What I remember the most was how dark the room was; that and the giggles of my sisters and their friend. I can’t remember who picked the game. I’d hoped for Barbies, we could sit for hours sorting through all the different clothes. I even had a Barbie with me just in case. Instead, a new game was suggested.
“Let’s turn out the light and we’ll all take our pants and underwear off. Then we have to try and touch each other’s privates.”
This wasn’t something I wanted to do at all. I wasn’t curious. I just wanted to hide, and I did just that, I crawled to the farthest corner of the room and curled in a ball and waited for the lights to go back on. Then it got worse.
“How come I haven’t heard Michelle? Nobody move. Michelle, you have to touch someone now.”
I was still holding my Barbie. My heart pounded as I reached forward, hoping they wouldn’t tell the difference between my finger and a Barbie foot. Seconds later there was a yelp, followed by a giggle and “Yep, she did it too”. Then I retreated back to my corner until the lights came back on. People talk about experimenting when they were younger. This was as close to experimenting as I ever got.
Years later I found myself staring at my mother in blank astonishment. I’d been teased and bullied for years but suddenly a new word was being thrown in my direction. Homo. My mother stammered through her explanation while I listened in bewilderment. People honestly fell in love with someone of their own sex? I had no idea. I’ve always had a good imagination but this was something I wouldn’t have thought of on my own. The name didn’t stick and the kids soon moved on to other forms of bullying and harassment.
During one of my first classes in high school, the teacher announced that any gay students could feel free to talk to him in private if they needed an ear and he wouldn’t tell anyone. He’d done so plenty of times before. The room erupted with kids either laughing or wanting to know exactly who he’d talked to. Once again, I listened in astonishment. While I couldn’t understand why people fell in love with someone of the same sex, I also couldn’t fathom why anyone else would dislike them for it or tease them about it. It didn’t seem like it was anyone else’s business for one thing and love didn’t seem like a reason to tease anyone, not that teasing or bullying seemed to make much sense to begin with.
My thoughts on sexuality were black and white. You were either straight and liked the opposite sex or you were gay and liked the same sex, there was no in-between. Of course, this was the ’80’s and I was hardly alone in this thinking. Heck, I’d hardly be alone in that thinking these days.
Eventually I grew up, got married, and had two children. My ex-husband was taking a college course and he loved to quote his teacher, including all the jokes his teacher made. We were visiting friends one afternoon and my ex-husband decided to share the latest joke.
“You know, I get that people can be gay or straight. What I don’t get is bisexuals. They’re just being greedy and need to pick a side.”
Absolute complete and utter silence. I looked at our two male friends and wished I was anywhere but there. This wasn’t a “joke” I liked to begin with and it seemed horribly inappropriate to bring up here. The silence lasted for a few more heartbeats then one friend piped up.
“I’m bisexual,” he announced quietly.
My ex-husband made a few stammered excuses and the conversation moved on, although obviously it was one I haven’t forgotten.
My thoughts on sexuality had transformed to include bisexuals but I still was thinking fairly black and white. People were either 100% straight, 100% gay or right in the middle, liking both genders equally.
Along the way I got connected to the internet and began chatting on parenting forums. That was when I got another surprise. There were several posts about famous female actors and I was astonished by the number of woman who identified as straight but would sleep with those actors if they had the chance. That’s when I started to realize sexuality had a lot more shades of grey than my current thinking allowed.
By this time, Jeremy was an adorable blond haired, blue eyed preschooler who had a habit of climbing onto the laps of close family friends, patting their cheek and saying, “I wuv you. When I gwow up, I’m gonna mawwy you.” I think he proposed to all my friends, regardless of gender. They all thought he was sweet. I thought he was sweet too but, at the same time, something nagged quietly in the back of my brain.
That quiet voice was what prompted me to join with several members of our church in support of a teenage boy who wanted to bring his boyfriend to the school prom… and to bring four year old Jeremy with me. There’s pictures of us in an album somewhere. Jeremy’s clutching a big rainbow sucker someone gave him, looking curiously around while I’m holding him alongside the other church members in front of a rainbow flag. I’d explained to him why were were there, neglecting to mention my extreme dislike of crowds. I’d never have gone if it wasn’t for him.
I’m pretty quiet on my own but, for Jeremy I’ll move mountains.
And an update of sorts about the GSA at Jeremy’s school. I got a call from the vice principal about rough housing on the school bus today and took the opportunity to ask if the GSA had restarted. Only to find out it had never stopped at all. She had no idea why Jeremy and I were told “I don’t know” when we contacted the office or why I’d eventually been told it was on hold due to the lack of a teacher to sponsor it. Jeremy’s supposed to hear back from the teacher by the beginning of next week. At least I have a name now, so if I haven’t heard anything by Wednesday, I’ll be using my whole 15 minute lunch to contact her.
Edited to add: I just showed this entry to a friend of mine and zie shared a link with me, which I’m now sharing with you: How to Explain to Someone that Bisexuality (or Pansexuality) is Real.