Sunday, June 22, 2008

peeling back the layers

Where did it come from? My own homophobia, I mean.

By homophobia, I mean fear and shame about my own sexuality, not anyone else's.

I've always been politically and socially liberal, open-minded, accepting. I surround myself, mostly, with like-minded people. Of course, the exception is my family.

And I think that's where it started.

When I was in my early twenties, and just beginning to maintain a solid footing on my own, I needed my family. Badly. Some days, they were all I had. My younger sister was just out of kindergarten when I left home - I loved her and missed her every day. But I had to leave - the small town I lived in was slowly killing me. I lived intermittently with my grandparents in the city, shared an apartment with a friend, took an attic room in a house with a shared bath, supported myself with minimum wage retail jobs and had a hell of a good time. I needed it - I needed to learn that I really was okay, that I was likeable, that I could make friends.

I worked in a record store for about two years, and my manager was also a good friend of mine. We thought and talked for a long time about renting an apartment together. I knew my parents would be opposed - this was the mid-eighties, and my strongly Catholic family would (I knew) be appalled at the idea of me sharing an apartment, even platonically, with a man. I thought about not telling them - but realized the impossibility of keeping something like that a secret.

So I sat my mom and dad down and explained to them that I was moving in with J____, but they didn't need to worry about my virtue, because he was gay. It was no big deal to me.

It was to them.
They exploded. That's the only word which adequately describes their reaction. They were ready to haul me home. I wouldn't go. They accused him of trying to "convert" me (their words). I laughed at them - I don't think you can be converted, I explained. I stood my ground. They dropped the subject.

Two weeks later my grandmother informed me that she was praying that it wouldn't happen. With tears in her eyes. My grandmother is under five feet tall, an amazing, strong woman, whom I have always respected. She nurtured me at times when my parents did not. She had always accepted me for who I was.

Hey, wait a minute! I though you weren't supposed to pray for negatives - at least that's what she'd always told me.

I was crushed. And I caved - I should have stood my ground, but I was looking at being disowned. I was insecure enough at the time that I couldn't let that happen.

After that, how could I tell them about my own sexuality?

The catholic church is clear as mud - you're allowed to be gay, but you can't act on it. I was raised to believe it was sinful, and rejected that belief fairly early on. Except when it came to my own sexual orientation.

So I hid it. And I ran away from situations where I might have become involved with a woman. And I had secret crushes on this girl or that girl, always explaining it away, always feeling slightly guilty about wondering what it would be like....never exploring that aspect of my being at all.

I hid behind my weight. I gained more weight. I made life choices that were safe and stable, but did not feed my passions. I have a partner, a child, a mortgage. And there is a problem with that - while I love him, I've never been in love with him. I just figured (in my insecurity) that in this lifetime, I wasn't destined to feel that passion.

I burn.
I ache.
I have missed so much.

And I have made a total mess of things.

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