to the homecoming dance. We were an odd pair; she was beautiful and quite popular, and I was the nerdy fag. Some of her friends had nasty things to say about us going to the dance together. My coworker basically told them to fuck off; she thought I was nice. 


That same fall, my earlier-mentioned best friend was dating an older guy who was one of the most handsome guys I’ve ever laid eyes on; he was fucking gorgeous and so sexy. He also had big muscles and a big dick, which I heard about from my best friend. (I knew the dick size of everyone she dated.) He took my best friend to the homecoming dance. Little did my best friend and I know that a few months later, my date and her date would hook up, and my date got pregnant. They literally ended up having a shotgun wedding; her father, with a gun pointed at the guy, forced them to get married. They had several kids and lived somewhat happily for a little while, but eventually got divorced. Then he had a logging accident which left him paralyzed. He eventually died from his injuries. These days, she’s remarried to a much older man and is a successful real estate agent. I’m still friends with her on Facebook; she used to send me housing listings she thought I should look into. I’m pretty sure she used Facebook to get her real estate business up and running. Her oldest two sons, who are now in college, look so much like their father.


By the way, that best friend of mine growing up always considered herself a Republican. These days, she is the biggest Trump supporter I know, and we rarely speak to each other. When we do talk, it’s through Facebook, and it’s only to argue politics. I keep her muted so I don’t have to read about whatever stupid conspiracy theory she currently believes. It’s really disgusting how much she supports Trump. Last Christmas, she wrapped all her children’s presents in Trump wrapping paper. I was appalled to know such a thing even existed. 


I shouldn’t be surprised, though, by her support of Trump. Their morals are about the same. In high school, she had sex with any guy who would look her way. (I don’t say that to slut shame; I’d have done the same thing if I’d been out and had the opportunity.) And yes, that included me, not one of my prouder moments. It was also one of my most traumatic sexual encounters, but that’s a story for a different post. Let’s just say, she could be very manipulative. For instance, she purposely got pregnant by her first husband before they married and were both in high school so he’d have to marry her and not go off to college. I believe she’s now on her fourth husband. She’s been a bit silent on Facebook lately. She’s a nurse at the largest hospital in Montgomery. I wonder if she sees Trump differently because of his disastrous handling of the pandemic. I suspect not.


I know there were at least a half dozen guys I had crushes on in high school, yet I never would have called them crushes back then. It wasn’t until I took psychology in my senior year in college that my mindset about being heterosexual would change. Back then, I thought my crushes were a form of admiration, a desire to be like them. Also by then, I had discovered the internet and gay porn, but I still couldn’t admit to myself I was gay. I thought maybe I was bisexual, but definitely not gay. My world view changed in that psychology class. My professor asked us to submit questions anonymously on any topic related to psychology. He’d spend the last few minutes of each class answering some of the questions. One day, someone (not me) submitted a question asking if there was a way to tell if you were heterosexual or homosexual. This was the late 1990s in Alabama. It was a legitimate question. I could not have been the only person clueless about their sexuality. Someone else had asked the question after all. The professor told the class to consider whether we fantasized or dreamed predominantly about people of the opposite sex, the same sex, or both equally. That could be an indication you were either heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual. Thinking back on it, he was progressive for Alabama at that time. Hell, he’d be considered progressive for Alabama today. It was then I realized girls were never a part of my fantasies or dreams. It finally began to dawn on me I was probably gay. I was horrified at the prospect.


When you are raised with no alternative to being heteronormative, it can be difficult coming to terms with a sexuality that doesn’t meet that ideal. Anything else is out of the question. Let’s not forget, I grew up in the 1980s and 1990s when AIDS was a scary thing. My mother had me believing all gay men had AIDS. It’s amazing I ever came out at all, but I’d always been more liberal-minded than those around me when I was growing up. Nowadays, I’m considered somewhat conservative in Vermont. Who knew?


I’ve known a lot of men over the years who have been confused about their sexuality. Some even married women. Some got divorced later in life and have since come out; others remained married. I dated one girl in college and when that ended, I never dated another woman. I was still trying to figure out my sexuality, and once I did, I knew I’d never marry a woman. I’ve always believed if I did get married, she’d be miserable, and I’d be miserable. I know that is not the case for everyone, but it’s how I feel about myself. We all make choices in our lives, and for some, those choices work out for the better; for others, it does not. Part of my philosophy on marrying a woman probably comes from the lawyer I used to work for in college. She never married. She once told me she didn’t get married because of a lack of opportunity; she’d been proposed to on numerous occasions. Each time a man proposed to her she considered whether she could see herself getting a divorce. Every time, the answer was yes, so she remained single. She died alone a few years ago from a heart attack.


I’m not crazy about the thought of dying alone. But I’ve decided, if it happens, it happens. Sometimes, I feel I’ve wasted my best years being in the closet. That is why I advocate for people to love their children no matter what and to encourage them to feel comfortable no matter their sexuality. Maybe if things had been different, maybe if my parents and family had been more understanding, maybe if homosexuality had been more acceptable back then… But that is something I will never know. I am happy it is easier today for kids to come out and at a young age. However, I do know that is not the case for everyone: gay people in the South still have a difficult time; Mormon kids may have it the worst. I pray for the day when all expressions of sexuality are accepted, when we can live in a more equal and welcoming world.



RB said...

You were coming of age before gay internet. For guys who were 18 even in 2005, the internet/mobile apps made it fairly easy to meet other guys. It seems you didn't have this advantage. How did you finally connect with other gay guys? How did your first experience with a guy happen? How did you feel about it?

Joe said...

RB, those are good questions and complicated ones. I think it is probably too much to address in a comment, but I will write a post for Friday that does answer those questions. So stay tuned...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing...I was born in 1957...I always knew I was gay...I never dated in high school...I do remember a friend of mine in 10th grade, she was a senior, had a military boyfriend...A strong Italian type...He was gorgeous...She called me out on it...She said, like ordering coffee, "your gay right?"...I didn't freak just denied it...Fast forward to my senior year at 19 my father approaching me and asking if I was gay because I never attended any of the proms and girls did not call the house...I denied it again...Why would I confess to a man who has no interest in me...Fast forward to 25...I had to come out...I knew enough to know that I was a flaming queen...This was the 80's and I just didn't know how to go about it...Get laid...Find a man...I went into the military at 27 and the rest is history...Don't believe the stories you hear...Each of us travels our own road...I just hope those who travel find a mentor...Someone to help/guide them along the way to be a better gay/person...Chickenhawks need not apply...Also, gays should know their history and not take for granted the battles, advancements that have been hard-fought...

Anonymous said...

"In high school, she had sex with any guy who would look her way. (I don’t say that to slut shame; I’d have done the same thing if I’d been out and had the opportunity.)" It is not slut shaming, is to show the republican voters hypocrisy on sex subjects.
Nick from Brazil

Dylan said...

I love everything you write, Joe, but especially when you write about your life. I’m thankful that I was raised in the Internet age and in an age when people were more accepting and understanding. I realized when I was 13 years old that I was attracted to men and I have never looked back. I am blessed to have such accepting parents. When I asked my mom, when I was 15 years old, how someone could tell if they were gay or straight, I was astonished by her response: “You’re definitely gay, Dylan. You undress men with your eyes and you don’t even look up when a girl passed by.” She didn’t even make me come out, but she outed me with that comment that I could only nervously laugh to. I have always been grateful for her. That same day, I told her I needed to tell dad, and she replied, “You really should, to get that elephant out of the room. He has known you were gay since you used to make him watch Lizzie McGuire and the Olsen Twins with you.” I waited a few days and never found the courage to mention it. So, he came to my room one night and said, “Son, I know you’re gay. I want you to know I’m proud of you.” Before he left he said, “Do me one favor. Find a future husband who likeS to hunt and fish, since you don’t like hunting and fishing with me.” He adores my current boyfriend. Even tough he doesn’t hunt or fish with him, they both love football and poker.

RB said...

I remember one time....maybe I was 18 or so. The topic of "gay" came up somehow. I've never seen my parents look more horrified.

It's great that many parents are accepting....but so many are not.

Anonymous said...

You had the misfortune of growing up at a time when everyone knew what gay was, but didn't have access to factual information. There was a reactionary streak among gay intelligentsia, from "freeing the homosexual within" in the early 70s to becoming smaller, more furtive, more insular. These were the yuppie gays who, like all yuppies, show up when the hard work was done, but claim all the credit.

For me, it was on vacation when I was 12. There was this guy, about 15 or 16, at the pool, with light cyan trunks, no liner. But I also liked Baywatch girls (and boys). And car magazines. And old Hercules movies. And I had already taught a couple friends how to masturbate, albeit while watching some movie full of half-naked girls. But I couldn't like both, such a thing was just silly, since it's 1995.

Regarding Trump wrapping paper, can't say I'm surprised. Merchandising, milk it for all it's worth.

I should tell you about Teen Titans some time, where the former Boy Wonder seems to be bi (His interactions with Roy Harper and Joseph Wilson...) and he's also pretty big on monogamy and very slow to start a relationship.

Now fast forward to Devin Grayson, Judd Winick, and most recently Tom King, and there's this weird idea that not sleeping around is "typical 80s conservatism".